Batuhan: Puso-A A +A
Saturday, August 17, 2013
I HAVEN'T really been that much of a basketball fan for a long while.
Spending much of my adult life in places where the ball is kicked and dribbled with feet rather than hands, it was only the occasional NBA game on TV that got my interest in the game of hoops alive.
It was therefore with much trepidation that I went to watch the Smart Gilas Philippine men’s team play Korea for the silver-medal game in the recent FIBA Asia tournament.
I wasn’t sure I was still going to enjoy it, as my sporting antenna was now more attuned to the kicking rather than the shooting game. Add to this the fact that my son prefers rugby over even the beautiful game of football, and all the more that my attention was now twice removed from the game that I grew up loving when I was still in the Philippines.
The spectacle that I saw surprised me, to say the least.
Philippine basketball is now for real. True, we are still smaller and shorter compared to most of our opponents, but our players are now also much quicker and more athletic than their predecessors. It used to be that anyone over six-feet in our team moved a tad slower than normal men. This is no longer the case. Our big men move with the grace and agility of our small men of yore. And the small men of today are even more on steroids than their bigger teammates. They are like the energizer bunnies of TV fame, who never seem to tire from all the running and gunning that they do.
One thing I did notice, though, was the predominance of foreign-looking faces among our team.
Names like Norwood, Pingris, William and Douthit now dominate the scene where once the likes of Fernandez, Martirez, Paner, Adornado and Co reigned supreme. Initially, therefore, I thought this was less of a “Filipino” team than the ones I grew up with.
But boy, was I mistaken! I was surprised to know (and many people will probably think I have been living under a rock for many years) that many of the players with foreign-sounding names are actually not foreign at all, but as Pinoy as they come. Their alien-sounding surnames are just a product of the Pinoy’s global reach, as their mums had captivated the hearts of their foreign dads, to produce super-Pinoy offspring.
Which is just our luck, and our opponents’ misfortune.
In the many blogs and discussion forums that I read leading up to our successful run in the tournament, I saw a lot of naysayers who were commenting on the ethnic mix of our team. Many have suggested that the players were not really Filipino, and this explains our remarkable success.
Personally, I would beg to disagree.
Maybe a generation or so ago, this would have been an accurate observation. However, in today’s world this is no longer accurate.
The team that won the World Cup for France in 1998 was composed of players who were originally from Africa and the Caribbean. Japan’s rugby team has an English-born fly-half. Not many national teams today can boast of pure-bred players, and indeed they don’t. It is simply not practical, and would possibly discriminate against their countrymen who happen to be of mixed-ancestry.
Nationality is not just defined by blood anymore. Gilas Pilipinas proved that this is the case. As long as they have the heart of a Pinoy, pure-blood or not, they will still be national players we can all be proud of.
Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on August 17, 2013.