The emerging topic of Basketball versus Football has been tackled in a number of forums, and have stirred quite a storm, especially from die-hard basketball fans out there. This is expected since Basketball is the number one sport in the country, while Football is an emerging favorite out to challenge Basketball of its dominance in Philippine sports.
Now I don’t necessarily mean to put basketball down, but just to state the obvious. Like it or not, Football is better suited for Filipinos than Basketball.
One issue that has been raised against Football, is that the Philippines is way behind the international rankings compared to Basketball, and that it has trouble competing at the South East Asian level. And these are, of course, valid issues.
FIFA (the international governing body in Football), currently ranks the Philippines as of this writing at number 150, while FIBA (the international governing body in Basketball) ranks the Philippines around number 50. So that means the Philippines is three times lower in Football than in Basketball.
Worst still, is the fact that the Philippines looks invincible in South East Asian (SEA) Basketball, where it handily trounces opponents at this level, and where other countries in the ASEAN Basketball League (the first SEA basketball league) uses Filipino players as imports.
‘The Loneliness of Basketball’
However, these numbers are deceiving, as one of the main reasons as to why the Philippines has a higher in ranking Basketball than in Football, is because there is more competition in terms of countries in Football than there is in Basketball.
The truth is the Philippines has a lonely existence in terms of patronizing Basketball as its number one sport, especially in South East Asia. Put it another way, a lot of countries in Asia don’t give a shi_ about Basketball the way they do Football.
Take Indonesia, for example. There is no way you can ask 80,000 people to watch a Philippines versus Indonesia match in Basketball like they did in Football in the last AFC . Okay, Basketball venues don’t have 80,000 capacities, but in terms of overall viewership (i.e., game attendances, TV ratings, etc.), there is just no way you can get Indonesians to patronize Basketball the same way they do Football.
In other words, the reason why we excel so much in Asia in Basketball, is because the other countries just don’t take it as seriously. Less competition, better standings.
Vice versa, a lot of Asian countries worship Football, so there is more competition. More competition, lower standings.
Vietnam, Singapore, Malaysia, etc., these are all Football countries, and none of them patronize basketball the way we do.
South Korea and Japan have relatively strong presence in Basketball, but no mistake about it, these are Football countries, with their own professional leagues. They are not only Asian powers when it comes to Football, they are WORLD powers. They have FIFA rankings of around 30, and have players playing in the best Division 1 leagues in Europe.
On an individual level, there is more opportunities for our players to break into the best leagues in the world, simply because of the Height Issue. The height requirements of Football (or lack of) makes it more accessible to most Filipinos.
Now, it is true that height and heft also play an important factor in Football, but only up to a certain point. It is rare to see players above 6’3″ on the pitch, unless they are goalkeepers, or defenders. And the reason for this is that once you reach a certain height, you slow down enough that you can’t compete anymore with the smaller, faster players.
And that height range (up to 6’3″ max), the Filipinos can compete, as we have quite a number of people around that range. No need for at least 6’9″ Forwards, or 7’0″ Centers to compete at a world level.
Take a look at some of the best players in the world right now: Messi (Argentina), Donovan (USA), Rooney (UK) … all of these guys are 5’9″ max.
This is the reason why countries like Japan and South Korea are playing in the English Premiere League, or the Bundesliga, the best Football leagues in the world.
And here’s another argument: How many Fil-Foreigners right now are playing in the National Basketball Association (NBA), or its Developmental League (D-League)? None, as in zero. On the other hand, with Football, a sport we have long ignored, we have quite a couple playing in the equivalent of the NBA and its D-League in Football: Neil Etheridge (Fullham, English Premiere League), David Alaba (Bayern Munich, Bundesliga) and Jonathan Dela Cruz (La Liga).
Patronizing Football will enable us to finally participate in the worldwide Football fraternity, instead of living a relatively lonely existence of having Basketball as our number one sport. It will also enable our players to hopefully someday play at the very best leagues in the world, something which we have not been able to do with Basketball after all these years, and despite all the love we give to it. I really hope that Football is here to stay in the hearts of Filipinos from hereon.