DON'T look now, but Manny Pacquiao has been tapped to lead a cast of sports heavyweights that will lead the Philippines' bid to host the 2019 Fiba World Cup.
Sources told Spin.ph that Pacquiao will lead a powerhouse cast of sports celebrities that will join Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas (SBP) officials when the Philippine contingent makes a final presentation before top honchos of the world basketball body (Fiba) on June 18 in Geneva, Switzerland.
Aside from Pacquiao, the SBP, sources said, is also looking to bring in the Miami Heat's Fil-American coach Erik Spoelstra, NBA legend David Robinson and superstar Kobe Bryant to add punch to the Philippines' bid to beat China for the right to host the 2019 World Cup of basketball.
Word leaked out on Pacquiao's involvement in the Philippines' World Cup bid when SBP president Manny V. Pangilinan visited Pacquiao in the boxing hero's North Forbes home on Wednesday night, supposedly to personally extend the invitation to join the SBP delegation in the Geneva trip.
The news was later confirmed by Pacquiao's longtime business manager Eric Pineda, who said the world's only eight-division world champion has agreed to join the mission and has in fact instructed his men to clear up his schedule for the Geneva mission.
“Pumayag na si congressman. And he will be part of the SBP delegation which will fly to Switzerland on June 15,” said Pineda, who at first was hesitant to talk about the matter.
Another source said invitations have also been sent to Spoelstra, Robinson and Bryant to join the bid team.
“Kinakausap na 'yung mga 'yan, mukhang amenable na sila to help the Philippines win the bid. Mabigat din kasi ang kalaban, China,” said the source who asked that he not be named.
“Malaking bagay if we can bring those NBA stars to the Fiba summit pero siyempre malaking bentahe yung Pacquiao natin,” he added.
Pacquiao, a source said, was Pangilinan's personal choice to lead the final pitch before the Fiba board.
“Nakita kasi ni boss MVP na si Manny ang tunay na nagre-represent ng Philippine sports ngayon. He is revered all over the world because of his talent, popularity and charisma. So we are hopeful he can be of help,” he said.
“Of course, our friends from the NBA will provide additional and relevant weight to this bid.”
But to earn the right to host the world championships for the first time since 1978, the Philippines will have to beat Asian rival China which is expected to tap its own basketball hero, Yao Ming, for its presentation.
“Yao Ming ang kanila and we heard may iba pa silang dadalhin na bigatin rin. So right now, boss MVP (Manny V. Pangilinan) is leaving no stone unturned,” said the source.
According to SBP executive director Sonny Barrios, the Philippine contingent will be tasked to make a 20-minute audio-visual presentation before the Fiba board, to be followed by a question-and-answer portion.
China, the Philippines' only remaining rival for the hosting rights, will make its own presentation during the gathering.
“May kanya-kanyang way of presenting the audio-visual. But we will do the presentation in the presence of China. So makikita ng China yung presentation natin, makikita din natin ang presentation nila. In other words, magkakakitaan na tayo dun,” Barrios told Spin.ph.