It is a testament to the determination of officials for the international basketball league FIBA, and the players particularly of its Asian and Oceania regional contingents, that they would push to complete their qualifying tournaments in time to hold the FIBA Asia Cup this year in Jakarta as planned. That is all impressive considering the restrictions that pop up now and then due to COVID-19. Already there has been has been a hiccup due to the Asia Qualifiers third window that was supposed to be held here in the Philippines, being cancelled on Tuesday because of travel bans. For a time, no country has volunteered to be an alternate host.
The question mark disappeared as of the evening of Thursday according to the Philippine Star. That is because hosting duties for the 2021 FIBA Asia Cup Qualifiers third window have been picked up by Qatar, with the venue for the playing bubble being at their capital of Doha. FIBA announced the decision this past January 28, or two days after the Philippines had to turn it down. In fact, several other groups of national teams aiming for qualification to the Asia Cup will be competing for their slots at Doha.
Clark in Pampanga would have been the original bubble site for the third window of the FIBA Asia Cup qualifiers, which includes Philippine squad Gilas Pilipinas. A recent barrage of travel restrictions in light of the entry of a more infectious strain of the COVID-19 virus from the UK however has forced the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas (SBP) to pass on hosting duties. Now that Qatar has accepted the responsibility of getting these games through, Gilas will soon be flying to Doha, where their next matches against Indonesia and South Korea will be played on February 20 and 22 respectively.
It seems the Middle East is getting the lion’s share of 2021 FIBA Asia Cup Qualifier games to process. Back in November 2020 the second window matches were played in Manama, Bahrain. And now, in addition to the Philippines’ Group A (alongside Indonesia, South Korea and Thailand), Groups B and E are also Doha-bound. Other qualifying Groups with unfinished games will continue playing at Manama. The 2021 FIBA Asia Cup itself will be held, barring COVID-related issues, in Jakarta, Indonesia from August 16 to 28.
Image courtesy of Tiebreaker Times