GILAS has been a disappointment, losing one game after another, after that infamous brawl in the Philippine Arena last month. So I figured I’d skip their last two matches to save myself the heartache.
But after that morale-boosting win against Qatar in Doha, there was no way I wasn’t going to watch their last game against Kazakhstan and what a win it was.
We needed the stars to align for our World Cup fate and it did. Curiously, South Korea, the team we beat to make the 2014 edition of the World Cup, helped seal our fate by beating Lebanon. By the way, Fiba decided to move its World Cup from the even years to the odd years to avoid clashing with THE World Cup, Fifa’s of course.
Now we’re back and the World Cup will be in China, giving Gilas a ready pool of 300,000 Pinoys (who are all in the country legally, if I may add) to cheer for them.
We still don’t know who we will be facing, as the draw will be held next month, but I think we have better chances this year than in Spain in 2014. Of course, there’s that Jordan Clarkson question, one that will be the talk of Gilas fans for months to come.
Clarkson played for us in the Asian Games, which followed the Fiba rules but wasn’t run by Fiba. In the Fiba World Cup, according to the reports I’ve read, Clarkson would be considered as a naturalized player since he didn’t get his Filipino passport when he was 16 years old. Meaning, under that rule, we can’t have Clarkson and Andray Blatche together since a team is only allowed one naturalized player.
Quite confusing, isn’t it? How can Clarkson be a Filipino under Asian Games rules but a naturalized Filipino under Fiba rules? I wish Fiba would just follow Fifa’s simple rule on this case, allow a player to switch national teams as long as he is eligible and as long as he hasn’t played in the senior level for one. But I guess, that would bring back the era of “mercenary players” who would switch nationalities for the right fee.
Anyway, back to the matter at hand. Officials of the Samahang Basketball ng Pilipinas are hopeful of getting Fiba’s nod. The World Cup will be during the NBA offseason and I think Fiba wants as many NBA players in their tournament as they can, to add to its competitiveness and popularity of course.
In Madrid, I think for most of the fans, it was enough that we returned to the World Cup after a 40-year absence. But this time around, I think we won’t be satisfied with just being there. I’m sure SBP and the Gilas management will be targeting a spot in the knockout stage.
We will know how hard or easy—relatively, that is—that will be when Fiba holds its draw next month.
These are exciting times indeed for Philippine basketball.