SBP confirms cancellation of Doha window

Published February 12, 2021, 12:25 PM

by Jeremiah Sevilla

Photo from Inspire Sports Academy

The Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas (SBP) announced on Friday that FIBA has cancelled the third and final window of the Asia Cup qualifiers which was supposed to be held in Doha, Qatar on Feb. 18 to 23. 

Qatar’s Ministry of Public Health has ordered the cancellation of all events due to the swelling number of COVID-19 cases in the Middle Eastern country, according to a letter received by the SPB from FIBA executive director for Asia Hagop Khajirian. 

“The SBP is saddened by the development especially because we know the kind of work that our Gilas Pilipinas men’s pool has done in Calamba,” said SBP president Al Panlilio in a statement. 

“The players and coaching staff have all sacrificed so much in this process as they’ve been apart from their families to represent the Philippines against South Korea and Indonesia,” he added. 

The Gilas pool led by Kiefer Ravena and five other PBA players started its rigorous training at the Inspire Sports Academy in Calamba, Laguna last January 10 in preparation for the national teams’ scheduled two games against rival South Korea and one versus Indonesia in Group A, only for the tournament to be called off just a few days before its tipoff. 

It was also a big blow for the 18-year-old prospect Kai Sotto, who was supposed to make his debut for the Gilas seniors after leaving the NBA G-League team Ignite to fulfill his national team commitment. 

The 7-foot-3 Sotto, who flew back to the country last Feb. 2, missed Ignite’s victorious first game in the G-League bubble against the Santa Cruz Warriors, 109-104, on Thursday (Manila time). 

With Ignite set to play 15 regular games in just 24 days, coach Brian Shaw said earlier that Sotto’s availability for the rest of the G-League season hangs in limbo as quarantine protocols upon his return might cause him to miss most, if not the entirety, of the developmental league being held at the Walt Disney World in Florida, USA. 

“The quarantine times can be a lot longer and we don’t know how’s that gonna play out in terms of him coming back and joining the team or not. But we want him to do well in those competitions and if the timing and everything that can come back, we’ll see what happens then,” Shaw said in a Zoom interview with US reporters last month. 

The Philippines was originally set to host Group A and Group C of the FIBA Asia Cup qualifiers’ third window in Clark, Pampanga but the SBP was forced to postpone the event as the government implemented a travel ban due to the rising cases of the new COVID-19 strain. 

As such, SBP said that “although we are saddened by the situation, we also understand the predicament by the Qatar Basketball Federation as they had no choice but to follow the mandate of their government.” 

“These are extraordinary times and we can only do our best given the hand we are dealt. We thank our Qatari friends for their willingness to host our group given the short notice and we are hoping that the rise of Covid-19 cases in their country ceases soon,” it added. 

FIBA is now set to look for available alternatives to hold the games in the future.