Philippines is new host of 2013 FIBA Asia Championship

SBP Executive Director Sonny Barrios with FIBA Asia Secretary General Hagop Khajirian. (Photo courtesy of Patricia Hizon)

In the end, we got what should have been ours in the first place.

Citing mounting security issues in the Middle East, the FIBA Asia Executive Committee stripped Lebanon of its right to host the 27th FIBA Asia Championship and named the Philippines as the new host of the prestigious basketball joust which will determine Asia’s three representatives to the 2014 FIBA World Championship.

An article posted on the FIBA Asia website quoted FIBA Asia Secretary General Hagop Khajirian as saying the following:

"Unfortunately, the current situation in the region and the on-going civil war in Syria, which has its indirect effect on the countries in the whole of West Asia, especially on Lebanon, creates doubts about the stability that we might not have, at least, till the fixed dates of our event.

"In view of these facts, FIBA Asia Executive Committee decided to change the venue of the 27th FIBA Asia Championship from Beirut-Lebanon to Manila-Philippines."

The decision comes after Lebanon was awarded the hosting rights last September, even though the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas gave what many felt was a topnotch presentation to the FIBA Asia Executive Committee.

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One stipulation of the awarding of the rights to Lebanon was that the Philippines would be the new host should the Middle Eastern country fail to satisfy the Asian basketball body in its preparations. This is exactly what happened, and as early as October there was already some concern about Lebanon’s ability to host the tournament after the FIBA Asia Champions Cup championship game which was to be held in Beirut, had to be postponed due to the peace and order situation in the Lebanese capital.

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But even though Manila is now the new host, the date of the tournament remains the same: August 1-11, which still puts the Philippine national team – which will be represented by PBA players -  in a tight situation since the 2013 PBA season may end as late as July 27.

National team coach Chot Reyes tweeted his elation all the way from Dubai, where Smart Gilas II will be competing in the tough Dubai International Basketball Tournament.

The Philippines last hosted the FIBA Asia Championship (then known as the Asian Basketball Confederation Championship) 40 years ago, when a team led by Robert Jaworski, Mon Fernandez, Bogs Adornado and Francis Arnaiz beat South Korea for the title before an overflow crowd at the Rizal Memorial Coliseum.

Two years ago, Smart Gilas I, coached by Rajko Toroman and starring amateur standouts JVee Casio, Chris Tiu, Marcio Lassiter and Mac Baracael, naturalized player Marcus Douthit, and PBA veterans Jimmy Alapag, Kelly Williams, and Asi Taulava, finished fourth behind Korea, Jordan and China, the country's highest finish since 1987.

SBP Executive Director Sonny Barrios was quoted by FIBA Asia on his reaction to the turn of events:

“We are honored to host this prestigious event. We thank FIBA Asia, in particular Secretary General Hagop Khajirian, for giving us this privilege, which will give great happiness and enjoyment to the millions of Filipino basketball fans.”