IT’S a situation no different to the famous parable of David going up against Goliath.
But in the same manner the biblical story ended, the country’s top basketball officials believe the Philippines’ passion and heart for the sport will make the difference in its determined bid to beat out mighty China for the hosting rights to the 2019 Fiba World Cup.
Although aware of the enormous task ahead, hopes remain high for the Filipino panel led by Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas (SBP) president Manny V. Pangilinan, with regards to the country’s hosting bid three weeks before the formal presentation set in Tokyo, Japan.
“I must say that China is a formidable competitor in this bid, “admitted Pangilinan in a lively round table discussion about the matter early Wednesday morning at the Lopez Bldg. inside the Meralco compound in Ortigas.
The SBP president acknowledged the country has yet to stage a basketball tournament or a sporting event of this magnitude unlike China, which just seven years ago hosted the Olympics in Beijing and was only five years removed from holding the Asian Games in Guangzhou.
And yet, there’s one thing going for the Filipinos qualitatively, according to Pangilinan.
“I don’t think China has that kind of ardor that we showed (for basketball),” he said. “I think the most popular sport in China is football, whereas the Philippines, really the No. 1 (sport) is basketball.”
Pangilinan was joined during the conference by Ian Rumsby, chief strategy officer (Asia Pacific) of Weber Shandwick, one of the world's leading global public relations firms, and Sean Nicholls, president, Octagon (Asia Pacific), a global leader in sports, music, and entertainment marketing.
It’s that distinct quality of the Filipinos towards basketball which the country should pounce on against the prolific resources of the Chinese, stressed Rumsby, who previously worked with one of London’s largest public relations firms before accepting the Weber Shandwick job.
“It’s a head-to-head battle and we know the strength of the China bid. We want to believe the Philippines is the underdog, that we have a strong story to tell on why the Philippines should host the World Cup,” he added.
“But really, it’s not so much about the passion of the Philippine people to basketball, but it’s on how that passion to basketball will translate globally for the World Cup and globally for FIBA.”
Nicholls for his part, said staging the Fiba World Cup in the country is similar to the football of World Cup being held in Brazil.
“It’s what these sports mean to these countries.” he said. “Fiba wants an event that transcends the sport, and that’s what we believe the Philippines can do.”
The Philippine delegation is travelling to the Japanese capital on August 5, two days before both bidders make their respective presentations.
Each country will be given 20 minutes to present its bid before the 23-man Fiba Central Board, starting at 4 p.m. (Japan time) on August 7.
A closed-door question and answer between the bidding country and the Fiba officials will follow, after which the Central Board began deliberating and casting their votes.
Once the voting is over, Fiba will formally announce the winning bidder.
It’s China which gets to present first, according to Nicholls.
“So we got all we wanted,” he added.
The two foreigners along with Pangilinan, likewise refused to confirm if influential personalities such as boxing icon Manny Pacquiao, is going to be part of the Filipino panel.
“Some of them are still outstanding. The invitation (still) awaits,” said the SBP president.