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BALANCING ACT | Panlilio eyes successful World Cup hosting, Paris berth

SBP president Al Panlilio is determined to deliver a memorable hosting of the FIBA Basketball World Cup while leading Gilas Pilipinas to the Paris Olympics. PSA PHOTO

He may have already hurdled a lot of challenges but there’s a pair of crucial tasks that Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas president Al Panlilio needs to overcome in the coming weeks: To deliver a successful hosting of the FIBA Basketball World Cup and to lead Gilas Pilipinas to the Paris Olympics.

In a message to Daily Tribune, Panlilio stressed that they are doing their best to successfully host the world’s most prestigious basketball event set from 25 August to 10 September.

He said it’s all systems go with barely a week before the 32-nation spectacle with no less than President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. suspending classes at public schools and government offices in Metro Manila to make sure that there will be no traffic congestion around the Philippine Arena in Bocaue, Bulacan during the opening of the World Cup.

Aside from that, various government agencies like the Philippine Sports Commission, Bureau of Customs, Metropolitan Manila Development Authority, Philippine National Police and Department of Transportation are already on high alert as delegates from 16 basketball powerhouse countries are all expected to start trickling in this weekend.

Panlilio said they are expecting more than 50,000 fans to fill up the Philippine Arena not just to break the standing FIBA record of more than 32,000 spectators currently held by Toronto but also to boost Gilas Pilipinas in its opening game against the Dominican Republic.

“We are working very hard to make sure that we are able to deliver with the highest standards as expected by FIBA and our countrymen,” Panlilio said in a message to Daily Tribune.

“A lot of people have sacrificed but are honored to serve the country.”

The country’s hosting of the World Cup will be very special.

The last time the Philippines hosted the event was in 1978 at the Rizal Memorial Coliseum and the Smart Araneta Coliseum.

The International Basketball Federation, which was headed by Basketball Association of the Philippines chief Gonzalo “Lito” Puyat II, sent a token delegation bannered by young players Steve Watson, Pol Herrera, Padim Israel and Alex Clariño.

Now, Panlilio assured that the Gilas squad will be joining to compete and is very determined to represent the country in the Olympics for the first time since 1972 in Munich.

“We haven’t hosted the World Cup since 1978,” said Panlilio, reiterating that their goal is to emerge as the best-performing Asian team that will be gifted with a ticket to the Olympics.

“It’s even been much longer for the Olympics in basketball, 1972. I still recall the poster of (Robert) Jaworski I had in my room.”

He added that he can see the fire in the players’ eyes.

“I was in practice the other night. Everybody was there. Even Scottie (Thompson) was there, so that’s positive news. Now the difficulty for the coaches is naming the final 12 and I have to say ‘thank you’ to everybody who have sacrificed in the pool for Gilas, not being guaranteed a spot, including Justin Brownlee, thank you very much for what you’ve done and contributed to this journey,” Panlilio said.

“We want to perform our very best. My gut feel, we’ll do our best to achieve it. Hope we can win these two games. Our best World Cup is we won one game in 2014 against Senegal and unfortunately, we didn’t win anything in 2019 in Beijing.”

“Hopefully, we could win two and if we do that, we go to the next round and eventually, we play for a spot for the Olympics.”

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