AMID the sacrifices made by players and the coaching staff for Team Pilipinas to earn a trip back to the FIBA World Cup, the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas (SBP) reserved a special commendation to one person who helped Philippine basketball get back on its feet.
SBP president Al Panlilio expressed gratitude to predecessor Manny V. Pangilinan, who, he said, did everything he can to restore order to the federation following the infamous brawl that marred a home qualifier against Australia last July 2.
Panlilio recalled how Pangilinan applied diplomatic approach to help resolve what would have been a big black eye to Philippine basketball.
“I remember the countless times he flew to Geneva and talked to FIBA basketball gods when we were suspended,” said Panlilio, a day after the World Cup-bound national squad arrived from Astana, Kazakhstan.
“He gave it due importance because he felt the need to bring back glory to basketball and effectively unite the country through what people feel is our national sport.”
With 10 players and members of its coaching staff suspended by Fiba, Team Pilipinas had to start from scratch, endangering the country’s bid to return to the world championship after ending a 36-year absence from the tournament in the 2014 edition in Spain.
But Pangilinan never lost hope.
“In this 2019 World Cup qualifiers, MVP gave full support and priority even when things became shaky. His faith never wavered,” Panlilio pointed out.
It wasn’t easy starting from scratch, according to the SBP chief.
Team Pilipinas actually was on the verge of elimination, but managed to pull it off by winning its last two games on the road – against Qatar and Kazakhstan – coupled by some luck after South Korea slammed the door on Lebanon.
“The road to this year’s World Cup qualifiers was not at all easy,” said Panlilio. “The narrative behind our success was a living proof to everyone that us Filipinos really thrive on hardships and we simply don’t give up.
“We were challenged all throughout this campaign and yet, we still made it. Talagang pinakita natin ang tatag ng Pilipino. Laban hanggang sa dulo.”
In thanking Pangilinan, Panlilio said the 72-year-old businessman and SBP chairman emeritus n hasn’t lost yet the same vision he had when he assumed the SBP presidency in 2007 and then bankrolled the original Smart Gilas basketball program in 2009 that eventually led to the country winning a silver medal in the 2013 FIBA Asian Championship for a first ever spot in the World Cup since 1978.
“He led the way and we followed,” admitted Panlilio. “When I took over as SBP president, I knew how enormous the task would be to continue the legacy that he started.”