As a Filipino, I couldn’t be sadder upon seeing live on Basketball TV the announcement that FIBA, basketball’s global governing body, awarded the right to host the 2019 FIBA World Cup to China. At a time when territorial disputes have put the Philippines and China at loggerheads with each other, this loss feels like a punch to the gut, and to my pride as a Filipino.
However, let’s face the reality. China beats us in almost every part of the FIBA Central Board’s criteria. The Central Board looked into four key aspects in its decision-making process:
1) Vision and Concept,
2) Experience in Hosting Events,
3) Basketball History, and
4) Cities and Venues.
China has a larger local market for sponsors, thanks to its huge population. It has a good track record in hosting sporting events. China has been consistently good in basketball, and hosts a local league that has attracted former and aspiring NBA players. It also has the infrastructure to support huge events such as the FIBA World Cup.
Beijing still has the facilities it built for the 2008 Olympics. Regional cities such as Guangzhou and Wuhan have hosted various sporting events such as the Asian Games and the FIBA-Asia Cup in recent years. In contrast, the Philippines only has three existing venues at the moment – Araneta Coliseum, Mall of Asia Arena, and then Philippine Arena (prior to 2012, we only had Araneta).
Had we won the bid, two new arenas would have been constructed near Solaire Manila and in Cebu City. And also, do we have the hotels necessary to accommodate the teams players, officials, international sports journalists, and even fans from all over the world who will troop to our country to watch the games live?
In terms of basketball credentials, China is up there as well, having dominated Asian basketball throughout the 1990s and the 2000s, collecting gold medals in almost all major Asian sporting events, and representing Asia consistently in the Olympics.
I have had the chance to stay for 8 months in China from 2010-2011. I was able to visit 4 major cities: Beijing, Chengdu, Chongqing, and Xi’an. All of these cities make Metro Manila look really bad in terms of transportation infrastructure.
Take Beijing for example. Beijing has a wide network of subway trains that connect even to the suburbs outside Beijing. It’s like having the MRT extend all the way to Malolos, Antipolo, and Calamba. Best of all, the rate is 2 yuan (around 15 pesos) regardless of the distance you travel.
The traffic is still heavy, but it’s mitigated at least by wider roads, and Beijing’s policy of curbing multiple car ownership. Shanghai, Chengdu, Chonqing, and Guangzhou all have their own subway systems. High speed rail connects various cities in China. In this respect, they beat even the American and Russian rail systems in getting people across a huge track of land.
I hope this painful loss teaches us a lesson. As in basketball, and as in the way we run our country, we need something more than just puso. We need utak.
In terms of basketball, getting Tab Baldwin as the new Gilas head coach is a big step forward in terms of coaching. While Chot Reyes was a great inspirational coach, Baldwin is a better tactical coach. He will continue Reyes’ dribble-drive approach which plays to uniquely Filipino strengths, and he’ll incorporate his own brand of disciplined basketball. Under him, big guys like June Mar Fajardo and Japeth Aguilar will be utilized more effectively. Most importantly, players will be reminded to use utak more often, instead of just puso.
Hopefully, we can say the same thing about the way we run our country. Awful traffic jams form part of the daily life of every citizen in Metro Manila. We only have four commuter trains in the metro, and no such trains exist in other major cities in the Philippines. We do have the greatest basketball fans in the world, and we’re also one of the most prolific countries in terms of social media usage, but that’s about it when it comes to our competitiveness.
But let’s look at the bright side. The mere fact that we reached the last stage of the selection process speaks of how far we’ve come not only in terms of being a basketball power, but also in terms of our national power. Our economic growth is no joke, and it’s been an unstoppable streak starting from the Arroyo administration, and continuing throughout the Aquino administration. Ours is a huge population, with a growing middle class, and a healthy consumption rate which makes us a lucrative market. Who knows, something bigger may be in store for us.