THE memorable visit of Pope Francis to the country should come as big boost to the Philippines’ bid to win the hosting rights of the 2019 Fiba Basketball World Cup.
Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas (SBP) executive director Sonny Barrios said he believes the Papal visit bodes well for the country's bid to beat out Qatar, France and Germany, China and Turkey for the hosting rights of the world’s most prestigious basketball tournament.
“Yung naging successful hosting natin kay Pope Francis at kung paano maayos na nailatag ang security as well as the systematic crowd management, pati na yung mainit na pagtanggap ng mga Pilipino sa ating bisita, I think it can put weight sa bid natin,” said Barrios.
No less than Fiba secretary general Patrick Baumann will lead a five-man screening team that also includes Slovakian Lubomir Kotleba, New Zeland’s Burton Shipley, Serbian Predrag Bogosaylev and Dutchman Frank Leenders, that arrives on Monday to evaluate the country’s application.
“They will arrive here to conduct ocular sa mga venues na nilagay natin and then they might also see 'yung iba pang hosting capabilities ng bansa,” he said.
The Philippines last hosted the world basketball championships in 1978, and with how the Fiba Asia 2013 went successfully at the SM Mall of Asia Arena, Barrios is confident the Philippines will again get the nod.
“Kung paano tayo naging matagumpay sa Fiba Asia nuong 2013, tapos yung Fiba 3-on-3 last year. Puro mga well organized yun, tapos paano nabigyan pa ng award ang Pilipinas bilang most passionate crowd noong nakalipas na Fiba World Cup, I think yan ang ilan pa sa bentahe natin,” Barrios added.
The former PBA commissioner also bared basketball patron Manny V. Pangilinan is going all out in his attempt to again bring a major basketball event to the country.
“Boss MVP already spearheaded the surprise hosting of the 2013 Fiba Asia ditto sa bansa, we did not complain, instead we successfully hosted it,” he said.
“So ngayon, chairman MVP believes it’s about time the Philippines host the world championships again. The Filipinos are one of the most passionate when it comes to basketball and the Fiba officials know that,” he added.
Barrios also takes pride in the country’s capability of filling up the venues in major basketball tournaments.
“Basketball crazy is an overused word for Filipinos, in fact, it’s already an understatement. So yun ang ipinagmamalaki natin. May iba kasi na country, well organized, ang ganda ng facilities, pero nilalangaw ang venue,” he said.
“Ang alas kasi natin, yung crowd. At iyan ang isang ikinatutuwa sa atin ng Fiba. And I hope it will matter when they decide on the hosting later this year,” added Barrios.
The four-man Fiba committee will also be given a closer look at how basketball is popular in the country, with the members set to watch the opening games of the PBA Commissioner’s Cup on Tuesday.
PBA chairman Patrick Gregorio said he is confident the visit will convince Fiba officials that the country is capable of hosting a tournamentof such magnitude.
“Sana eh makita talaga nila na basketball in the Philippines is really big, they know that. And sana makatulong yun sa bid natin,” said Gregorio who revealed that the MVP group is willing to bankroll the hosting of the tournament.
For the first time in over three decades, the Philippines returned to the world championships in Seville, Spain last August, winning a game against Senegal after close losses to powerhouse teams Puerto Rico, Argentina, Greece and Croatia.
An automatic slot will be awarded to the Philippines for the re-calendared 2019 joust if it wins the hosting rights.