THE age-old rivalry between the Philippines and South Korea in international basketball gets rekindled in the club level on Tuesday night.
After their national teams engaged in numerous memorable battles in the past, it’s the turn of pro squads Barangay Ginebra and Changwon LG Sakers of Korea to collide in an exhibition match dubbed the “Asian Basketball Showdown” at the Smart-Araneta Coliseum.
The Koreans have dealt the Filipinos some of their most heartbreaking defeats in international tournaments, before the Philippines slayed the ghost of the past with a pulsating semifinal victory in the Fiba-Asia Men’s Championship last year.
Olsen Racela, who has been at the receiving end of one of the most throbbing losses a Philippine team suffered against South Korea, expressed excitement of facing the Koreans anew, this time as assistant coach of Barangay Ginebra.
“Every time we play Korea, it’s always an exciting game,” beamed Racela, whose most forgettable moment against the Sokors came in the 2002 Asian Games in Busan when he missed two potential game-winning free throws in the endgame that could have shoved the Filipinos to the finals against China.
“The players are excited and, of course, the coaches are too.”
Both teams will use the anticipated match, which tips off at 6 p.m., as part of their preparations for their upcoming campaigns in their respective leagues.
Korean hoops legend Shin Dong Pa is expected to grace the event.
Like the Kings, the LG Sakers are considered the most popular team in their own pro league, having led the attendance rankings in eight out of the last 10 seasons of the Korean Basketball League.
But the Sakers are not just famous, they are also one of KBL’s top teams, finishing runner-up last season.
“This is such a privilege to play against an awesome team,” Ginebra coach Jeffrey Cariaso said on Thursday. “As a nation we should feel happy that they chose to come here.”
Sakers coach Kim Jin echoed the sentiment.
“It’s always exciting when the Philippines and Korea go head to head in the international stage, so expect the same on Tuesday,” Korea coach Kim Jin said through host Sam Oh, who acted as interpreter.
The Sakers admitted they are not familiar with the Kings, but based on Gilas Pilipinas’ sensational performance in the ongoing Fiba World Cup, the Koreans expect a tough battle.
“I got most of my mental preparation from watching the Gilas games. It’s a very strong team,” Sakers player Kim Younghwan said. “That’s what I’m expecting from Ginebra as well.”
Korea’s national team is also taking part in the world basketball championships.
“As both countries are represented in this year’s Fiba World Cup, we’d like to take this opportunity to bring a piece of the action to the Philippines,” LG Electronics Philippines managing director Sung Woo Nam said.