THE man behind the staging in Manila of the 27th Fiba-Asia Championship had words of gratitude for Qatar as Gilas Pilipinas moves into the knockout rounds in an ideal position to achieve its dream of a return to the world championships.
“Salamat sa Qatar,” said Manny V. Pangilinan moments after Gilas wrapped up its second-round assignment with a 67-55 win over Hong Kong on Wednesday night to formally clinch the top seeding in Group E.
The Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas chief has bankrolled Gilas' long and rigorous buildup for Asia's biggest basketball event and moved heaven and earth to bring a tournament that took P70 million to stage back to our shores for the first time in 40 years.
And he knew Gilas would be facing a more perilous journey in the knockout rounds had it not been for Qatar's shock 71-68 win over Chinese-Taipei on Wednesday.
Instead of facing defending champion China in the quarterfinals and Iran in the semifinals, Gilas now faces a lighter assignment in Kazakhstan in the quarters and possibly Korea in the semis in its bid to clinch one of three spots to next year's world championships in Spain.
Pangilinan, however, has warned that the real battle has just begun for Gilas but at the same time expressed confidence that the host team is ready for the task.
“Sana manalo sa Biyernes. We have to stay focused," said the billionaire sportsman. "Okay naman ang team, I’m sure they will fight on Friday."