In the waning hours of the FIBA World Cup 2023 on Sunday, September 10, Al S. Panlilio, president of the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas, looked back at the two-week-long global showpiece that was about to end and felt a slight flutter in his heart.
“It’s a mix of extreme emotions,” said Panlilio, who spearheaded the country’s bid for the multiple-nation hosting of the World Cup, along with SBP chairman emeritus Manny V. Pangilinan, in 2017.
The Philippines, Japan, and Indonesia, as co-hosts, were awarded the rights to organize the latest edition of FIBA’s flagship event later that year.
“I’m extremely proud of all the LOC [Local Organizing Committee] staff and volunteers. And (feel) extreme joy for the coming together of the FIBA community to make this World Cup a memorable one.”
“But there’s also a feeling of extreme bittersweetness as it comes to an end, yet overshadowed by extreme hopefulness for the 2027 World Cup in Qatar.”
By Monday, the newly-crowned World Cup champion – Germany or Serbia – would probably be on its way to NAIA and headed home, the glittering, gold-plated Naismith Trophy a most cherished possession.
The losing finalist could be booked on the same flight, as with the teams that met for third-place – USA and Canada – all three of them left to rue what might have been.
Egress for the tons of materials brought into the SM Mall of Asia Arena before August 25, opening day, has already started, and in a few days, only a couple of signages may be all that’s left to remind future visitors that the world’s best basketball teams had battled for supremacy there.
The Philippine Arena in Bocaue, Bulacan, where the inaugural game between Gilas Pilipinas and Dominican Republic established a new FIBA World Cup attendance record of 38,115, could be housing another huge event, while the Smart Araneta Coliseum would be preparing for the coming collegiate cage wars as well as the new PBA season.
Also by Monday, a Gilas Pilipinas team, this time under Barangay Ginebra San Miguel coach Tim Cone, will be kicking off less than two weeks of practice for the 19th Asian Games in Hangzhou, China, and NBA star Jordan Clarkson would be back in camp with the Utah Jazz, naturalized player Justin Brownlee taking his place in the national team.
The World Cup fever would have subsided and the massive workforce put together by the LOC would have been disbanded, each functional head, staff member, and volunteer returning to their original haunts.
Panlilio, meanwhile, moves on to steer Philippine basketball toward continental glory.
Having beheld what is past him, Panlilio now looks ahead to overseeing the formation of a Philippine team that will wage Asian Games hostilities with the likes of South Korea, Japan, Iran, Lebanon, and China.
During a recent press conference announcing the appointment of Cone as Gilas Pilipinas coach, Panlilio said: “While we may have fallen short of expectations in the FIBA World Cup, I believe Gilas Pilipinas battled and fought well till the end of its Group Phase campaign. The team never gave up; its never-say-die spirit unwavering to the last.
“It’s a firm personal belief now: This Gilas Pilipinas team journeying to Hangzhou in two weeks will never give up as well.”
And the flutter in the hearts of basketball-loving Filipinos continues.