FIBA qualifiers cancelled due to rise in virus cases

Four of the five group stages of the FIBA-Asia Cup qualifiers won’t be happening next week after organizers called off the entire third window of the Asian Basketball Qualifiers on Friday when the Qatari government reimposed a series of coronavirus-related restrictions.

FIBA qualifiers cancelled due to rise in virus cases
The cancellation of the FIBA Asia Cup qualifiers is a disappointment for Kai Sotto, who left the United States to suit up for Gilas and missed a chance to play with his Team Ignite in the first days of the NBA G League season. 

The Asian Executive Office of the International Basketball Federation made known of its decision to the Saudi federation, which first issued a statement in Arabic on Twitter.

This will be the second time that the third window won’t go on as scheduled after the Philippines did not push through with its hosting of the FIBA-Asia Cup qualifiers last January.

Officials of the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas have been notified of the decision by FIBA Executive Director for Asia Hagop Khajirian.

“The Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas regrets to inform everyone that the final window of the FIBA Asia Qualifiers, scheduled to start on Feb. 17, in Doha, Qatar, will not be pushing through,” said SBP president Al Panlilio in a statement.

Most of the qualifiers in Groups A, B, C and E, which were supposed to be held in the State of Qatar, have all been affected, including those of Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Syria, Iran.

The winners of the qualifers will clinch slots to the 2021 Fiba Asia Cup that will be held in Indonesia in August.

The Gilas Pilipinas national men’s team was supposed to leave for Doha, on Saturday after spending time training under a bubble in Calamba, Laguna.

This will also be a disappointment for 18-year-old Kai Sotto, who left the United States to suit up for Gilas and missed a chance to play with his Team Ignite in the first days of the NBA G League season. 

Since Feb. 2, Sotto, who is aiming to become the first pure-blooded Filipino to make it to the National Basketball Association, has also spent time in quarantine since arriving in the Philippines to join Gilas.

Gilas was supposed to have a game on February 18 against Korea.

“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. 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. We were looking forward to seeing them perform because we know that a lot of Filipinos draw inspiration from them as well during these difficult times,” said Panlilio.

The restrictions that were implemented by the Qatari authorities involves education, leisure, and business activities, including closing indoor swimming pools and theme parks and restricting restaurant capacities.

The decision was made known after it was first announced that the country is fighting a new surge of  COVID-19 infections.

The Qatari Federation, which organized the qualifiers, have already sent an apology to the Saudi Federation for the cancellation.

Authorities said they are currently meeting on the decision to postpone and will determine the date and time when the third window will resume.

The scrapping of the schedule comes a week after the qualifier games between Hong Kong and Guam that were supposed to take place in Manama, Bahrain on February 19 and 21 have also been postponed due to restrictions imposed by the Bahrain authorities.

There is no word yet on the status of the other Group C games between New Zealand and Australia, slated on February 20 in Cairns Australia.

Last  January, travel restrictions imposed by the Philippine government have forced organizers to cancel the staging of cagefest, originally set from Feb. 18 to 21, in Clark, Pampanga.  The continuing threat of the coronavirus pandemic has kept the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas from staging the final window of the Asia Cup.

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