Al Panlilio bats for better team, better Philippine hosting of 2023 World Cup

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As soon as the officials of the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas returned home along with our Gilas Pilipinas squad which represented the country in our second straight FIBA World Cup, the heads of our governing cage body only had one thing in mind as they started to lay the groundwork for the 2023 hosting of the biggest basketball event in the world.  

“Just to get better. We need to get better,” SBP president Al Panlilio told FOX Sports Philippines in an exclusive interview.  “Always improving and excelling at a higher level. We’re in our second World Cup. We guaranteed ourselves of a third World Cup by hosting it, but being in the World Cup should be a norm for Philippine basketball. Hopefully, we can continue a program that could help us qualify us to the World Cup.”

Gilas Pilipinas had a disappointing, winless campaign in the recent FIBA World Cup, a slide down from its previous stint five years ago in Spain.

According to Panlilio, although the Philippines is already guaranteed of a spot in the 2023 World Cup by jointly hosting the event along with Japan and Indonesia, the country’s basketball program will definitely need a shot in the arm and come up with a much-improved program that could benefit us for a long term.

“Up to the third World Cup in 2023, hopefully we can still qualify for the 2027 Games.  It’s a long term program for us. We need to look at it, on a longer term, hindi lang sa next tournament. On the onset, we’re already looking at two World Cups,” added Panlilio.

“Although we’re guaranteed a spot for 2023, we still need to look at our team, how can we improve our position, our framework, the system.”

Yeng Guiao, who immediately stepped down as Gilas Pilipinas coach, suggested that the Philippines should now start emulating the European style of play.

In the recent World Cup in China, the United States, composed of young stars from the NBA, finished at seventh spot, the worst finished by an American squad since it started sending NBA players since 1992.

“Even Coach Yeng (Guiao) had suggested that we should look at the European basketball. We will assess that and see what we can do to do that. Kakabalik lang ng lahat, it’s time for us to come together and assess how can we improve the program for the national team. The other thing is how can we do a better job,” added Panlilio.

The Philippines should also look at the way China hosted the games. The Chinese had been in the center piece of major international sporting events, including the hosting of the 2008 Olympics, numerous FIBA Asia events and recently, the World Cup.

“China did a very good job hosting. First time itong ganitong klaseng format (four-year cycle, home and away). It was well done by China basketball and FIBA. Knowing FIBA, they want us to do it better. We will have to make it a better hosting,” said Panlilio.

“It’s a very hard task because China did very well, so we just have to make sure that the experience we give the fans, not only the Filipinos, but globally, I’m sure a lot of fans will come to the Philippines when we host it four years from now, hopefully they could have the best experience coming to the Philippines. Maraming kailangan gawin.”

The country’s hosting of the Southeast Asian Games this year from late November until early December might be a good way to prepare the Philippines even more for the 2023 World Cup hosting. The Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation had released an P800-M budget to help renovate the Rizal Memorial Coliseum, Ninoy Aquino Stadium and Philsports Arena (formerly ULTRA), which can also serve as alternate venues for some of the games.

Although two other venues already made the passing mark from the FIBA inspection team – the Philippine Arena in Bocaue, Bulacan and the Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay — the Araneta Coliseum still requires improvement.

“We have no choice but to be ready before 2023. Venue-wise, FIBA already came here even before they awarded it to us and one of the the technical team members that came over, looked at the venues. They already checked it. Despite what we had when we won the bidding two years ago, they approved our bid. Obviously, we can only improve it. There are some things we need to do — Araneta will need improvement, MOA is OK, Philippine Arena is OK,” said Panlilio.

The Araneta Coliseum, considered as the Philippine’s mecca for sports, will still have some improvement to do. In 1978, the venue served as the site of the 1978 World Basketball Championship, the last time the country held the world basketball event.

Aside from the venues, Panlilio also cited the infrastructures as key components in getting the hosting bid. One of the reasons why China was chosen to host the 2019 World Cup over the Philippines is the Chinese’ solid infrastructures that have been visible since they last hosted the Olympics in 2008.

The Philippines is making sure this time that we’ll be more ready for the hosting of the biggest basketball event in the world.

“There’s a program from the government when it comes to  infrastructure, that’s happening also. We have the NLEX-SLEX link that will soon be finished and that causes traffic now in Bulacan. Even before the SEA Games, they’re building an interchange along the Arena going south. Hindi ka na pupunta ng norte at hindi ka na mag-U-Turn. This project of the government helps a lot and makes the experience better,” added Panlilio.




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