Travel ban complicates Fiba third window hosting
The national government on Friday extended the travel ban on 18 countries with known cases of the new Covid-19 variant for 15 more days, a move that could potentially throw a monkey wrench into the country’s hosting of the Fiba Asia Cup 2021 qualifying games here next month.
The Philippines is set to host two tournament groups within a bubble-setup in Clark Freeport beginning Feb. 18.
South Korea, Australia—both powerhouse squads, and Hong Kong are among the list of nations barred from entering the country as a precautionary measure against the spread of what experts say a more infectious strain of the virus.
Should the restrictions be extended for the third time and to the next month, organizers will be left with little elbow room for the games that are expected to run hitch-free until Feb. 20.
Arriving delegates are also expected to follow health protocols, including thorough testing which usually comes with self-isolation until official results are released.
The Inquirer reached out to the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas (SBP) president Al Panlilio for comment on the matter and whether the tournament organizers have spoken to the national federation with regards to contingency plans, but the amiable executive has yet to respond as of press time.
The Philippines gained Fiba’s nod to host games for the third and final window of the qualifiers in December, owing to the success of the Philippine Basketball Association’s compressed Philippine Cup which concluded in the same month.
College standouts along with first window skipper and NLEX star Kiefer Ravena comprise the first batch of the Gilas talent pool which earlier this week entered the self-contained bubble training in Calamba, Laguna, in preparation for the meet.
The Nationals currently have 3-0 record in Group A play. They are set to play the Koreans on Feb. 18 and then again on the 22nd, sandwiching the only match against Indonesia on the 20th.
Gilas needs only one more victory to officially secure its spot in the main tournament, which will be held in Indonesia.
Two more pros have joined Ravena at Inspire Academy ahead of the SBP’s announcement of the official list of pro cagers it hopes to borrow for the window, with more expected to arrive before coach Jong Uichico and his staff of seasoned mentors kick off the training camp on Jan. 22.
A person familiar with the situation told the Inquirer that the athletes are to stay in the Calamba camp until the actual tournament unfurls.
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