Gilas Pilipinas (The Philippines’ Men’s Senior Basketball National Team name) has continued to struggle in the FIBA World Championships in Spain with losses to European teams Greece an Croatia. The tournament has not been kind to the country in a sport where size along with skill is important. Our opponents simply have too much size coupled with speed and reliable outside shooting. Is it enough just to have “puso” (heart) to rely on each and every game. We are considered the underdogs here and it shows in every game so far.

In my opinion it’s alright to play the game you love to play here in the country. Right now the country is basketball crazy and that is fueling the sport with large amounts of support from both the amateur and professional ranks. In every barangay (local town) there are basketball courts that are set up. These are not only used as play areas but as multipurpose areas used for drying rice and corn grains, holding special events, and shade from the summer sun. But what is the point of it all if you can’t be one of the best in the world at what you do? 

With the rising number of active football (soccer if you wish) fans in the country it is no wonder why there are more and more people voicing out their pleas to better support the local football federation in their efforts to bring up the sport where height is not much of an issue and could be an alternative sport to help the poor to get jobs in. Remember many good Brazilian footballers who have found teams who recruit and nurture their skills don’t come from well to do families. It’s pretty much more realistic than poor people here trying to be drafted by PBA teams or better yet, receive good training offered by only elite collegiate teams. To put my theory in perspective, I think there is a greater chance of a poor person, with average basketball skills, just looking for a decent job than to aspire for a college team with a good basketball program to take him in and train him to make his chances to reach the PBA. Now say we are a football country and we replace our covered courts with football fields and such. Now the same poor people play football, they will probably have a higher chance of attracting attention from other clubs (since there are football academies who take young children and develop their skills) but also the there are more players per team (Basketball has needs 5 players to start while football players need 11 players to start the team). It makes more sense if you ask me. I’m just thinking practical.

There are simply more teams looking for the next Messi or Ronaldo, than teams looking for the next Jordan or Bryant. Simple yet practical. The demand for promising, not necessarily good/great players, is simply more than the demand for promising (sometimes already polished) players of basketball and where height is a real plus. AND I MEAN A REAL PLUS (They won’t even consider you in the team in the pros if you’re under 5’5″ unless you’re really good). The recently concluded PBA Draft is also a telling tale of teams drafting polished talent, mostly Fil-Americans or foreign talent. There are simply not enough teams to draft most of the players available so their talents all go to waste, no other league will get them because of the skills required ALONG with the height. To make matters worse, one or two questionable draftees were drafted even though their amateur basketball skills are questionable, namely Congressman/Boxer Manny Pacquiao and his cousin Pac, too. Now that is a slap to the face of not only the league but also to the hard working amateur players who happen to not be political figures or own a team. This is just sad.

The quality of PBA players have diminished over time and gone are the glory days where we can compete against the rest of the world. Heck we have the “extra-rice” guy in the team! Nothing against him but that just shows the quality of our local players now.  

So there you go, my take on football as a Philippine sport for the future and the slow death of local professional basketball. Again these are my own personal opinion if you don’t agree then tough luck. If you agree then you are one of the thousands of growing number of fans realizing that basketball is a great sport to play for recreation but realistically don’t quit your day job for pursuing it as a profession.

Jimbo