THE Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas (SBP) shifted the country’s ambitious drive to host the 2019 Fiba World Cup into higher gear, but admitted facing tough obstacles in getting the job done.
After participating in the required observation tour during the 2014 Fiba World Cup in Spain, the SBP submitted a brief to the International Basketball Federation (Fiba) about the country’s interest in staging the meet and what it can offer, together with a fee of 50,000 euros or around P3 million as part of the steps of making it to the shortlist of possible hosts.
“We have participated in the initial process,” SBP executive director Sonny Barrios said on Friday in the Online Media Group Forum. “Whether we pursue it until the end will depend first if we make the shortlist. Hopefully we do.”
Barrios said it will be known by the end of the month which countries will make the shortlist, adding Fiba will return the 50,000 euros if the country doesn’t make it.
“We expect to make the shortlist.”
Barrios rattled off China, Turkey, France/Germany, another European group led by Lithuania, Russia, Mexico, and Brazil as the countries that attended the observation program and signified interest in hosting.
Infrastructure, financial matters, and weather conditions are the challenges the country, Barrios mentioned, is facing.
“Infrastructure-wise, lamang na sila (other countries). Sa totoo lang, if you look at our infrastructure requirements, wala ako masasabing venue na hundred percent swak na agad. Kahit papano, may konti pa tayong gagawin.”
Barrios said the requirement is four venues, each of which should have seven changing rooms and media centers with the size of 300 square meters in the group stage, and as big as 600 sq. meters in the final phase (150 media are expected in the group stage, with two square meters per person required).
“Gaano ba kalaki ang press room natin sa Araneta?” Barrios said, although he expects the country to be given leeway by Fiba considering Spain, he said, appeared not to have met all the requirements.
“Sa Spain, hindi naman rin nasunod ng ganun. Pero siguro it just tells you na paghandaan niyo yan.”
Barrios, though, mentioned a plan of SM and Solaire groups to establish world-class arenas in the near future.
Unlike the past editions where 24 teams participated, the 2019 tournament will have 32 teams taking part, with a classification phase added and set to be played by the teams from the 17th to 32nd spots.
The recent Fiba World Cup had no classification round for the eliminated sides.
“So mas madugo yan in depth and breadth, kasi hindi lang mas maraming teams at mas maraming laro, mas marami talagang laro kasi mas mahaba ang tournament,” Barrios said of the 16-day event inside a 37-day window from August 15 to September 27, decided on what is preferable by the host country. “It’s really big.”
Another detriment is the tournament will be held during rainy season: “Alam na alam nila (Fiba) ‘yun,” Barrios said. “But the weather is beyond our control.”
“Siguro mga tatlong daang itlog sa Santa Clara ang kailangan mo ‘nun. Tsaka medyo naglalakad na ako ng paluhod sa Baclaran at Quiapo (Church),” the former PBA commissioner said in jest.
So what will make Fiba choose the Philippines?
“Good, warm hospitality of the Filipinos will be helpful,” Barrios said.
The passion of the fans in this basketball-crazy country is another factor as Barrios recounted how Fiba officials marveled at how Pinoy fans celebrated after Gilas Pilipinas’ victory over Senegal in a no-bearing match.
Barrios said a workshop in Geneva is set in December if the country makes the shortlist. Fiba will then make ocular inspections in the countries either January or February.
The host will be known in June, giving the country, which will have an automatic berth in the prestigious tournament, four years to prepare.
Whether the country will be awarded the hosting right or not, Barrios said the SBP, led by president Manny V. Pangilinan, will take it as a learning process.
“From MVP’s point of view, he wants to go through the exercise even for learning purposes. Kung baga sa iskwela, medyo mabigat yung tuition. Pero hindi na bale, handa siyang magbayad ng tuition para may matutunan tayo. Kung hindi man tayo meant for that, maybe later on,” stressed the SBP executive director.