Gilas Pilipinas’ Asian Games stint in limbo

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Gilas Pilipinas Team (Photo courtesy of Smart Gilas)

BRACING FOR the WORST

The country’s participation in the 18th Asian Games could be affected by the ugly brawl between Gilas Pilipinas and the Australian men’s team in the third window of the FIBA World Cup Asian Qualifier at the Philippine Arena last Monday.

Philippine Olympic Committee (POC) secretary-general Patrick Gregorio admitted that a possible FIBA suspension would have a drastic effect to the campaign of Gilas Pilipinas in the prestigious continental tourney set in Jakarta next month.

Naturalized player Andray Blatche, Troy Rosario, Jayson Castro, Roger Pogoy and Terrence Romeo are all part of the Gilas squad that will see action in the Asian Games.

They, however, are tipped to receive the heaviest sanction after playing a major role in the free-for-all melee that marred the match between Gilas and the Boomers.

Should the five Gilas stalwarts be slapped with FIBA suspension, the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas (SBP) would have no choice but to make an appeal before the Indonesia Asian Games Organizing Committee (INASGOC) for replacement.

Then, they have to reach out to the teams in the Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) to borrow players, something that might create a problem since the pro league already stated that it could no longer afford to have another disruption in its competition calendar.
But the worst-case scenario is if the entire federation would be banned.

Should that happen, the SBP would not be allowed to participate or host any FIBA-sanctioned tournament including the Asian Games and SEA Games in Manila next year, two tourneys run by local organizers but are using FIBA guidelines and technical officials.

Gregorio said they hope the FIBA ban won’t cover the Asian Games.

“To be honest, one reason why we process this together is because of the Asian Games,” he said in a meeting with top SBP and PBA officials late Thursday.

“We have to anticipate that. We hope that FIBA would consider there in relation to our partner in 2023.

This year, Gilas Pilipinas has a good chance to redeem its seventh-place finish in the previous Asian Games after falling to a relatively light bracket in Group B with Iran, Syria and Saudi Arabia.

Group A has Korea, Mongolia, Indonesia and Thailand; Group C is composed of Japan, Qatar, Chinese Taipei and Hong Kong; while Group B features Kazakhstan, China and Palestine.

Unfortunately, the looming FIBA penalty would definitely put a dent on the golden opportunity for Gilas Pilipinas to clinch its fifth gold medal since joining the Asian Games in the 1951 edition in New Delhi.

“We want to be there. We want to play there. It’s for our countrymen. In behalf of the president of the POC, I hope this (suspension) will not affect our preparation and participation in the Asian Games,” Gregorio said, adding that the Indonesians also expressed concern over the Philippines’ participation in Asia’s biggest athletic conclave.

“I received communication from the Indonesians and they are so worried since they are our Southeast Asian partners. I’m sure then don’t want us to be left out. It’s going to be a major loss if we’re not in the Asian Games.”

SBP is now in the process of compiling pieces of evidence that will be presented to the FIBA disciplinary committee.

The world-governing body is expected to come up with a decision in a tribunal either at the end of the qualifying window or at the end of this month.

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