IT was 66 years in the making, but worth the wait.
On Sunday, the great Antonio ‘Tony’ Genato's Philippine jersey No. 13 was formally raised to the rafters and a marker honoring him was unveiled at the Bahay Alamat in Valenzuela City.
Valenzuela City 2nd District Rep. Eric Martinez led the virtual ceremony attended no less by the 91-year-old Genato, skipper of the 1954 Philippine team that won the bronze medal during the World Basketball Championship (now FIBA World Cup) held in Rio De Janeiro, Brazil.
The third-place finish remains as the highest to this date by any Philippine and Asian team for that matter in the tournament considered as the Olympics of basketball.
“I wish to thank you congressman for your dedication and gratitude and interest in basketball. Thank you very much and my regards to everybody,” said Genato, a two-time Olympian and product of both San Beda and University of Santo Tomas.
Genato was referred to as the ‘X-factor’ of that trail-blazing national team.
It could have been an even better finish for the country, according to Genato if not for the obvious bias of game officials to South American countries which the Philippines played during the meet.
“I disagree with the findings of the Brazil (game). You must take into account that we were playing in South America,” recalled Genato, who accused one of the game officials from Paraguay of favoring the host country in the Filipinos’ second game against the Brazilians.
“After the first half, Caloy (Loyzaga) and I ran after the referee, who threw himself under the officials’ table because we’re going to pick him up since it was very obvious that he was favoring Brazil the whole game.”
The Filipinos lost the match, 99-62.
Brazil bagged the silver medal behind eventual champion the United States.
Genato also remembered how the Philippines had to endure playing Uruguay in its final game of the tournament, which it won, 67-63, behind the 31 points of the legendary Loyzaga.
“Uruguay was the dirtiest team of basketball ever. They tried to play dirty against us,” said the Philippine team captain. “So many instances happened during that game.”
A second loss to the host country, 41-57, in the final round hurt the Filipinos’ chance of a silver-medal finish.
“It was very painful for us because we were leading them majority of the first half. And then the continuous calls of penalties and technical on us did us in,” said Genato. “There’s so many other things, but what can we do. We are in a third world country, so bahala na ang Diyos.”