MANILA, Philippines -- For the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas (SBP), hosting the February window of the FIBA World Cup Asian qualifiers is but a small step towards an even bigger event next year.
The Araneta Coliseum in Quezon City will host four teams -- the Philippines, New Zealand, South Korea, and India -- from February 24-28.
But this pales in comparison to the number of teams that will visit the country for the FIBA Basketball World Cup 2023, scheduled for August 25 to September 10.
"It's a small step," SBP executive director Sonny Barrios said of the qualifying window.
"Frankly, 'yung qualifiers na 'yan sa magnitude ng preparation for the World Cup next year, baka 15-fold 'yung bigness ng World Cup," he added.
The Philippines will host 16 teams for the preliminary round of the World Cup, with Jakarta and Okinawa hosting eight teams each. The Philippines will also host the final phase of the tournament, with three venues -- the Araneta Coliseum, the Mall of Asia Arena, and the Philippine Arena -- set to be used.
While the qualifying window is a smaller challenge compared to the World Cup, Barrios said it was ideal for the federation to host such events, especially during the pandemic.
"We're going through the system, if you will, sa Araneta, which will be one of the venues," he said. "Of course, physically sa Smart Araneta, marami pang infrastructure improvements na gagawin doon."
"We are in intense talks with Smart Araneta sa mga specifications. And a FIBA inspection group, in April they're supposed to be coming and they will inspect all the facilities that we will be using, playing venues as well as hotels," he added.
"Itong Pebrero, it's a small step towards that."
Before the World Cup qualifying window this month, SBP also hosted a FIBA Asia Cup qualifying window in Clark, Pampanga last June 2021.
Barrios assured that they are in constant communication with FIBA, especially with regards to the health and safety protocols that will be followed by all involved during the qualifying window. Just recently, he revealed that FIBA decided on daily antigen testing for all participants in the Araneta bubble.
"'Yung mga protocols, 'yung medical protocols, ina-update ng FIBA from time to time," Barrios explained. "For example, they decided na maga-antigen testing every day lahat ng participants sa bubble sa Araneta."
"Akala namin, maga-RT PCR only upon arrival and then on the fifth day. But we got word, they want to conduct antigen tests every day."