Basketball

China awarded 2019 FIBA World Cup

by Kaz Nagatsuka

Staff Writer

China will host the 2019 FIBA Basketball World Cup, the sport’s global governing body announced on Friday night in Tokyo.

The organizing committees of the Philippines and China made final presentations at a Tokyo hotel before votes were cast by FIBA Central Board members.

China defeated the Philippines, which received a boost from boxing great and delegation ambassador Manny Pacquiao, in the voting 14-7 and earned the hosting rights for the flagship event of FIBA. The country will host its first World Cup.

China staged the 2002 FIBA World Championship for Women.

“First of all, I’m very excited about today,” said former NBA star center Yao Ming, who joined the Chinese host committee as an ambassador. “We have to respect the Filipino delegation. They were such a great opponent (for) us. They really pushed us to our limits to test how capable we are.”

China, which has hosted other international sporting events in recent years, including the 2008 Beijing Summer Olympics, is capitalizing on its gigantic population (nearly 1.4 billion) and market and received another opportunity to embrace a major sporting championship. (Last Friday, the IOC awarded the 2022 Winter Olympics to Beijing.)

“I believe that, not just me, but back in China, there’s millions of fans who share the same joy like we do,” Yao said with a smile.

The World Cup, a 32-nation event, is held every four years and the last tournament was staged in 2014. Starting with the next one, FIBA set a new four-year cycle to avoid conflict with soccer’s World Cup.

FIBA has also changed the qualifying system for the World Cup to a home-and-away round-robin format, playing one home and one away contest against the same opponent from its region.

Yao said that China would have “no time to waste” to prepare for the World Cup, making sure to deliver all the promises it made with its bidding.

“Four years is a long time,” said the former Houston Rockets star, who now owns the Shanghai Sharks of the Chinese Basketball Association. “But it’s also short.”

Earlier in the day, sporting mega stars Yao and Pacquiao were happy to be in Japan as special ambassadors to help lobby for their respective nations for the aforementioned 2019 hoop extravaganza.

Speaking to the media hours before the host nation was announced the two eagerly emphasized the popularity of the sport in their countries and said that they are ready to embrace the global stage for basketball on their home soil.

“I am a boxer but I am here because I love basketball so that tells you the passion that Filipinos have for basketball,” said Pacquiao, an eight-time world boxing champion, on Friday morning at a Tokyo hotel. “If we host the 2019 FIBA Basketball World Cup, we can show that passion to the world.”

Manuel V. Pangilinan, president of the Philippines Basketball Association, said: “In our country, basketball is No. 1. Ninety percent of the population play, watch or follow the sport in one way or another. It’s not just Filipinos in the Philippines that are passionate about the sport. It’s Filipinos all over the world.

Asked which country has a better zeal for basketball, Yao nicely said: “You can’t say that one type of love is better than the other. Both are great. Both countries have a great passion for basketball, particularly for FIBA basketball.”

For the Philippines, American-Filipino actor/director Lou Diamond Phillips is also visiting Tokyo as an ambassador for the bid for the Philippines. The 53-year-old said that the country “has come of age” and is “incredibly hopeful of getting to host the 2019 FIBA Basketball World Cup.”

Speaking in general terms about basketball being ingrained in the culture in the Philippines, the movie star insisted that the country wouldn’t have to particularly raise attention if it did win the bid because the popularity is already there.

“The passion, the overwhelming enthusiasm already exists,” he said. “And if we had the opportunity to host the FIBA World Cup, that would simply grow over the next three years. There is no education necessary. There’s a great sense of anticipation that is already there.”

Meanwhile, Pacquiao is known as an avid basketball fan. In fact, he serves as head coach/player for the Mahindra Enforcers of the Philippines Basketball Association.

Pacquiao said that practicing basketball is effective for his boxing training, adding that it would be good for any other sports as well because it trains your balancing and stamina among others.

“I think basketball is good cross training,” he said. “If you are a boxer, or any sports.”

Pacquiao, also a congressman in his native land, also spoke of the power of sports to make a positive impact in people’s lives.

“I believe in the power of the sports,” he said. “Especially, you can help your family and you can avoid all the activities that are not good for your body.”