The struggles to keep sporting events going in various countries and regions around the world even in the face of pandemic can range from inspiring to disappointing. A number of major professional sports leagues managed to salvage some 2020 season play by utilizing bubble environments for players and officials. On the other hand, amateur competitions find themselves either being put off like the Tokyo Olympics, or being just cancelled out of hand. It has been hoped that the COVID situation can stabilize enough so that the Philippines can fulfill its hosting duties for the FIBA Asia Cup Qualifiers this year.
But as CNN Philippines would have it, the country is simply in no shape to host a regional athletic qualifier at this time. This past Tuesday, January 26, the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas (SBP) announced the cancellation of hosting duties for the 2021 FIBA Asia Cup Qualifiers. While unfortunate, this is the only recourse left considering how the Philippines has standing travel restrictions to several countries that have begun manifesting new and potentially more infectious or deadly strains of the original COVID-19 virus. This was to be the third and concluding qualifying period for Asian national basketball squads to prove their worth for the FIBA Asia Cup, hosted by Jakarta.
A statement released by SBP President Al Panlilio reflected the somber mood of the organizers regarding the Asia Cup qualifiers saying, “It is with great sadness that we announce it is no longer going to happen.” A number of players that would have been arriving for the tournament here would have come from countries with active travel bans. The Department of Foreign affairs and the government’s Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) have both insisted that no exceptions to the ban can be granted under any circumstances.
Clark, Pampanga would have been the venue for the bubble wherein the FIBA Asia Cup Qualifiers would have been held, if the competitions have been allowed to go through from February 18 to 22 next month. Teams from the qualifying Group A – South Korea, Thailand, Indonesia and the Philippines’ own Gilas squad – were expected to play with Group C, comprised of Hong Kong, Guam, Australia and New Zealand. Gilas Pilipinas is but one qualifier win away to secure participation in the FIBA Asia Cup after winning 3-0 Group A games. Nobody knows if any other country will be able to assume qualifier hosting duties after the country bowed out. At this rate the main Cup itself could be in doubt.
Image courtesy of Philippine Star