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I've been wondering how my birthday would be unique this year. And then it happened: the FIBA Olympic Qualifier Tournament was being hosted by the Philippines! Val, Denis, Nikos, Hélène, and I went to the SM Mall of Asia Arena to watch the basketball games. My mission, which I accepted (from Krishna) was to have a photo with Tony Parker, of L'équipe de France.

Wait, who? Tony Parker? Eva Longoria's Tony Parker?!? NBA celebrity Tony Parker?!? Why is Tony Parker playing for France?!?!?

Obviously, I am not an avid follower of basketball. I enjoyed watching it back in the day with my dad because I associated basketball-watching with Shakey's Manager's Choice pizza. And then there's Michael Jordan (who, apparently, has retired long time ago). 

Anyway, so I got general admission and upper box tickets... which meant we were watching the games (the eliminations and the semis) from some of the highest seats in the venue. These were good places to watch, if you want to see the plays and the strategies.

View from the upper box
The French national anthem being sung as we watched in general admissions... the highest seats in the venue.

But if you're a fan (like Val), then the best place to watch was closest to the court. During the finals, we were able to snag lower box tickets on the cheap (people were desperately selling tickets because the Philippines didn't reach the finals).

Lower box seats! I realised how small I am when I was seated here.

France and Canada battled it out in the finals to determine who would go to Rio for this year's Olympics. It was a very tough match, with tempers rising and many missed shots. But in the end, France won. I was nervously rooting for France because the scores were very close. Also, I was looking at people who were watching the game. Right below us was the Canadian Ambassador to the Philippines. Right across us was Philippine basketball celebrity Robert Jaworski (Ginebra playing coach) and other Filipino basketball players. 

While Nikos, Denis, and I were immersed in the game's second quarter, Hélène and Val disappeared during the first few minutes of the quarter. Then they came back very excited... They were able to talk with the Senegalese basketball team staff and the group was invited to see the team at Sofitel Philippine Plaza! That would be fun: for them, they'd see basketball players; for me, I'd be in THE Sofitel! Bonus points: all FIBA team members were staying there, so there's a probability that we'd see them... up close!

While Hélène and Val were looking for the Senegalese team, Nikos, Denis, and I lounged at Le Bar (we ordered beverages so we didn't look like we were loitering). I thought that if we didn't see the athletes, I would still be happy because I finally saw what Sofitel was all about. It's my first time to be in it and it's really pretty albeit on the dark, warm side. I couldn't help thinking that the Peninsula Manila was more brightly lit, with lots of marble tiles on the floor where I ate a heap of ice cream long long ago. Anyway, Val and Hélène finally got back, disappointed because the Senegalese team wasn't there; only the coaches and the staff were. So they got drinks as well and were just resting before the long drive back... when in came the Canadian Team followed by the French Team. The avid fans left the table and followed after the athletes. I didn't like the idea of badgering them for pictures while they're exhausted so I just sat back and watched them walk into a function room for dinner.

While looking for the toilet, I bumped into a basketball player instead. He's Canada's Melvin Ejim, who is a fellow Phi Kappa Phi member.

Melvin Ejim, Canadian forward.

This is an illustration of how short I really am. Not yet convinced? Here's one more picture. With Tony Parker this time.

Does this count as mission accomplished?

... his standee, that is.

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