Kiefer Ravena tipped his hat to the entire Gilas Pilipinas crew for the sacrifices they made together while inside the bubble preparing for the now-cancelled 2021 FIBA Asia Cup Qualifiers’ third window supposed to take place in Qatar.
The national team captain penned a tribute via Instagram on Friday, shortly after reports circulated that FIBA had postponed the tilt scheduled from Feb. 17-23 due to the ongoing novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
“Thank you, my brothers! We’ve fought day in and day out, pushed each other to our limits, and sacrificed time away from family and loved ones — all part of our journey to represent our country,” wrote Ravena.
Gilas has been training inside the bubble at the Inspire Sports Academy in Calamba, Laguna since Jan. 10. It was gearing up for the week-long tournament where it would have faced South Korea and Indonesia.
Also in the Calambubble were Isaac Go, Matt Nieto, Mike Nieto, Rey Suerte, Javi Gomez de Liaño, Dave Ildefonso, Justine Baltazar, Calvin Oftana, William Navarro, Kemark Carino, CJ Perez, Justin Chua, Juan Gomez de Liaño, Roger Pogoy, Troy Rosario, Raul Soyud, Dwight Ramos, and naturalized player candidate Angelo Kouame.
Coaches also inside were Tab Baldwin, Jong Uichico, Norman Black, Caloy Garcia, Sandy Arespacochaga, Boyet Fernandez, Yuri Escueta, Andrei Tolentino, and Alton Lister. Support staff like team manager Gabby Cui, Ms. Yvette Ruiz and Bong Talavera were also in there.
Kai Sotto arrived in the Calambubble last Monday.
FIBA initially planned to hold those games – as well as Group C play among Australia, New Zealand, Guam, and Hong Kong – at the Clark Freeport Zone in Pampanga, the same location the PBA used for its Season 45 bubble.
However, the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas had to beg off hosting the meet due to the restrictions imposed by the Philippine government caused by the new variant of the coronavirus, thus the transfer to Doha.
Unfortunately, the Ministry of Public Health in Qatar has ordered the cancellation of all events being hosted there due to the increasing rates of COVID-19 cases in the country, marking yet another setback for the Asia Cup Qualifiers.
This postponement is indeed tough for teams like Gilas, which is sitting atop Group A with a clean 3-0 record. The Philippines needs just one win to qualify into the Asia Cup proper on Aug. 16-28 in Jakarta, Indonesia.
Still, Ravena feels nothing but gratitude to have worked with the Nationals, who should have flown out in Doha Saturday.
“To the Avengers aka our coaching staff, over 100 years of experience shared to a bunch of hard-headed players. We appreciate you guys for the patience, dedication, and attention to detail,” wrote the 27-year-old.
“We will bring everything with us to be better basketball players. Sa lahat ng Gilas fans, hanggang sa muli! Salamat sa supporta! Kahit hindi tuloy ang laro, alam naman nanjan kayo pra supportahan kami.”