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MANILA (Reuters) – Japan may fall behind other countries in terms of competitiveness. But the Filipino love for basketball is strong. With the 2023 FIBA ​​(International Basketball Federation) World Cup in which the country is one of the hosts, the enthusiasm for the sport is on the rise.

Teenagers play basketball on a court in front of a Kobe Bryant mural. REUTERS/Eloisa Lopez

Almost everyone in the Philippines enjoys basketball. Along with boxing and beauty contests, the sport is a pillar of national entertainment in this country.

Most churches have some kind of basketball court near them. In the predominantly Catholic Philippines of 112 million people, “churchside courts” are everywhere, whether in a cemetery or near a sewage system. The FIBA ​​World Cup, which runs from August 25th to September 10th, is co-hosted by Indonesia, Japan and the Philippines.

“It’s a dream come true for the World Cup to be held in this country. It’s exciting to see so many players from the NBA,” university student James Florian Almeda told Reuters. Mr. Miss. Nearby is the Mall of Asia Arena, the venue for the tournament.

Almeda said the Philippines is unlikely to win the 32-team World Cup, but it could win some games. The Philippines ranks 40th for men and 42nd for women in the FIBA ​​world rankings. Spain and the United States are ranked first.

Basketball was first introduced to the Philippines in the 1910s when the country was a colony of the United States. American teachers introduced the sport to public school education, and it was initially reserved for girls.

boys playing basketball. Baseco, Manila, May 9, 2023. REUTERS/Eloisa Lopez

Basketball’s fascination hasn’t faded in the decades since. According to veteran sportscaster Seb Salmenta, the reason is the simplicity of the competition.

“The public’s love of basketball continues,” Salmenta told Reuters. “You can take a backboard here, find a little bit of wire and you can make a ring, attach it to the wall like this and you’re ready to play. On many street corners around the country, over and over again. It’s a scene that’s been repeated.”

In the developing Philippines, nearly half of the population perceive themselves to be living in poverty, according to a recent survey by the social weather service, a private pollster, and basketball is popular across all social classes. being entertained.

In the slums of Manila’s Tondo district, there is a coat made by people who make a living by collecting junk. Jessie Condo, 18, a regular, says she always plays basketball when things get tough at home or at school.

Teammates are shirtless and without shoes. They usually bet 50 pesos (about 130 yen) on a single game, and whoever wins, the prize money is often used to serve drinks to everyone.

“Even if you have a bad experience, you can forget about it once you’re on the court,” Kondo said. His home is decorated with a statue of Christ wearing an NBA Golden State Warriors jersey.

Barefoot men play basketball on a court along the railroad tracks. FILE PHOTO: Pandakan, Manila, July 6, 2023. REUTERS/Eloisa Lopez

Tickets for the World Cup cost about half the daily minimum wage in the cheapest seats, but organizers hope to beat the attendance record of 32,616 held in Canada in 1994.

Opening day games, including the Philippines vs. Dominican Republic, will be played in a 52,000-capacity arena. Ticket prices range from P249 to P19,199 for the early games of the tournament.

Laura Agmata, 15, plays for the school varsity team and the local community league near the railroad tracks in Manila’s Pandakan district. He said he is looking forward to seeing Jordan Clarkson, who represents the Philippines, at the World Cup. Agmata’s dream is to one day play for the Philippines national team, just like the Filipino-American player who now plays for the NBA’s Utah Jazz.

Laura Agmata, 15, poses for the camera near her home. FILE PHOTO: Pandakan, Manila, August 8, 2023. REUTERS/Eloisa Lopez

“In basketball, it’s often the boys who get the chances, and it can be frustrating,” said Agmata. “Still, I love basketball.”

(Translation: Eacleren)

MANILA (Reuters) – Japan may fall behind other countries in terms of competitiveness. But the Filipino love for basketball is strong.