MANILA, Philippines — Once again, the Philippines is out to prove that it can compete with the world's powerhouses.
Former national team member Jimmy Alapag is no stranger to being the ultimate underdog as the smallest guy on a basketball court. And like him, he believes the Philippines can overcome another giant competition in the boardroom, when it presents its final pitch and goes up against well-experienced China for the 2019 FIBA World Cup hosting rights.
"I've been fortunate enough to have the game of basketball as a part of my life for quite some time. Through that experience and especially playing for Gilas and having the opportunity to travel around the world and seeing the passion that us Filipinos have for the game, it's one of a kind," the 37-year old retired PBA cager said during the Philippine delegation's sendoff on Monday, August 3 at Meralco's Lopez Building in Pasig.
"I think it's time to bring it home," he declared.
"We're going up against a giant come Friday. But I think we've proven that giants can be taken down."
The Philippines will show its final presentation to the FIBA Central Board on Friday, August 7 in Tokyo, Japan in a live event that will be livestreamed by FIBA. The winner of the bid will be announced on the same day after a closed door question and answer with the Philippine and Chinese delegations as well a deliberation by the Board.
Alapag, who charmed the world at the 2014 FIBA World Cup in Spain as the small sharp-shooting playmaker and team captain who pushed Gilas Pilipinas to its first World Cup win in 4 decades, witnessed firsthand the well-known passion Filipinos have for basketball. And he believes that kind of Filipino culture is exactly what can take the world tournament and basketball to the next level.
"Seeing the amount of love we get in very remote places, from provinces in Thailand to Iran to Qatar to Dubai, the one common thing about all that was us Filipinos, coming out to show their love and support," Alapag gave his own testimony of what he saw and experienced as a player.
"More importantly, spending the hard-earned money they worked for overseas to send back home, they're using that money and their quality time to come support the national team. That's what I want FIBA to experience. That passion, that love. And really the essence of what makes us Filipino. That love for the game that runs so deep in all of us."
According to SBP's bid consultants, the basketball world governing body is eyeing not simply a venue to hold the 2019 event, but an avenue to take the World Cup and the sport to the next level.
This goal is evidenced by how FIBA separated itself from the FIFA World Cup and moved its own tournament to 2019. Both football and basketball tournaments have been held in the same year from 1970 to 2014.
The Philippine bid will highlight the Southeast Asian nation's deep-rooted love affair with basketball as FIBA's ticket to achieving its goal. It will also leverage the country's Internet reach as the Social Media Capital of the world.
"I think by having the World Cup here in our country, it would give FIBA the opportunity to experience all that [passion]," Alapag said.
"And to really show them not only can we compete against the world's best on the basketball court but to allow them to be exposed to our country and how beautiful it is."
Alapag will be joining the Philippines' bid delegation in Tokyo together with SBP President Manny V. Pangilinan, former national team head coach Chot Reyes, Filipino boxing hero Manny Pacquiao and Filipino Hollywood actor Lou Diamond Phillips.
"P. U. S. O"
The country's rallying battle cry for the bid is "#PUSO2019" which is expected to trend on the day of the presentation.
Puso means “heart” in Filipino and it was the same battle cry of Gilas Pilipinas when it competed in the 2013 FIBA Asia Championship with the goal of qualifying for the 2014 World Cup – a feat that had not been done in 4 decades at the time.
Lacking in height, talent and experience, puso, to Gilas, meant fighting and trudging on despite circumstances and setbacks, and willing themselves to win even when it didn’t seem possible.
The word truly bore meaning when Gilas ended a decades-long Korean “curse” by sheer grit and wound up with the silver and the World Cup slot. It stuck through when Gilas took the battle to world basketball powerhouses such as Argentina in Spain.
Reyes explained what "puso" will mean come the FIBA bid on Friday.
P — Pride and passion
U — Unity
S — Social media savvy
O — Our time
With an SBP survey saying that "80% of Filipino sports fans call themselves serious basketball fans," the SBP is encouraging everyone to tweet the hashtag and tag FIBA's official Twitter on Friday to show the FIBA Board the Philippines' presence.
"It's been more than 40 years since we last hosted the World Cup, Reyes said. "It is our time. It is time for basketball to come home. Our home." — Rappler.com