The World Cup and our national pride

Barely a few weeks after our women’s football team, the Filipinas, electrified the Philippine sporting world with a first-ever appearance in the FIFA Women’s World Cup, a first-ever goal and even more unbelievable, a first-ever win stunningly scored no less than against the host country, New Zealand, for the next two weeks, a much bigger world audience will have their eyes focused on the Philippines.

Never mind that 90 percent of the Filipinas were composed of recruits from all over the world with some traces of Filipino blood flowing in their veins. Never mind that the biggest stars of the Filipinas, golden girl Sarina Bolden and goalkeeper Olivia McDaniel, and in the case of our Men’s Basketball team, NBA Utah Jazz shooting guard sensation Jordan Clarkson of Gilas, are as American as McDonald’s.

Our hearts ever so slightly would start to beat a lot faster whenever these heaven-sent athletes would do what they do best on the pitch or the hardcourt. Surely just watching the replay of Sarina heading in the goal against the Kiwis and sprinting across the field with arms spread-eagled like the Philippine Eagle, you can’t help but scream out loud “Yes!,” get goosebumps, be misty-eyed, and jump with joy all at the same time recalling that single moment of a wondrous feat that boosted Filipino pride in an instant.

Why is this so? How can a single goal cause so much adulation for the Filipinas and breast-beating pride in a nation forgetting for a moment all our gargantuan problems, and social and political differences? Apparently, this phenomenon is nothing new. A quick look in Google reveals various articles that conclusively demonstrate that sporting success and national pride are clearly intertwined.

For instance, in various surveys of the International Social Survey Program conducted by Social Weather Stations in 1995, 2003 and 2013, from number 2 in 1995, sports moved up to number 1 in 2013 as the main source of national pride, edging out our national history from the top spot.

From an 80 percent mark in 1995 representing the number of Filipinos proud of our sports achievement, this moved up to 87 percent in 2013. Not surprisingly, these were the years that Manny Pacquiao became an international sensation putting the Philippines in the world limelight for his achievements as a boxing great.

What’s happening in the next two weeks? Well, unless you have been completely zonked out of your senses, the FIBA World Cup, the world’s biggest basketball spectacular, will be happening right here in our backyard. Millions of Filipinos, including yours truly, will have their eyes glued to television, streamed games on their smart gadgets, or for some lucky thousands who can shell out some hard-earned pesos, watch the games live at Araneta, MOA, and Philippine Arena.

To be realistic though, the odds of Gilas sweeping our Group A games against Angola, Dominican Republic, and Italy to move on to the knockout stage are next to impossible. I think that at best what we could hope for is a close win against Angola and if NBA Minnesota Timberwolves star center Karl Anthony Towns can somehow be neutralized by wide-bodied but undersized Junemar Fajardo and our guards like Scottie Thompson or Kiefer Ravena can match up against their bulkier but fleet-footed guards, then a miracle for our country might be in the offing.

Unfortunately, our game against Italy will be more of a question of limiting the certain Italian win to single digits to keep our national pride from getting trampled on too badly. But in all these games, the fans will be feverishly anticipating the explosions of Jordan Clarkson, our one and only Filipino NBA pride, and perhaps maybe Kai Sotto, and why not AJ Edu and Dwight Ramos, finally getting their much-needed exposure in the international limelight to showcase their talents and demonstrate that they are good enough to make the NBA.

Nevertheless, win or lose, I believe what is important is that as a host nation, we put our best foot forward, take a momentary pause and suspend the endless carping on social media and the news, to present to the world just what basketball crazy but hospitable people we are. Go Gilas!

Until next week… OBF!


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