At first blush, the recently-concluded 2019 FIBA Basketball World Cup in China would be something that Filipino fans of the sport, and of the men’s national team Gilas, would prefer to damn from their memories. Of the 32 participating national teams, Gilas placed dead last with a totally winless campaign, being humbled both by FIBA top contenders and even middle-ranked squads. But as the closing ceremony took place in Beijing September 15, following the epic Finals triumph of Spain over Argentina, there was a scene where Chinese basketball legend Yao Ming handed the FIBA flag to a Filipino business magnate familiar to basketball fanatics: MVP.
That is, of course, Manny V. Pangilinan, now chairman emeritus of the country’s FIBA-accredited national sport association for basketball, the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas (SBP). Despite no longer having an active role in SBP leadership he was, according to Inquirer.net, present at Beijing to receive the flag symbolic of hosting rights for the next Basketball World Cup in 2023. True, this future tournament is actually a three-way hosting engagement between the Philippines, Indonesia and Japan. But for his efforts to push the envelope for the men’s national team, and the winning 3-country joint FIBA bid, it seemed appropriate that he be present for the handover.
With outgoing FIBA president Horacio Muratore and two executives of China’s local organizing committee for the 2019 Cup witnessing, Chinese Basketball Association chief Yao Ming presented the FIBA hosting flag to the delegation of the 2023 join hosts. “MVP” Pangilinan headed the group, which included FIBA Central Board members Yuko Mitsuya and Erick Thohir representing the Philippines’ co-hosts. Also present was Chairman Ricky Vargas of the PBA, the major source for Gilas players, as well as his counterpart in the Indonesia Basketball Federation, Danny Kosashi.
Manny V. Pangilinan would be the first to remark how fortunate the Philippines turned out in its joint hosting bid, after being outdone by China for the 2019 FIBA Basketball World Cup, arguably the first in a long chain of misfortunes for Gilas in said tournament. After all, both this country and China are in Asia, and the prospect of keeping the Basketball World Cup in the same region twice felt like an iffy prospect. Yet it was done, to MVP’s joy. “We’re bringing home the FIBA flag with us,” he says, “A huge honor and privilege for SBP and great pride for our people.”
The current SBP president Al Panlilio will serve as event director for the 2023 World Cup, with a Steering Committee coordinating preparations between the Philippines, Indonesia and Japan, and a Local Organizing Committee for each country involved. The Gilas team roster for 2023 will also start development in that time. As an added privilege, the World Cup Draw determining the tournament groupings will be held in Manila. All in all, it is coming off as a nice bounce-back to the FIBA disappointment of this year, even if it takes four more years before it happens.
Image courtesy of SBP Facebook