Why not host FIBA E-Sports World Cup?
Al Panlilio
PhilStar.com Photo/Denison Rey A. Dalupang
Why not host FIBA E-Sports World Cup?
SPORTING CHANCE - Joaquin M. Henson (The Philippine Star) - June 17, 2020 - 12:00am

SBP president Al Panlilio is thrilled that the Philippines is participating in the first-ever FIBA E-Sports Open on June 19-21 and isn’t discounting the possibility for the country to someday host a FIBA E-Sports World Cup.

The coming Open is an exhibition series featuring 17 countries split into five geographic conferences – Oceania (Australia, New Zealand), Southeast Asia (Philippines, Indonesia), Middle East (Saudi Arabia, Lebanon), Europe (Austria, Cyprus, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Russia, Spain, Switzerland, Ukraine) and South Americas (Brazil, Argentina). Curiously, the US isn’t competing in the Open.

It’s a pilot competition and FIBA will keep a close eye on kinks that may arise during the weekend action. Surely, the issue of connectivity is a concern. A slight delay in the internet connection of one country with another could mean the difference between winning or losing. FIBA will monitor play from its own E-Sports Studio in Riga, Latvia and produce a daily four-hour show featuring up to six games. Fans from all over the world will be able to catch the livestreamed action on FIBA’s Facebook, Twitch and YouTube channels with live English commentary.

In the Philippines, the national team will play out of the Gariath Concepts Studio in Eastwood. Panlilio said the team is powered by PLDT and Smart so connectivity will be seamless. Gariath uses PLDT Fiber internet lines for data uploads and downloads. The Open will use the NBA2K Pro-Am Demo Mode, a program that wasn’t included in the recent Southeast Asian Games where the Philippines took three of the six golds at stake. The SEA Games events were Dota2, Starcraft II and Hearthstone for PC, Tekken7 for console and Arena of Valor and Mobile Legends: Bang Bang for mobile. Organizers attempted to include NBA2K as a sixth title but negotiations broke down when the appropriate license couldn’t be secured.

Panlilio said with the Philippines’ experience of hosting a multi-nation event in E-Sports at the SEA Games, there’s no reason why it can’t stage a FIBA E-Sports World Cup. In the SEA Games, E-Sports was held at the Filoil Flying V Arena. In a prospective FIBA E-Sports World Cup, Panlilio said the venue could be the MOA Arena and he wouldn’t be surprised if a live crowd filled it to the rafters.

Panlilio is one of the E-Sports prime movers in FIBA. He was tapped by FIBA secretary-general Andreas Zagklis to join Latvia’s Edgar Sneps and Russia’s Natalia Galkina in a working committee to plan for the expansion of FIBA’s E-Sports platform. FIBA media and marketing services director Frank Leenders has taken charge of propelling E-Sports into a major product line with FIBA head of digital Nicolas Chapart and FIBA head of commercial development Gustavo Arellano Jorge turning the concept of a competition into reality. NBA deputy commissioner and FIBA Central Board member Mark Tatum is also involved in the FIBA’s E-Sports project.

It was during the late FIBA secretary-general Patrick Baumann’s administration that E-Sports was first brought to the Central Board’s attention as a growth avenue two years ago. SBP chairman emeritus and FIBA Central Board member Manny V. Pangilinan immediately saw the potential of E-Sports as a FIBA product and has voiced full support for this initiative since Day One. Panlilio said when the Philippines was invited to join the Open, MVP asked who will represent the country. “I told Boss MVP he’ll be surprised because our players aren’t tall and mainly in their 20s,” he said.

The Filipino players are Rial Polog, 31, Clark Banzon, 27, Philippe Alcaraz Herrero, 26, Custer Galas, 28, Angelico Cruzin, 27, David Timajo, 37 and Pedro Brana, 26. Coach is Nite Alparaz. They’ll be the characters for the Philippine team on the screen with Brana at center/power forward, Herrero at center, Banzon at power forward, Timajo at center/power forward, Cruzin at point guard, Polog as shooting guard and Galas at small forward. FIBA required each team to submit a 7-player roster with five on the court and two reserves.

“I imagine that at some time, we could create characters like June Mar Fajardo or Jimmy Alapag to play for the Philippines in E-Sports just as if we use NBA players and NBA teams in NBA2K,” said Panlilio. “The E-Sports platform opens up a lot of opportunities to make it more exciting to a wide range of fans all over the world.”

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