THE Lebanon national squad arrived in Manila early this week, hopeful that its suspension will be lifted by the governing body of world basketball Fiba in time to allow it to participate in the Fiba-Asia Men's Championship beginning on August 1.
Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas executive director Sonny Barrios confirmed the arrival of the Lebanese basketball squad after meeting with the Cedars’ team manager George Kelzi.
“They (Lebanese players and coaching staff) are here principally because they’ve made arrangement beforehand. Meaning to say, before they even got suspended, they’ve already bought their tickets and made the booking,” Barrios told Spin.ph on Thursday.
Barrios added that Kelzi and the rest of the Lebanon squad are aware of the uncertainty of their situation since up till posting time, there’s been no official word from Fiba regarding their appeal to be reinstated so they could participate in the Manila showpiece.
“Ina-appeal pa kasi nila ang case nila so ang ginawa nila, minabuti na lang nilang tumuloy na rin sa Manila kaysa bumalik pa ng Lebanon from the Jones Cup in Taiwan, tapos kapag nalamang lifted na yung suspension saka sila lilipad papuntang Manila,” he added.
Lebanon is coming off a lowly performance in the recent William Jones Cup, finishing with just two victories in eight games. Iran, led by NBA veteran Hamed Haddadi, reclaimed the title it lost last year to Gilas Pilipinas after posting an eight-game sweep of the tournament.
While the Cedars are keeping their fingers crossed and hoping for the best, Barrios said they only have two options: practice on their own to keep themselves in shape, or set up tune-up matches with PBA teams or possibly Gilas Pilipinas.
“By them coming over to Manila this early, makikita mo naman na ganun nila sine-seryoso ang Fiba-Asia. But at the same time, kita mo na mataas ang frustration nila, that’s why two things they can do while waiting for official word from Fiba, practice here or play some practice games against PBA teams,” said Barrios.
Fiba slapped the suspension on Lebanon late last week due to what it termed as "open political interference" whether within clubs or the governing local basketball body in the country.