Triumph in Defeat: Defeat in Triumph
Gilas Pilipinas may have won just a single game, their last against Senegal, at the recently-concluded FIBA World cup held in Spain yet Filipino fans were euphoric as if the team brought home the gold medal.
Rightly so, for the way the team played Filipino fans could not help but feel proud. True to their battle cry “Laban Pilipinas! Puso!”, the undersized players gave their taller and heftier opponents scary moments. Three of the four games they lost were close ones decided only during the closing seconds of the game.
It was only after four decades that the Filipinos had a chance to play at the center stage of basketball and they gave a good account of themselves.
But something in me is withholding celebration…the presence of naturalized players.
We earned the ticket for the trip to the FIBA competitions in Spain by placing second during the FIBA Asia last year, that was with the help of Marcus Douthit. At the FIBA World, the team was reinforced by Andray Blatche, the team’s eventual top scorer and rebounder.
The question is, without those naturalized players how far could we have gone in those FIBA jousts. We’ll never know. Perhaps worse, but who knows, it would have been better.
We know that naturalization of players is allowed by the FIBA. And we are not the only country doing such. It was reported that there were at least nine players who were allowed to don the colors of another country during the latest FIBA tourney in Spain. Even basketball powerhouse Spain had one.
Why do we need to do it? Yes, we get dwarfed in international competitions and by naturalizing players we get to add ceiling to our national team. But by doing so we deprive some local talents the opportunity to be part of the national team. We also spend precious dollars for these naturalized players. It was reported that Blatche, for his efforts, were paid around a million dollars.
Would we really feel completely triumphant should we win a championship with a naturalized player in tow?
Having naturalized players can be construed as admitting that we are not talented enough to compete in the international level. I believe that while their inclusion to the national team adds ceiling it, on the other hand, lessens the respect of our competitors.
I am finding it hard to celebrate whenever Gilas Pilipinas wins because I would always wonder if we could have won without the help of a foreigner who, by technicality, became a Filipino, a Filipino only during FIBA tournaments.
In ending, I wish to mention what I consider as the best moments Gilas Pilipinas had in the FIBA World tourney. It was when Blatche was called for his 5th and final foul with less than two minutes left in the game between the Philippines and Senegal. The Filipinos stood their ground. It was when we saw the kind of heart the Filipino players possess. It was when we witnessed the kind of basketball talent that our home-grown cagers have. Those dying moments of that game is a proof that Gilas Pilipinas could compete even without the help of naturalized players.