Dubai: Taiwan’s decision to expel the Philippines’ national basketball team from the Jones Cup — after a Taiwanese fisherman was shot dead by Filipino coastguards in disputed waters — is “a terrible setback” for the team’s Asian Championship preparations, according to Philippines coach Chot Reyes.
The Philippines were due to defend their Jones Cup title from July 6 to 14, but a worsening political situation between the hosts and holders following the May 9 shooting has thrown their Asian Championship build-up into disarray.
The Philippines host the Asian Championships from August 1 to 11 and Chinese Taipei are one of the participating nations. But without key tournament practice in Taiwan, The Philippines are left in search of last minute warm-up alternatives.
“It’s a huge setback from the standpoint that we planned on playing an actual tournament before the Fiba Asia Championships,” Reyes told Gulf News. “That was supposed to be the Jones Cup.
“Aside from that it’s good to have preparatory tune-up games. Finding quality tune-up matches shouldn’t be a problem, but it’s not going to be under a tournament atmosphere. That was important, for us to play under tournament conditions and losing that in the Jones Cup is a really big loss.”
Asked how he felt about politics interfering with sport, Reyes replied: “As sad as it is it’s a reality and I don’t want to go there if there is any little doubt that our safety will be compromised.
“You never can tell. I’m not in Taiwan so I have no feel for how tense the situation is, but if they really think that there is a possibility of violence or any kind of security problem then we might as well not go.”
With a recruitment freeze on Filipino migrant workers in Taiwan and warnings against travel to the Philippines for Taiwanese tourists, the political stand-off shows no sign of easing.
“I don’t think there will be any solution,” Reyes said of his team’s withdrawn invitation to the Jones Cup. “We are already moving forward to booking replacement tune-up matches for that period and we cannot drop what we’re doing now even if they change their mind next week.
“Right now it’s jeopardised us badly because we haven’t put anything in place as yet, but hopefully we’ll be able to find even better competition although its terribly short notice. At this point, as it stands now, it’s a terrible setback.”