WHAT’S another P70 million if it meant hosting the Fiba-Asia Championship again and giving Philippine basketball yet another high.
Manny V. Pangilinan, the man credited with bringing back the biennial meet here after 40 long years, said the country is more than willing to stage Asia’s biggest cage tournament once more if the opportunity arises.
“We’re ready to host again,” said the sportsman-businessman, who is also the president of the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas (SBP).
A last-minute replacement after original host Lebanon backed out, the SBP had to shell out P70 million just to hold the tournament, and at the same time, give Gilas Pilipinas team the comfort of playing at home as it went for one of three berths at stake in the qualifier of the 2014 Fiba World Cup.
Despite the seeming improbability of the task at hand, the nationals didn’t disappoint, earning a return trip to the finals after more than two decades by gunning down nemesis South Korea in a victory for the ages, 86-79, and a slot to the world cage meet in Spain next year.
The pandemonium that followed the emotional win on Saturday night before a crowd of more than 18,000 at the Mall of Asia Arena further convinced Pangilinan the country is just as capable of hosting an event of this magnitude even if it meant spending a huge sum of money.
“Masaya naman, para sa bayan ito e,” said an ecstatic Pangilinan moments after personally congratulating the entire team inside the Gilas dugout.
The SBP president also lauded the Filipino basketball fans, who supported the team unconditionally in its quest to return to the world basketball stage following a 35-year absence.
In particular, Pangilinan extolled the huge MOA crowd for uplifting the morale of Gilas Pilipinas especially during the crucial second quarter mark when big man Marcus Douthit went out for good after hurting his right shin.
“That crowd stepped in when Douthit left. The crowd substituted for Douthit. It inspired them further,” said Pangilinan, who admitted he got a bit worried at that stage of the game when the team was still trailing Korea.
“Nung natanggal si Douthit, kinabahan na ako,” he said smiling. “Kasi si Marc (Pingris) and Ranidel (de Ocampo), hindi `yun ang laro nila.”
It turned out, Pingris and De Ocampo only got better when the 6-foot-10 naturalized player got injured and played crucial roles down the stretch in steering the team to the all-important win.
“That’s a major factor,” he said.
Pangilinan was also asked if he’s ready to bid for the staging here of the Fiba-World Cup, which was held here for the first and only time in 1978.
The SBP top honcho let out a big smile and answered, ” Let’s go to Spain first.”