Limpag: Country cheers as one for Gilas Pilipinas

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Friday, August 29, 2014


WE ARE finally here. We wondered, back in 2011, when we failed in the qualifiers of the Olympics whether Philippine basketball is ever good enough to return to the world stage.

Now, we are here. It’s not the Olympics but the Fiba World Championships and for me, it’s bigger than the Olympics just as the Fifa World Cup is bigger than Olympic football.

Pinoy basketball fans are a passionate bunch, and they’d rip your throats off if they think it’s warranted. Just check at the numerous insults traded during the NBA finals. Or, if you want something local, just check the local rivalries in the PBA or your school league.

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But for the next couple of weeks, only one team matters for the basketball nation—Gilas Pilipinas.

I’ve been following the Philippine national basketball ever since I started reading the sports pages as a fifth-grader and I think no team has captured the heart of a nation such as Gilas Pilipinas.

Even the Centennial Team of 1998, which was the most well-funded basketball team before Gilas Pilipinas came along, didn’t get the same support from the Filipinos.

In the 2002 Asian Games, when the team was still recovering from the shock loss to South Korea in the semis, it seems it was only Asi Taulava who was playing with fire in that battle for fourth. I thought then, while watching the games with my girlfriend in a Davao City hotel, that’s the kind of attitude the members of the national team should have. No matter the odds or what’s at stake. They shouldn’t give up.

Last year, during the Fiba Asia championship, everyone had that, heck, even the crowd had that.

They don’t give up, injuries and all and South Korea learned that the hard way as we finally got our sweet revenge that got us back in the world stage.

The Fiba World Cup.

The Philippines is in Group B with Greece, Argentina, Croatia, Puerto Rico and Senegal. and since this is the World Cup, there are no pushovers in this stage.

We’d be lucky to win once, I say, but that doesn’t matter. What matters is for the basketball-manic country to see its national team in the world stage for the first time.

All those years lost in limbo, when the basketball leaders couldn’t see eye to eye leading to a suspension, all those disappointments in the Asian level, the infighting, the what-ifs are forgotten.

Shoved under the rug for this rare chance to cheer for Gilas Pilipinas against the world powers in basketball.

It’s our time.

P.S. The girl that I was with in Davao during that shock defeat to South Korea is now my wife, who is celebrating her birthday together with her basketball-mad brother Police Chief Inspector Randi Patiño of the PNP ITMS. I hope Gilas gifts them with a win today.

WATCHING GILAS. By the way if you are nowhere near a TV when the game kicks off tonight, fret not, you can catch the game live if you download the Viewstream app, register with your Smart or Sun number and you can watch it for free.

Just don’t forget. If you’re on a jeepney stuck in traffic watching the game, don’t brandish your smart phone. Unless of course, you’re confident that all criminals will take a break to watch the Gilas match.

(www.mikelimpag@gmail.com)

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on August 30, 2014.

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