An open letter to FIBA
MANILA, Philippines - Please excuse my boldness. There is no intention to disrespect, in fact it is with full respect that I write you. I direct this letter to the institution for the issues contained herein I think will outlive any current or future elected official.
This letter is in reference to the finals game of the FIBA Asia 2015 tournament between China and Philippines last October 3, 2015 held at Changsha, Hunan, China. China won with a final score of 78-67 securing a slot in the 2016 Olympics to be held in Rio de Janiero, Brazil.
The Philippines lost to China. Let me rephrase that, we lost to China. Yes, allow me to put it out there that I am a Filipino. I do so to clarify up front that I am not bitter about losing. I acknowledge that China is a stronger, younger, bigger and taller team.
They dominated the Gilas Pilipinas team in almost all categories. We were outrebounded (46-43) outshot (37.5% vs. 25.5% in 3 pt. conversions), out blocked (5-3) and out played (11-7 in assists). With a team whose average height is 6-foot-8 feet compared to the Philippines’ height average of 6-foot-5, the latter had to work doubly hard to keep up. The Chinese players’ average age is 24 years compared to the Philippines’ 31, providing them fresher legs, higher stamina level and with the youthful vigor enough to earn them the championship.
Gilas Pilipinas fought hard but could not keep pace with the dominant Chinese team. The Philippine team only shot 17 of 41 from the two point region and performed miserably from the 3-point area making only 6 out of 24 attempts. Surprisingly though the smaller Filipinos scored 4 more points in the paint (30-26) and held down the opponent’s offense in the 2 pt area to 37.5%.
It was still not enough as the bigger Chinese surprised everyone with their superior shooting from beyond the arc sinking 9 treys. It was also quite frustrating to see the Philippines make only 15 of 26 attempts from the free throw line. Curiously, if they converted the 11 free throws the game would have been sent into overtime.
Nevertheless, China deserves to represent the region in the Olympics.
However there seems to be a unanimous reaction about how the game was officiated.
I write you because I, like so many basketball fans, love this game enough that we are saddened by situations that diminish the beauty of the sport. I write because for true basketball fans who were fortunate enough to watch the game live or on TV, there is a collective sigh of frustration brought about by the seeming sub-standard officiating.
This letter is not to highlight nor suggest that the referees where calling the game in favor of one team. It is rather written to ask why an international competition, one that necessarily should be the standard of how the game is played, managed and handled, be described as a “cooking”show?
The popular fan page NBA 24/7 took to Facebook with “If you want to watch a legit cooking show. Go and watch FIBA Asia, China vs. Philippines, the ref cooks better than Harden.”
The Purple and Gold Nation fan Twitter account @PNGLakers added “That China vs. Philippines game was more of like a cooking show. Tough to swallow that kind of loss”
Could the Philippines have won if the officiating was decent? That is not for me to ask or point out. It would be unfair to the Chinese players to even insinuate that the referees helped them out. This takes away the effort and the skills these players paraded with during the whole tournament.
The issue I present is this. If FIBA, who is the most prestigious body overseeing the growth of the sport of basketball cannot protect itself from allegations of cheating through terrible officiating, what does the organization stand for?
I will admit that I have only seen the game once and jumping out from my memory are the following questionable calls:
Jason Castro was called for traveling while dribbling.
Jianlian Yi jumped for a shot attempt, missed the ring completely, caught the ball and was not called for traveling.
A backcourt violation was called on the Philippines while the ball was obviously tapped by a rival Chinese player.
Many times, on rebound plays, fouls were being called on players boxing out.
There were a substantial number of hacking fouls that were not called, on both sides.
Gabriel Norwood of the Philippines was hit in the face by a Chinese player, dropped to the floor, forcing him to let go of the ball which goes out of bounds. The ball was awarded to China by the very same referee who was in front of the play expected to have seen the foul. This sequence was replayed on slow motion confirming the incident.
Suspiciously however, during the second half, there were no more slow motion reviews that were re-played on television.
Of course, we can add the non-calls of several obvious fouls of the Chinese on the Filipinos but that will fuel the premise that there was biased officiating. We do not want that.
At the very least, the issue I raise is the sub-standard officiating of the three officials whose names I will not mention. There are only two ways to go with this. The referees were either not prepared enough or their whistles have been asked to blow one way. I would like to think it is the former.
The Philippines is a basketball loving country. We are still a developing country beset by challenges the more developed countries such as China will probably not have to face. Our resources are meager, such that we needed a huge business conglomerate, the Manny V. Pangilinan led group, to fund Gilas Pilipinas. But with a strong resolve, we have reached this point. Clearly what we lack in height we compensate with heart.
China won the championship and we lost. Though we want to get up and push on to prepare for the next challenge, there is a nagging thought that is hindering us. Would we still want to go through all this knowing that the very institution that we want to play for cannot guarantee a fair shake for all?
I have been in sports long enough to know that we all just have to move on after every game. Good games, bad games, fight marred games, badly officiated games are all the same the day after, they are all games of the past. What is important is what the future holds.
Is joining this prestigious tournament truly worth it? – Rappler.com
Mike Ochosa is President of Viva Sports Management Inc. and Philippine Habagat Baseball Club Inc. Follow him on Twitter: @mikeochosa and on his You Tube Channel: Sports Note with Coach Mike Ochosa.