TOM Wisman could well qualify as an 'adopted son’ of the Philippines in the wake of Qatar’s 71-68 win over Chinese Taipei Wednesday that rewarded Gilas Pilipinas the top spot in its group at the end of the 27th Fiba-Asia Championship preliminaries.
But Wisman was quick to raise the ante.
“I think I could run for the president of the Philippines right now,” he told his audience with a loud laugh while waiting for the post-game interview to start.
“Might get a few votes. How many votes do you think I can get?” asked the 64-year-old Australian.
No one perhaps was happier about the result than veteran Filipino sports journalist Rhea Navarro, who is now based in Doha as international relations and eligibility supervisor of the Qatar basketball federation.
The result couldn't have been any better as far as Navarro is concerned.
"Sabi nga ng mga boss ko sa akin, 'I know you're very happy with the result because both of your teams won," Navarro told Spin.ph.
Loathed by Filipino cage fans just 24 hours earlier, Wisman and the Qataris all of a sudden felt the love of this basketball-crazy nation which heartily cheered them on before, during, and shortly after their Group E match against the Taiwanese.
Following an 80-70 Gilas Pilipinas win over Qatar Tuesday night, the nationals were hoping for a Qatar win over the previously unbeaten Taiwanese to have a shot at finishing as the No.1 spot in their group.
With Gilas expected to ram its way past winless Hong Kong for its final preliminary assignment, a Qatar victory over Chinese Taipei was needed to forge a three-way tie at the top of Group E among Gilas, Taipei, and Qatar.
But owing to a +5 quotient, Gilas automatically will grab the No. 1 slot going to the knockout phase quarterfinals on Friday, while relegating Taipei (+2) and Qatar (-7) at no. 2 and 3 slots, respectively.
By finishing on top, the nationals will avoid a direct collision with defending champion China in the crossover playoff phase, and instead arranged a showdown with Group F No. 4 qualifier Kazakhstan.
No wonder, the tiny but animated crowd inside the Mall of Asia Arena – and the thousands more watching on television – went all the way in rooting for a Qatar victory.
The Middle East country readily obliged as veteran Yasseen Musa led the way with 20 points in the hard-earned win over the Chinese Taipei.
“We just had enough to win the game. We weren’t concerned who we’re going to play in the next round,” said Wisman, the former national coach of Japan.
“We play every game to win.”