MOYING Martelino has been involved in the running of Philippine basketball's affairs long enough to witness this one game 40 years ago during the Asian Basketball Championship (ABC) when fans had to be turned away because there simply was no space for more people inside the Rizal Memorial Coliseum.
“’Yung Rizal, noong 1973, we have to keep people out because overcrowded na,” said Martelino, waxing nostalgic. “Yung bleacher ng Rizal, 7,000 lang pero inabot ng 8,000 dahil tayuan na. Noong 8,000 na, we have to stop for safety reasons dahil baka kung ano ang mangyari.”
He added: “yung lower box, nag-upuan na lang sa hagdan. Eh ang standing room doon, hindi naman katulad ng Araneta (Coliseum) or Mall of Asia Arena.”
That memorable scene happened during the last time the country hosted the Asian championships, now known as the Fiba-Asia Men's Basketball Championship, when a team led by Robert Jaworski, Bogs Adornado, and Mon Fernandez played before adoring home fans at the historic arena along Vito Cruz in Manila.
Filipino fans weren’t disappointed as Jaworski and Co. won the title via a 10-0 sweep of the tournament capped by a 90-78 victory in the title-clinching game against the dreaded Shin Dong Pa and South Korea.
Forty years later, Martelino, the former secretary-general of the Asian Basketball Confederation (the forerunner of Fiba-Asia), remains a part of the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas team that will run the show when the country hosts the Asian showpiece again from August 1-11.
And his fondest wish is to see Team Philippines rekindle the 'Magic of 1973.'
For that to happen, Martelino said it is not enough to stage a smooth tournament that the country can be proud of. The country's national team, Gilas Pilipinas, must also have a performance to remember, he added.
Martelino said it was important to note that in 1973, the Manila Industrial and Commercial Athletic Association or MICAA, the country's most popular basketball league prior to the birth of the PBA, stopped its tournament for about half a year to allow the national team to prepare for the ABC Championships.
“The team had to prepare for six months. MICAA had to stop para maka-practice ‘yung mga players,” said Martelino, a former commissioner of the Philippine Amateur Basketball League and now the chairman of Sports Vision which runs the popular volleyball league V-League.
That may be too much to ask from the PBA now, but Martelino hopes Gilas will have the best players and the best preparation for the tournament serving as the Asian qualifier for the 2014 world championships in Spain.
"One, we have to have the best team possible, and two, we have to have all the spectators. That is the formula for success,” he said.
The veteran sports official said he wishes the Mall of Asia Arena – main venue of the Fiba-Asia cage tourney – will be just as packed as the Rizal Memorial Coliseum during that memorable December of 1973.
“Ang pakiusap ko, let us drum up all the interest we could get so that when the time comes, pupunuin din ng tao ang MOA Arena,” Martelino said.