By Michael Angelo S. Murillo
After the Philippine Basketball Association, Clark, Pampanga, will again host a hoops tournament, this time the third and final window of the FIBA Asia Cup Qualifiers.
In an announcement on Friday, world governing body FIBA said the Philippines is one of the sites serving as hosts for Asia Cup qualifying matches, along with Japan, Bahrain and Qatar.
Clark will be the venue for matches in Groups A and C, slated for Feb. 18 to 22.
Group A has the Philippines (3-0), Korea (2-0), Indonesia (1-2) and Thailand (0-4) while Group C is composed of New Zealand (2-0) Australia (1-1), Guam (0-1) and Hong Kong (0-1).
The decision to have Clark as one of the hosts came after the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas Inc. offered the venue, touting, among other things, how the PBA successfully staged its “bubble” tournament there under strict health and safety protocols to guard against the spread of the coronavirus from October up to early this week when a champion was crowned in the Barangay Ginebra San Miguel Kings.
“The Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas is honored and humbled to be chosen as one of the hosts for the last round of the FIBA Asia Cup Qualifiers this coming February,” SBP president Al Panlilio said in a statement.
“We are thankful for FIBA’s trust in our capacity to host not just a successful tournament but, more importantly, a safe one. We’re glad to have met their health standards and we are looking forward to welcoming Korea, Indonesia and Thailand as well as Australia, New Zealand, Guam and Hong Kong from Group C in our country,” he added.
The SBP president went on to share that they will also show the Filipinos’ trademark hospitality notwithstanding the prevailing difficult conditions brought about by the pandemic.
Mr. Panlilio thanked as well the PBA for sharing its best practices in staging a successful bubble, where participants were holed up in a contained environment for the duration of its tournament.
The SBP is looking forward to working with the PBA, pertinent government agencies and other basketball stakeholders in the country for the successful staging of the February window of the qualifiers.
In the FIBA Asia Cup Qualifiers, the Philippines has remained unscathed, boosted by a sweep of Thailand in their two games in the second window last month in Manama, Bahrain.
For the other hosts, Tokyo will have Group B, Manama has Groups D and F, and Doha Group E.
The exact schedule of games will be confirmed at a later stage.
As per tournament format, the top two teams in the grouping at the end of the qualifiers advance outright to the FIBA Asia Cup set for August next year.