Bulls’ Gasol backs PHL’s World Cup hosting bid

Alder Almo (The Philippine Star) - February 12, 2015 - 1:03pm

MANILA, Philippines – The country’s bid to win the 2019 FIBA World Cup got a huge supporter in Spain’s Pau Gasol.

The Chicago Bulls’ Spanish star, speaking to international media that included NBA.com Philippines and Philstar.com via conference call earlier this week, said that a World Cup in the Philippines would be a lot of fun.

“If the Philippines can host the World Cup, I'm sure it will be a lot of fun [not only] for the country but also for the players because of their passion for the game and how much they enjoy it, how they live and experience it,” Gasol said.

The 7-foot forward-center was a first-hand witness to the Filipinos’ unparalleled passion for the game in the last FIBA World Cup in his home country, Spain. 

“We know how passionate Filipino fans are. What great love they have for the game. It was shown this past summer in Spain when they participated in the World Cup. Every game that the Philippines played there was a great atmosphere,” Gasol said.

The Philippines is one of the six countries bidding for the hosting rights of the world championship that FIBA wanted to be a “Quantum Leap” from Spain’s hosting.

The last two FIBA World Cups were held in Europe – Turkey in 2010 and Spain last year – so there is a strong possibility that the 2019 tournament may go to Asia.

China is the country’s chief rival in Asia since Qatar has indicated its interest to host the 2023 edition instead. The other bidders are from Europe with 2010 host Turkey and jointly, Germany and France.

Recently, FIBA delegates came over to evaluate the country’s capability to host such a huge event and they rated the SBP bid as ‘highly competitive’ despite the two playing venues – Solaire Arena and SM Cebu Arena – still to be constructed. The last time the world championship came here was in 1978.

Gasol, the 2006 FIBA World Cup MVP, would be 39 at by 2019 and he is unsure though if he will still be playing along with his younger brother, Memphis Grizzlies' star Marc, for perennial powerhouse Spain.

“I don't know if we might be playing in 2019, but never say 'never'. Our passion for the game goes a long way. But that may be stretching a bit too much,” said Gasol.

Gasol has yet to visit the country but nearly did in 2011. He was still playing for the Los Angeles Lakers at that time and was chosen as a celebrity endorser of the Starkey Hearing Foundation, which did volunteer mission work in the country.

His Phl trip, which included watching the Phl Azkals play LA Galaxy starring another European sport icon David Beckham, was cancelled at the last minute when he was required to be physically present for the Lakers players’ vote on the lockout situation in Los Angeles at that time.

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