TOKUSHIMA (FIBA Asia Championship) - Dato' Yeoh Choo Hock and basketball in Asia are as good as synonymity. For starters, the veteran and venerable sport administrator has been actively involved in the most number of FIBA Asia Championships. S Mageshwaran caught up with the FIBA Asia Secretary General during the Championship on his thoughts about the Championship and basketball in Asia.
Dato, give us your thoughts on the Championship.
Therefore this Championship means a lot to me, personally. We have achieved quite a bit in these years and this Championship in Tokushima is an example for that. We have proved Asia zone is capable of organizing a FIBA Championship on par with the rest of the world.
You said it means a lot to you personally. Can you tell us more.
Basketball has been my life. And I'm glad I chose to get involved in this wonderful sport so long ago.
There have been a lot of problems in these years. Some of them I can't even mention to you, not even off the record.
There was a time when ABC meant problem-solving time for me (Laughs).
But I can tell you this, on numerous occasions, basketball has succeeded where politics failed. And I'm very proud of that. And a whole of these positive developments took place in Asian Championships, in the past.
So to witness a Championship in full blast, with excellence in all sense of the word is tremendously satisfying.
What has been the impact of the Championship?
Television coverage for this Championship has been tremendous. The number of games from this Championship that are being broadcast across the region is the largest ever.
This Championship is being broadcast in 39 countries all over the world.
It's easier to count the number of countries where you can't see the broadcast than to count the number where it's being shown.
There are broadcasters who are taking the feed for countries like India, Myanmar, Pakistan, Brunei for the first time.
This shows how much people in Asia have woken up to basketball.
We also have facilitated Internet streaming for the fans in countries where there is no broadcast.
The official website of the Championship has live statistics, results, game reports, photographs, player statistics and everything else you need to follow the event. And don't forget all these happen almost in real time.
This is truly an amazing Championship that way.
What do you think of the standards in this Championship?
Truly speaking, the development of the teams started to happen about three Championships ago.
If you look at this Championships, there were 10 teams coming into the tournament, with a clear chance to win the title. Gone are the days when Asian championship meant a battle between three-four teams.
The advent of West Asian nations is a great shot in the arm for our efforts.
You see it's one thing to say 'Oh there are only ten teams.' But for me, who has seen most of the Championships, ten big teams is a very good number.
Of course, I like more teams getting more competitive. It's nice to think we can have about 20-25 teams which are as good as the other. And I'm sure those days are not far off.
I think our technical officials have also come a long way.
Overall, this Championship has come at the right time for us to take basketball to the next level in Asia.
What are the future plans of FIBA Asia?
You see, Asia is a very diverse continent. There are numerous cultures, languages, food habits and what not. We have to take into account all these factors when we talk of development.
There are two ways any sport grows in any country. One is if you have a very strong sporting culture in your education system, like in the United States for example. Or you need to have a specialized sport program to groom athletes from a very young age. China is a classic example of the second method.
In both the methods, the involvement of the governments is very important.
I request all the governments in Asia to follow either of the methods to make our continent a sporting success.
Further, from our end, we are identifying different categories to fit in the countries, depending upon the level of basketball in them.
There are some who have achieved and have very strong development programs. For those countries, we will provide all the necessary inputs and liaison to take the game to the next level.
There are some other countries where the sport is active, but a lot needs to be done in terms of development. These are countries, where there's a lot of potential, but needs direction to channelize the resources properly. For them, we provide advice on how it can be achieved.
And then there are countries, where the sport is at a very basic stage. We are going all out to bring about large scale awareness in such countries. Very soon, we will conduct technical clinics in countries like Myanmar and Mongolia. This is a part of our efforts to get basketball active in these countries.
Your thoughts on Philippines's return…
Their presence is another big boost to the Championship. I don't think there are many countries in Asia where basketball is followed as passionately and intensely like in Philippines. It's almost like a religion.
But the important point is how they are going to adapt.
They need to start playing according to the FIBA rules. Professional league is one thing, but FIBA events are another. But I'm very confident Philippines are capable of doing this.
What would be your vision for basketball in Asia?
Personally, my dream would be to see an Asian team win a medal at the Bejing Olympics. Women teams have very close in the past. I can't see why one of our teams can't win an Olympic medal.