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    Gilas trip in peril as signs point to Doha qualifiers being cancelled

    Feb 11, 2021
    PHOTO: Jerome Ascano

    GILAS Pilipinas' campaign in the final window of the Fiba Asia Cup qualifiers is in danger of not pushing through as grim signs point to the tournament being cancelled.

    News coming out of Doha, Qatar - venue of the final qualifiers for Groups A and B - isn't encouraging, with officials expecting the government to enforce another lockdown after the average of COVID-19 cases in the country doubled to 423 between November and February.

    The progressive nation is expected to make an announcement at the culmination of football's Club World Cup, which is being played in the country in stadiums limited to 30 percent of capacity as a precaution against the spread of COVID.

    The final participants are expected to head home by Saturday, afterwhich longtime residents are bracing for an announcement from the government.

    "They want to stop everything for 60 days," said one sports official.

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      Already, Fiba has announced the cancellation of the qualifier pitting Guam against Hong Kong in Manama because of fresh restrictions imposed by Bahrain.

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      Although the Doha qualifiers will be played in a 'protected environment' according to Fiba, organizers expect travel by the participating teams to be impeded by any government-imposed lockdown.

      Gilas' scheduled departure for Doha is on Saturday (February 13).

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      Any postponement or cancellation will be tough for teams like Gilas, which has been training in a bubble environment at the Inspire Sports Academy in Calamba, Laguna since the start of the year in its bid to lock up a spot in the 2021 Fiba Asia Cup set in Indonesia this August.

      A cancellation will be particularly hard for teen prodigy Kai Sotto, who left Ignite's buildup for the coming NBA G League bubble season just to fulfill his promise to be available whenever he's called up by the national team.

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        Sotto, 18, arrived from the US last February 2 and joined Gilas in its training last weekend after clearing quarantine protocols.

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        The qualifiers, which will have unbeaten Gilas playing a pair of games against longtime rival Korea on February 18 and 22, were originally set at the Clark Freeport Zone until the Philippines begged off due to travel restrictions imposed by the government over the new COVID variant.

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          PHOTO: Jerome Ascano
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