Proud with eyes wide open
The odds are formidable but what’s essential is that the Philippines is in the Fiba World Cup competition in China that kicks off in August.
With the opposition coming from all parts of the world and with teams expected to field their NBA veterans and European league stars, Gilas is entering the games with its eyes wide open.
Out of the 32 qualifiers, the Philippines is one of eight from Asia, along with Australia, Iran, Japan, Jordan, New Zealand, Korea and host China. There are 12 European teams, seven from the Americas and five from Africa.
Gilas hopes to shake the odds though with another sterling performance as it did when it nearly toppled some of the big lights in 2014. It went home with a solitary win against Senegal and the goal is to do better, like reaching the second round.
Filipino hoop fans are some of the most passionate in the world and they view the game with astute, analytic lenses. They know that the task ahead is daunting but making it after the challenges of the qualification windows is really a big deal.
The tournament format kicked in and two wins on the road against aggressive teams helped seal the Gilas’ entry. Nevertheless, the team still needed one other team to fail in its last game to secure the slot. Interestingly, the twist came from Korea.
A proud and defiant hardcourt rival of the Philippines, Korea did not hand the ticket to Gilas but simply wanted to win its road game against Lebanon. Tournament formats seem to be merely paper guidelines at the start but do matter when ties and complications need to be settled at the end.
The upcoming Fiba World Cup should be a learning opportunity not only from a basketball standpoint but from organizational perspectives as well. The Philippines, together with Japan and Indonesia, will host the 2023 edition of the games and there is always room for improvement with each staging of the event.
To a large extent, Gilas’ re-entry in the World Cup is like making it to the football world championship. There may be less crowds compared to football’s passionate fans inside huge venues and ardent following on media worldwide. But basketball is the Filipino’s game and making it anew to the world stage is just as fulfilling.