THE country’s bid to earn a berth in the 2014 Fiba-World Championship suffered a major blow when Lebanon was awarded the rights to host next year's qualifying tournament.
Lebanon was officially named the site of the 2013 Fiba-Asia Men's Championship by the Fiba-Asia executive board, beating out the Philippines in a hotly-contested bidding war on Wednesday at the Grand Prince Takanawa Hotel in Tokyo, Japan.
The top three teams from the 2013 tournament earn berths to the world basketball championships in Spain.
Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas (SBP) executive director Sonny Barrios confirmed the news, but added the country could still host the event should Lebanon's preparations for the biggest basketball tournament in the Asian region is left wanting in Fiba-Asia's eyes.
"It's Lebanon," said Barrios in an SMS message from the Japanese capital, "but with a clause that it will be given to the Philippines if they can't make it."
Majority in the executive board reportedly voted in favor of Lebanon. One of its members, secretary-general Hagop Khajirian, is a Lebanese who personally visited the country last month to conduct an ocular inspection of the Mall of Asia Arena, which, according to Barrios, impressed the basketball official.
The SBP has no comment in the meantime, Barrios said.
SBP president Manny V.Pangilinan led the group of Filipino cage officials -- all in their shiny suits -- who personally made the pitch for the country’s hosting of the Fiba-Asia Championship For Men next year.
SBP's visual presentation included pictures of kids playing in sand lot courts and President Aquino honoring Smart Gilas after its victory in the Jones Cup in Taipei.
Pangilinan began to tinker with the idea of bidding for the hosting rights last year shortly after the 26th edition of the meet concluded in Wuhan, China, aware that homecourt edge could greatly boost the country’s chance of making it back to the World Championship.
The SBP official made the presentation before the Fiba-Asia executive board, along with PBA commissioner Chito Salud, Barrios, and former Fiba-Asia secretary-general Moying Martelino.
After the Filipinos, the Lebanese made their case before the Fiba-Asia executive board, with the legendary player Fadi El-Khatib and teammate Ellie Stephan personally leading the campaign.
Two hours after the presentation, Pangilinan was told about the bad news just when the SBP and Smart Gilas-Pilipinas team were paying a courtesy call on Philippine Ambassador Manolo Lopez.
"I thought the SBP made a clear and thorough presentation. Aside from our country's excellent playing venues, hotels, and transport facilities to be dedicated to the event, emphasis was placed on the tremendous fan base basketball enjoys in Manila, a factor that should have given us the edge," said an obviously disappointed Salud.
"It is a pity that the Fiba-Asia executive board did not see it that way. It would have been a great opportunity for Fiba to see for itself how ardent and knowledgeable Filipino basketball fans are."
Lebanon has yet to host the Fiba-Asia meet, while the Philippines was the site of its inaugural tournamentin 1960, and last staged it in 1973.
The Middle East country, however, is staging the Fiba-Asia Champions Cup next month.
Lebanon was originally the host of the 2011 Fiba-Asia Championship For Men – the qualifier for the London Olympics – but begged off from staging the meet that was later held in Wuhan, China.
Qatar and Iran were earlier reported considering of bidding for the event, but backed out at the last minute.
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