SAMAHANG Basketbol ng Pilipinas (SBP) president Manny V. Pangilinan said he is as determined and as confident as ever on his dream to bring the next Fiba-World Cup set in 2019 to the Philippines.
Pangilinan said the successful hosting of last year's Fiba-Asia championships has raised the Philippines' profile in the eyes of world governing body Fiba while the construction of two impressive stadia will give the country the infrastructure needed to host an event of such magnitude.
The Metro Pacific Investments big boss pointed to the soon-to-open Philippine Arena in Bulacan as well as another stadium being built in Cebu by the SM Group of Companies which, combined with the Mall of Asia Arena and the historic Smart Araneta Coliseum, can serve as venues for the 2019 World Cup.
“Tingnan ninyo meron na tayo nung mga 'yun. That’s a minimum of four sites na agad 'yun sa Fiba-World Cup. Apat na venues rin sila,” Pangilinan told Spin.ph.
“Pangarap talaga natin 'yun (to bid for the hosting of the world championship). Basta’t mabuhay lang ako hanggang 20-something, we will keep pursuing that,” Pangilinan said as he lets out his infectious smile.
The first and only time the country played host to basketball's world championships was in 1978, which Yugoslavia won by beating arch-rival Soviet Union in the final, 82-81, at the Big Dome.
This year’s Fiba-World Cup will be held in Spain, with Gilas Pilipinas earning a berth in the tournament following its strong runner-up finish behind Iran in the Fiba-Asia championships in Manila last year.
The Philippines is the first to signify its intention to bid for the 2019 hosting rights and there is no doubt in Pangilinan's mind that that the country can host the biggest basketball tournament in the world.
“We are ready anytime,” he said. “Let’s see. I am sure there will be other bidders, but we’ll go for that.”
But more than the infrastructure, the telecommunications mogul said it is the Filipinos' passion for basketball that will be the selling point of the bid for the 2019 showpiece.
He revealed how Fiba secretary-general Patrick Baumann personally called him last February to offer the hosting of the Fiba-World 3x3 Asia Pacific qualifier, which the SBP graciously accepted.
“Tinawagan ako ni Mr. Patrick Baumann, tinanong ako kung gusto nating mag-host, sabi ko sa kanya, ‘Yes of course, we value our relationship with Fiba,' so we would like to host again, like we did last year,” he said.
“I think they are really happy with our hosting of last August’s event (Fiba-Asia). We’re always honored to host international events. We want to showcase what the Filipinos can do,” Pangilinan stressed.
“If we continue to host again successfully (this Fiba 3x3), we can make the world believe we are competent to host the World Cup. Saka our audience draw is fantastic.
“The Filipinos are fantastic basketball fans, you can see it in the venues laging puno,” Pangilinan said.
“Basketball is very big here in the Philippines. The crowd is just amazing. The sport is number one in this country by far from the second one and the third,” Ignacio said.
“It’s one reason why we prioritized Manila as the host of the coming Fiba 3x3 championships,” he added.
Asked if the Philippines deserves to bid for the hosting of the 2019 World Cup, Ignacio gave his support.
“I work in the 3x3 department in Fiba and I know the bid is open now and the Philippines, I guess, should be awarded with all these kinds of big international competitions in basketball,” said Ignacio.
“The crowd that we have here … we don’t have it anywhere else,” he added. “In terms of crowd support, I think the Philippines should always have that edge.”