No deeper love

MIKE ABOUT TOWN - Mike Toledo - The Philippine Star
No deeper love
SBP president Al Panlilio, Manuel V. Pangilinan, President Marcos, FIBA president Hamane Niang, and Speaker Martin Romualdez.
Photo from PCO.GOV.PH

Filipinos are the best basketball fans in the world. They may not be the tallest, heftiest players, but they are the best fans. In the whole world. Bar none. Fierce and loyal to the core.

What better gift, then, to give to Filipinos than to bring over the world’s biggest basketball event: the FIBA World Cup?

And this is what the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas (SBP) did, under the helm of chairman emeritus Manuel V. Pangilinan (popularly known as MVP), president Al Panlilio, and vice president Ricky Vargas: make the play to host the FIBA World Cup in this country.

Back in 2014, when the SBP placed a bid to host FIBA Asia, MVP said (about the World Cup) that “it’s an infinitely more complex undertaking compared to FIBA Asia.”

But then, as he admonished, “If it’s too easy, it’s probably not worth it.”

A lot of blood, sweat, and tears were poured into setting up the local basketball federation and into the bid to host the World Cup.

I was witness to how the group emotionally and passionately prepared and presented the bid to host the 2019 World Cup back in 2014, wearing their hearts and souls on the sleeves of their barong Tagalogs, so to speak, in proclaiming to the governing body that the Philippines was ready, the Philippines was game-on.

MVP was willing to take risks in going up against the world’s top basketball countries in hosting the World Cup back in 2019.

President Marcos with Gilas Pilipinas.
Photo from PCO.GOV.PH

“I felt we had a very good presentation,” Al Panlilio recalled. “It was just us and China and I think we really did a good job. Unfortunately, we lost the bid.”

This, however, did not stop them from trying again.

“Lakas ng loob at bilib sa sarili na kaya namin,” Ricky Vargas said.

Still reeling from the loss but with more zeal and fervor, the Philippine delegation came up with the brilliant idea of hosting the World Cup across multi-countries — an idea that was so crazy it might just work.

“They told us that it’s a creative approach. The rest is history,” MVP said.

It was the collective love for the sport that won FIBA over. Filipinos once again proved that they were basketball’s Most Valuable Fans as they strived to #PlayLouderIn2023.

“Magic. It was just magic,” Ricky Vargas exclaimed. “We did not let go of the dream. The team introduced itself to FIBA. FIBA understood our love for basketball.”

By December 2019, Smart Communications became a global sponsor for FIBA Basketball World Cup 2023.

Senators Sonny Angara, Joel Villanueva, and Bong Go with Al Panlilio.

And so, it has come to this. With the enormous help and support given by the government, along with partners in business, and the public — the endearing fans — the 19th edition of the FIBA World Cup 2023 opened its doors to fans in the Philippines, in Okinawa, Japan, and in Jakarta, Indonesia.

On our shores, this was Public-Private Partnership at a different level. We could not thank enough the previous administration, particularly President Rodrigo Duterte, Sen. Bong Go, former Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea, Sen. Sonny Angara, and Rep. Robbie Puno for all the help and support given in making the bid back in 2019.

This kind of partnership has carried over, even on a bigger scale, into the current administration of President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. who, together with First Lady Liza Araneta-Marcos, Rep. Sandro Marcos, Senate President Migz Zubiri, House Speaker Martin Romualdez, and Budget Secretary Mina Pangandaman (who ensured the quick release of the budget) were all-out in their support for the World Cup and all its participants, especially the Gilas Pilipinas national team.

The XXII FIBA Congress was also held here in the Philippines prior to the opening ceremonies of the World Cup. This brought together delegates from 157 national federations.

During the Congress, MVP was awarded the FIBA Order of Merit in acknowledgement of his significant individual contribution to furthering the sport of basketball.

It is an award most-deserved for MVP’s love for basketball and love for Filipinos. There can be no deeper love than the two joined together.

So, to Boss MVP, Al, Ricky, and the SBP, with its chairman, Sen. Sonny Angara and executive director Sonny Barrios, a big THANK YOU.

History was made here, and we were witness to it.

Thank you for bringing FIBA to our shores, and for the record-breaking attendance of 38,111 fans at the opening ceremony.

Catch as many of the games as you can until Sept. 10. We may not get this opportunity once again in our lifetime. Mabuhay!

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