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By Ronnie Nathanielsz

Sat, 23 Aug 2014

We gather that already some bashers have gone after Gilas Pilipinas coach Chot Reyes following the series of defeats suffered in the tune-up series leading to the FIBA World Cup which opens in Spain on August 30.

This is terribly unfair and reflects the worst trait of some Filipinos who, the moment a boxer loses a fight as Rey ?Boom Boom? Bautista did some years ago, label him a ?bum.?

We bet that not one of these individuals who are mere fair weather friends and vent their ire on someone who loses, have ever stepped into a boxing ring and felt what it?s like to get beaten up nor have they suffered the burden and the sacrifices that fighters and basketball players make in training and often being away from their families.

It?s the same with the Smart Gilas team to the World Cup. It?s tough for these young men to be away from their families and loved ones for such a length of time going through the daily grind of two or sometimes even three workouts a day in a far-off land, in order to represent our country with honor.

The homesickness must be agonizing yet they manfully bear the sacrifices so the Philippines will take its rightful place in the world of international basketball.

Those who indecently cast aside what coach Chot and his team achieved in those eleven memorable, emotionally riveting days in August last year at the Mall of Asia Arena when they qualified for the World Cup by finishing runners-up in the FIBA Asia Championship after 40 ? yes 40 long years - are worthy of our collective scorn.

Nobody even remotely suggested that we could beat the strongest teams in the world from the United States, Europe and Latin America but we all agreed that merely qualifying for the World Cup and having an opportunity to play against some of these nations was, in itself, a national achievement.

In the face of a small fortune spent by the esteemed businessman-sportsman Manny Pangilinan who has, by his vision and his undying resolve to put decency and integrity on the face of Philippine basketball so long immersed in utter mediocrity and corrupt practices, given respectability to the sport on the international scene and redeemed our nation?s image of respectability, the critics are being terribly unfair.

Mr. Pangilinan had hoped we would qualify for the World Cup after four decades and dreamed that perhaps we will make it to the second round of the competition. Part one of his dream was fulfilled and coach Chot and his coaching staff as well as the players who played their hearts out should be extolled not vilified.

Part two has yet to be played out and while our quest has been hurt by injuries to key players, all is not lost as was proven when Gilas Pilipinas scared the daylights out of European champions France before fading in the dying minutes of the game to lose by seven points.

As basketball analyst Christian Soler who had taken a break to pursue higher studies in Boston, Massachusetts tweeted while watching a live streaming of the game, ?the commentators are going crazy? as the Philippines was leading going into the final minutes of the game. In short they were impressed and excited by our performance.

Of course various reasons contributed to the Philippines losing by big margins against Australia and Ukraine with the absence of naturalized NBA player Andray Blatche and tough backcourt star Paul Lee who were rested because of injury.

One common denominator has been the fact that we hold our own much of the game but are simply overwhelmed by the size of the opposing teams and the excellent outside shooting of their big men down the stretch.

While the blame game should not be fashionable we wish that those who dare bash coach Chot and our players instead turn their attention to the players Chot wanted such as Greg Slaughter and Marcio Lassiter as well as the PBA teams that declined to release players to the Gilas Pilipinas pool such as Alaska whose Sonny Thoss could have been a welcome addition. Turn your prowess at bashing on them, not those who continue to sacrifice for flag and country.

The one gratifying feature these past weeks has been the consistent support of Filipinos in France and Spain and anywhere our teams went, including the Gilas Under 17 squad in Dubai and the Under 18 team in Qatar. They waved our flag with pride and cheered us on even in the face of defeat.

These are genuine Filipinos whose togetherness lifts the spirits and earns our collective national respect and makes the bashers utterly irrelevant.

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