BY the time this column sees print, we would know who the FIBA Central Board has chosen to host the 2019 World Cup of basketball and by its decision, reflect the philosophy of the world governing body and its leaders.
Will FIBA elect to pick a giant such as China, which is today embroiled in a conflict with the smaller nations in the region over access and ownership of vast resources in the West Philippine sea that has earned the moderated ire of such nations as the United States and Japan, or will it go with a country such as the Philippines, which seeks to resolve disputes in the time-honored tradition of seeking international adjudication.
It underscores a simple but telling message that disputes – even contests for the right to host a major sporting event – need to be resolved not by the might of military and economic power and the resources that go with such power, but by the essential element of helping smaller nations achieve their dreams.
Should FIBA follow this fundamental principle it would, in so doing, spread the gospel of the equal rights of smaller nations to compete with the giants of the world in a sport which knows no boundaries and where the love for the game and the incredible passion Filipinos have demonstrated through the years for basketball, wins the recognition it richly deserves.
A decision favoring China would mean that basketball is for the high and mighty and not for the smaller nations that crave for the recognition of their consistent efforts to develop wider interest in the sport and to grow the game like never before.
As we said before, our bid is anchored on the unbridled passion of Filipino fans who may be outnumbered by the Chinese, but could never be even remotely matched in their fervent desire to host the World Cup.
Ultimately, FIBA should not rely on numbers – whether it be a head-on comparison of the many stadiums being offered in various Chinese cities compared to the Philippines or the economic power of China because, while we concede that basketball is big business, it’s a sport with a heart and the Philippines is unmatched in this regard.
We remember well that some years ago, the remarkable Commissioner of the world’s premier basketball league by far—the NBA—David Stern, commended the Philippines for its help in growing and developing the sport of basketball in the Asia-Pacific region.
It was a statement from the heart, which acknowledged the heart of the Philippines in an incredible love for a sport, where big men dominate but where little men provide a testament to their incredible passion for the game.
Surely, the FIBA Central Board which seeks to expand its frontiers in Asia and Africa cannot ignore the impact of choosing the Philippines over China, which would strengthen the belief of the smaller nations in the sense of balanced fairness of FIBA. And its heart itself.
For all its comparative disadvantages against mighty China, which has shown a tendency to expand their commitment beyond the basic requirements enumerated by FIBA, which the Philippines has dutifully and diligently met, the ultimate decision should rest on meeting the criteria set which is what our country has done. Nothing more. Nothing less.
Even the composition of the rival delegations tell a story of power on the one hand and heart and incredible courage on the other.
FIBA tells us that former NBA star Yao Ming will lead the Chinese delegation in endorsing that country’s bid. But for millions of sports fans around the world, the presence of eight division world boxing champion Manny Pacquiao in the star-studded Philippine delegation should overshadow the towering presence of Yao Ming.
Once again, the incredible courage of the Filipino in facing the challenges of our time whether it be in individual combat in the boxing ring or in the crafting of a plan that should, by all accounts help convince the FIBA Central Board that indeed we are more than capable of handling the task of staging a truly magnificent and successful World Cup in 2019.
The eminent businessman-sportsman Manny Pangilinan, whose relentless efforts to redeem the image of the Philippines in international basketball under the Samahang Bssketbol ng Pilipinas leads the Philippine delegation.
MVP’s unbridled passion for the game as evidenced in his support for several teams in the PBA as well as his commitment in enhancing collegiate basketball, surely must win the recognition of the world governing body because he has been able to retain the No.1 position of basketball in the hearts and homes of millions of Filipinos to whom basketball is an essential element in their everyday lives.
As Asia Magazine noted many years ago, the PBA itself is “the big little league” which, in historic terms is second only to the NBA in its years of existence.
The Philippines has kept the faith in basketball and it’s about time that FIBA reciprocates our commitment by keeping faith with us.
Every single Filipino fervently prays that they do, which would bring our nation and people endless happiness, while should the FIBA Board choose China, it would create anguish and send the wrong message to the rest of the world that might is right.