One hundred forty countries, fifteen months of qualifiers, one thousand two hundred games all over the world – the road to FIBA (Federation Internationale de Basketball) 2019 begins in 2017. Two countries battled for the rights to host the global competition. One promises the biggest stage ever and a nation of 1.4 billion-strong, the other promises the biggest nation populated by millions who share unrivaled passion and love for basketball. China and the Philippines both made very strong bids, with #PUSO2019 trending worldwide and basketball fans from all over highly anticipating the global governing body of basketball’s decision. 14 votes to 7, China will host FIBA 2019.
A moment of silence followed by a rush of emotions swept the Philippines after the announcement while billions of people rejoiced in China. “Why?!” is the common cry of millions of heartbroken Filipinos. The trending #PUSO2019 was quickly replaced with #SugatangPUSO2019 as emotional posts from netizens all over the world flooded social media.
Gabe Norwood of the Philippine national team’s Gilas Pilipinas was at a loss for words and tweeted only a sad-faced emoji.
“Sakit.” Tweeted former coach of the national team and 5-time PBA Coach of the Year, Chot Reyes. One word was all it took to capture the overwhelming pain that enveloped the basketball-loving country.
— Gabe Norwood (@GNorwood5) August 7, 2015
— Chot Reyes (@coachot) August 7, 2015
The Philippines tugged on heart strings during the entire presentation and boasted something that no one can manufacture: passionate fans with strong affinity with basketball. China, on the other hand, already has 8 cities (Beijing, Nanjing, Suzhou, Wuhan, Guangzhou, Shenzhen, Foshan and Dongguan) capable of hosting the global event even if FIBA decides to start the competition the week after they made their decision. China was clearly the safer choice.
“This was a very difficult decision because we had two national federations who did excellent work,” Horacio Muratore, the President of FIBA, said. “However, there can only be one host country for our event in 2019 and it will be China.”
“We would like to congratulate both national federations for their outstanding work and bids. This is what we wanted: to have national federations put together top quality bids to host our flagship event,” he added.
The experience taught the Philippines very important lessons and from them, emerged strong reasons that kept every Filipino optimistic. With the newly constructed Philippine Arena and another on its way (the one in being constructed in Cebu), key renovations on The Smart Araneta Coliseum and upgrades on existing operations, facilities and roads – the Philippines, a country with sports as a huge part of their culture, is in prime position to be the biggest sporting hub in the world. In their presentation highlighted by “things you can’t manufacture,” the Philippines showed that it is ready to provide global sporting events with an experience and reach that the social media capital of the world can offer.
“Today’s decision doesn’t define us in the world of sports. It just means there’s more work to do. #risehigher #LabanPilipinas” tweeted the Talk ‘N Text Tropang Texter’s star, Kelly Williams.
“We just got da Best Motivation 2day! Work Time!!! #LabanPilipinas” tweeted the ageless center of the North Luzon Express Way Road Warriors, Asi Taulava.
— Kelly Williams (@KelWilliams21) August 7, 2015
We just got da Best Motivation 2day! Work Time!!! #LabanPilipinas
— Asi Taulava (@agelessasi88) August 7, 2015
Moving forward, the future of Philippine basketball is bright. After competing in the last FIBA 2014 held in Spain, Gilas Pilipinas 2.0, the Philippine national team ranked 31st out of 85 in the tournament, showed that they are capable of holding their own on the basketball court with gutsy performances in close games against teams from Croatia (12th), Greece (10th), Argentina (3rd), Puerto Rico (15th) and beating Senegal (30th). Now headed by coach Tab Baldwin, an American coach who led New Zealand to a historic 4th place finish in the 2002 FIBA World Championships, the new Gilas Pilipinas 3.0 is poised to surprise the world.
Recently, the Philippines accepted the invitation to host the South East Asian Games in 2019, another major sporting event. Certainly, the world is starting to recognize the sports loving nation of the Philippines as a great host for global sporting events. Whether in basketball or in other sports, the Filipinos will always be united in every game and every battle whether they win or lose – PUSO will go on.