Saturday, August 17, 2013

Fair Play: Pinoys dreaming of the World Cup

"REALISTICALLY, if we qualify for the World Cup, how far can we go? China didn’t even win a single game at the last Olympics.”

When you read a statement like that, you’d expect a cynic to have made it, not one familiar with basketball, or even sports in general.

But you’d be surprised who said it.



It’s from Alaska CEO Fred Uytengsu, a member of the PBA Board of Governors. He said that in an interview with a Manila-based columnist prior to the start of the Fiba Asia men’s championships, where Gilas Pilipinas finished second.

Is he right?

Well, if you do want to be realistic about it, he is right of course.

But sports isn’t almost always about realism or goals or winning even.

I agree with him, now that we’ve qualified for the World Cup, can we even win one game against the giants of the basketball world?

There’s no guarantee, of course, just as there’s no guarantee that we won’t even win one game.

As a country that has been fascinated with this game for generations, I don’t think dreaming about the World Cup is being unrealistic.

Just to be able to compete with the world’s best is reward enough.

Besides, I don’t think 2014 would be our last trip to the world stage as a change in the system by Fiba, which is trying to copy the Fifa version of the World Cup, means better chances for the national team.

Like Fiba, Fifa has continental championships, but these don’t offer spots to the World Cup and according Fiba.com, the qualifying for the 2019 World Cup will follow Fifa’s—with home and away games and the Asia-Pacific region (to include Oceania) will now have seven spots.

In contrast, this year’s Fiba Asia Championships only had three spots for next year’s World Cup.

And we’ve just seen how Gilas Pilipinas performs when its playing in front of its home crowd, didn’t we?

I think, we can liken the Philippines campaign to that of a runner, one who’s not good enough to be in the elite division but competes regularly to check if he or she can set a new personal best. With the change in the World Cup qualifying, I think our pursuit in the world stage will be, for now, setting a personal best, or if you want to be historical about it, equaling a previous one—a third place finish.

Whether it’s realistic or not, I think it’s still a worthwhile pursuit.

Take the case of the Azkals, I don’t think they’d win the World Cup in my lifetime, but a lot of people follow their chase. Why? Because that’s the allure of the sport, of the World Cup.

It’s about competing for the flag, the nation. It’s what made guys like Marc Pingris ignore everything and give their all.

It’s all about passion, not realistic targets.

In Southeast Asia, where football is king, you have teams who have a snowball’s chance in hell of winning the world cup but they still keep dreaming.

Hoping for that day to be able to join the world’s best in the biggest stage.

Why should we dream about the World Cup?

Well, why not?

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