TOP basketball patron Manny V. Pangilinan on Thursday welcomed the decision of the Fiba Asia Executive Committee to move the staging of the Asian championships to Manila due to unrest in West Asia that affects original host Lebanon.
Pangilinan, who is the head of the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas, said hosting the tournament serving as the qualifier for the 2014 world championships is a “rare privilege” for the country, which last hosted – and won -- the event in 1973 in Manila.
“SBP is pleased to accept this rare privilege of hosting the Fiba Asia Championship – a similar event we last hosted 40 years ago,” said the business tycoon in a statement.
“Much hard work lies ahead in organizing this event, but we will do our best to make it successful. It is time to unite Philippine basketball to achieve our goal of entering the world championship in Spain in 2014,” Pangilinan added.
The top three finishers in the August 1-11 event will be given berths to the world championships – an honor the country has not achieved since a team led by Robert Jaworski, Bogs Adornado, Mon Fernandez, Manny Paner, Jimmy Mariano, and the late Tembong Melencio won the 1973 Asian championships against Shin Dong Pa-led South Korea at the Araneta Coliseum.
The Philippines lost out to Lebanon in the bidding war for the tournament during the Fiba Asia Cup help in Tokyo late last year, but was picked as an “alternative venue” by the Asian body in the event the situation in Lebanon and the rest of West Asia did not improve.
The strife in Syria, a country neighboring Lebanon, was cited by Fiba Asia as the main reason for the decision to move the tournament to Manila.
In a statement released to all member countries, Fiba Asia secretary general Hagop Khajirian said that “the current situation in the region and the ongoing civi war (in Syria), which has indirect effect on the countries in the whole of West Asia, especially Lebanon, creates doubts about the stability that we might not have, at least, till the fixed dates of our event.”
The cancellation of the event in Lebanon seemed imminent as early as last October, when the finals of the 2012 Champions Cup between Al Riyadi Beirut and Mahram or Iran, was cancelled because of the tension in the region.
It was also during this time that Iran and Jordan requested Fiba Asia to transfer the venue of the Asian championships due to safety concerns.
Meanwhile, Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas executive director Sonny Barrios is elated at the development, saying the country is prepared to take over the hosting job.
“We thank Fiba Asia, in particular secretary general Khajirian, for giving us this privilege, which will give great happiness and enjoyment to the millions of Filipino basketball fans,” said Barrios in a statement.
The basketball leader also told Spin.ph that a budget, amounting to millions of dollars, has already been allotted by the SBP for the event.
“Ready tayo dyan anytime. Alam natin si Boss MVP (Pangilinan) basta’t tungkol sa basketball at sa bayan, laging handa yan parang boy scout”, declared Barrios.