Saturday, September 30, 2023

In the Philippines, a basketball-mad country, the World Cup will be a highlight

Considering that the Philippines is home to 110 million people, it’s unrealistic to think that everyone is a basketball fan.

“But the number is very close,” said Tim Cone, the country’s top professional coach.

The Basketball World Cup begins on Friday and is spread across three nations: the Philippines, Japan, and Indonesia. The main venue will be Manila, where the medal games will take place in early September. All games of the big favorite USA will also be played in the Philippines.

And this is where fans have been waiting for years for the opportunity to see some of basketball’s most famous players in full competition.

“It’s something very big that the players are coming here, unlike China. They’re all going to China,” said Igo Herrera, 25, who works in sales for his family’s Manila company. “This is a unique opportunity for us. When you first come to the Philippines and walk around, you will see boys playing basketball everywhere.”

The Americans arrived in Manila on Tuesday morning. They were met at the airport by local officials and tournament organizers.

Numerous fans on motorbikes greeted the passing bus caravan. Another crowd was waiting for the team at their hotel.

Herrera was among those who came to the lobby to take a look at the American basketball players.

“My stomach is empty,” said RJ Tan, a friend of Herrera’s, holding up an Anthony Edwards jersey. The Americans were several minutes from him after a ten-hour flight from Abu Dhabi, on their way to the elevators that led to the rooms.

The host country, which declared a national holiday on Friday that will see schools and some businesses closed for the start of the World Cup, is taking part in the tournament and wants to make history. While the prospect of a Filipino miracle at the tournament is slim, there are efforts to gather at least 32,617 spectators for the national team’s first game at the tournament and to break the World Cup attendance record set in Toronto in 1994 when The United In the final, the United States overpowered Russia.

“I was fortunate to visit Manila in 1996,” said Grant Hill, the US team’s chief administrator. “The love for this sport there is absolutely amazing.”

Last week, Andreas Zaglis, FIBA ​​Secretary General, was asked about the great emotions Filipinos were expressing ahead of the World Cup.

“You haven’t seen anything yet,” was his reply.

Basketball is a passion in the Philippines. There are around 25,000 indoor courses in the country and countless other outdoor courses. They are everywhere, even with rings of barbed wire in some places.

Data collected by the NBA shows that their online store can ship items to 215 cities and provinces in the Philippines. There isn’t a spot on this list where the league hasn’t had a buyer for a jersey or other official item.

“It’s the number one sport in the country, and there’s no way you can say that about basketball in the United States or anywhere else,” said Miami Heat coach Erik Spoelstra, the team’s assistant this summer and something of a national hero. in the Philippines.

Spoelstra’s mother is Filipino.

“There is a great passion for the sport,” Spoelstra added. “I flew to Manila with my co-workers and some of my friends, and on the way from the airport, everywhere you look, groups of children are playing with a makeshift basket on a telephone pole, even on the side of a building in a flooded country. The image of what one would consider extreme poverty is very powerful, and it is coupled with the great joy of people coming together and playing basketball like nowhere else.”

According to legend, some American teachers first brought basketball to the Philippines in the early 20th century. Sport took root here immediately.

Unlike other parts of Asia, where baseball or soccer reign supreme, basketball is unrivaled in the Philippines. In recent years, only boxing has competed, and that’s thanks to Manny Pacquiao, winner of 12 world titles in eight different categories.

Such is Pacquiao’s popularity that he even held political positions in his country for 12 years.

But the boxer also caught basketball fever. The 1.65-meter-tall Pacquiao has played and coached in the Philippine Basketball Association, the country’s top professional league.

“People grow up playing basketball when they’re two or three years old,” said Cone, whose teams in the Philippines have won more than 20 championships. “All they do is practice one sport all year round. We have three seasons, the rainy season, the wet season and the basketball season, and we play basketball all the time.”

World Nation News Desk
World Nation News Desk
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