General Admission

Fiba Asia basketball yields to COVID-19

By Al S. Mendoza


THE virus strikes again.

Downing so many sporting events already the last 11 months or so, the COVID-19 pandemic has claimed the Fiba Asia Cup as its latest victim.

Supposed to be held Feb. 18-22 in Clark Pampanga, the third window of Asia’s premiere edition of Fiba global has yielded to the virus scourge.

Travel restrictions barred South Korea and Indonesia from coming to the Philippines for the five-day event.

It was the offshoot of a renewed surge of infections arising from the new virus variant described as more virulent than the original contagion first discovered in December 2019 in Wuhan, China.

In fairness, it was not Fiba that closed window three in the Philippines.

It was the Philippine government that did it, in keeping with world health protocols closing our borders from foreigners in a bid to stop the spread of the new variant first found in the United Kingdom and in South Africa.

The new virus is now practically in 50-plus countries, including South Korea and Indonesia.

It manifested itself in the Philippines only days back from a Filipino arriving from Dubai, who resides in Kamuning District, Quezon City, not far from where I live.

The good news is, he’s been recovering well, including his partner in the business trip, even as the vicinity of their residence has been isolated obviously for health safety.

Also reported infected but with the majority testing asymptomatic were 12 others in the plane from Dubai that carried 150-plus passengers.

Last week, the new variant was uncovered in Cordillera.

Mercifully, it is being contained fast, thanks to our medical personnel and courageous front liners for their vigilance and determined efforts at arresting its spread.

But despite the scrapping of Fiba Cup window three in Pampanga, our Gilas players are continuing their training in the Calamba bubble in Laguna.

The Fiba officialdom are presently looking for a country to replace us as host of the tournament where we need only one more win against either South Korea or Indonesia to advance to the continental championship in August.

Japan has done the same, cancelling its Group B qualifiers in favor of Qatar.

“We’ve constantly communicated with our partners from the National Task Force Against COVID-19, and they have informed us that there would be no exemptions from the current travel restrictions,” basketball chief Al Panlilio said in a statement.  “We’ve exerted a lot of effort into our hosting of the Fiba Asia Cup and this is why it is with great sadness that it is no longer going to happen.”

Will Kai Sotto, the 7-foot-3 Filipino teener seeking his place in the NBA, still arrive from the US as scheduled this week to join Gilas?

If yes, that’d be great.  That would mean Sotto, only 18, is already a man of his word.

Besides, who knows the scrapped event at Clark will find a new battlefield somewhere?

Fingers crossed.

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