CHINESE-Taipei's come-from-behind win over Gilas Pilipinas is not personal to its people, although the victory did thrill the team and its fans back home.
Chen Chih-hung of the Youth Daily News, one of seven Taiwanese sports reporters sent to Manila to cover the 27th Fiba-Asia championships, said the 84-79 win Taipei pulled off in front of a mammoth crowd at the Mall of Asia Arena Saturday night was a landmark episode in the history of its basketball team.
And it has something to do with the diplomatic tension between the Philippine and Taipei governments, he added.
No, no, no,” Chen said emphatically, trying to play down whatever emotions were involved in the highly charged match.
The veteran sportswriter pointed out the win was long in coming as the Philippines had been dominating Chinese-Taipei for years now, the last of which came during last year’s William Jones Cup basketball tournament.
“Taiwanese people are excited with the win, but it's because Taipei has not won over the Philippines for many years,” said Chen, the man they referred to as `Mr. Monkey’ back in Taipei.
That the Taiwanese did the feat in front of an animated Filipino basketball fans made it more satisfying.
“We know how passionate Filipinos are for basketball,” he added.
Chen has seen how good a team Gilas Pilipinas is, having covered the 2012 Jones Cup which the Filipinos won.
He’s been familiar with players such as Marcus Douthit, Jeff Chan, Gabe Norwood, and LA Tenorio, who he referred to as 'MVP,' the national team point guard having emerged as the Most Valuable Player of the Taipei tournament last year.
Unfortunately, Gilas Pilipinas failed to defend its title as organizers of the tournament revoked its earlier invitation to the national team, saying it could not guarantee the security of the visitors in light of the diplomatic dispute arising from the killing of a Taiwanese fisherman off the shores of Batanes.
Gilas Pilipinas coach Chot Reyes acknowledged shortly after the game how the team had wanted to win over Chinese-Taipei in honor of the thousands of Overseas Contract Workers (OCWs) in Taiwan.
“Allow me to apologize to our countrymen in Taiwan and for our OFWs. We really wanted to win the game for them because I know that they have been victims of a lot of abuse. We really dedicated the game to them,” said Reyes.
“Unfortunately, it didn’t turn out the way we wanted.”