August 12, 2013
I’m no masochist, but that gold medal-clinching 85-71 victory by taller, bigger Iran over our Gilas Pilipinas team, bless their hearts, in the final game of the 27th FIBA-Asia Championship before about 20,000 screeching fans did NOT hurt a bit.
Because for us, the war was won the day before.
On this fateful night when Gilas Pilipinas and all of us basketball-crazy Filipinos beat our long-time tormentors, the sharp-shooting South Koreans, in a pulsating 86-79 semifinal win, the prayers of this basketball-crazy nation were answered.
I saw tough men cry. And shamelessly, I shed tears too. Because after all these years, we finally won over Korea. The Korean curse has ended, the ghost of our bitter, painful past exorcised. No more “Remember Busan.” Gilas has written its story. A new chapter in Phl basketball that will be talked about for years, even decades. Legends were born this day.
It also clinched the Philippines, our beloved nation, its first trip to the World Championship, now called the FIBA World Cup, since the country hosted the event in 1978. Not to mention that our finish was the best since a Robert Jaworski, Sr.-coached Phl team took the silver in the 1990 Beijing Asian Games.
And we will go to Spain for next year’s World Cup where our very own guys will play against the Kevin Durants, the Kyrie Irvings, the Pau and Marc Gasols, the Sergei Ibakas, the Jose Calderons and perhaps the Dirk Nowitzkis.
And this silver medal Gilas ended up with surely glitters brighter than Iran’s gold.
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(Photos courtesy of Nuki Sabio of FIBA-Asia 2013)