Amid celebration, SBP braces for lots of hard work ahead
The drama was evident right in the way Samahang Basketball ng Pilipinas (SBP) vice chair Robbie Puno opened Thursday’s press conference.
“Ladies and gentlemen, basketball has come home,” Puno said.
But as the SBP shared details of the country’s victorious Fiba World Cup 2023 hosting bid, the undercurrent of urgency was also palpable.
Two tables away from the limelight, Gilas Pilipinas assistant coach Jong Uichico was asked when the national team for the tournament should be formed.
“Yesterday,” he quickly said.
SBP president Al Panlilio summed up the sense of immediacy: “We celebrated a little but really the first thing on our mind was there’s a lot of work to be done.”
For the SBP, the task is two-fold: Build a competitive team for the World Cup and, perhaps more importantly, assemble a hosting for the ages in a bid to impress Fiba and the world.
“We want to put together the best hosting Fiba has ever seen,” Panlilio said.
In the forming of the national team, SBP chair emeritus Manny V. Pangilinan, the telecommunications tycoon, quickly came up with a formula.
“Pick 23 players and two imports (for naturalization)—and again, we will need the help of Congress for this,” said Pangilinan, who spearheaded the three-nation bid that finally won the hosting after the country lost its initial attempt to bring the World Cup to its shores.
“When we lost to China [for the 2019 hosting], we just had to analyze how do we get back on track for 2023,” said Pangilinan. “The first thought that came to mind was: Why not multicountry hosting?”
The SBP got the basketball federations of Japan and Indonesia involved, with Pangilinan saying he tore a page out of the successful Japan-South Korea bid for the 2002 Fifa World Cup.
The chance to create maximum noise—the three-nation consortium’s PR campaign was built on the hashtag #PlayLouderIn2023—swayed Fiba to pick the Philipppines-led bid.
Panlilio said the Ginebra-Meralco duel for the PBA Governors’ Cup drew more fans than any Fiba match, adding jokingly: “What more if it’s Gilas vs United States in the finals.”
But beneath the layers of laughter and revealing anecdotes and the overall celebratory mood, everybody was aware of the magnitude of the event and the work needed to make the hosting successful.
“This hosting is for the Filipinos and for the Philippines,” said Foreign Affairs Sec. Alan Peter Cayetano. “It’s not even political because we are working for an event that will take place under a president we don’t know yet.”
“I don’t know how much it’s going [to] cost to host the World Cup but let’s say it’s a million—that would also mean a million opportunities for the country and for the Filipinos,” he added.
Pangilinan refused to divulge how much it will cost to host the World Cup.
“Expensive,” was all he said, generating laughter from the audience. “But you cannot put a price on something like this. This is no small work.”
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