WITH Filipinos practically everywhere in the world, Gilas Pilipinas is getting the homecourt feel away from home.
Basketball-crazy Filipinos, from small bunches to crowds, have been gathering at Gilas Pilipinas tuneup matches and on Sunday the team got a huge surprise as over 2,000 migrants travelled from Madrid to Guadalajara to support them in a tune-up game against Egypt.
The result, the atmosphere of a home game and a confidence-boosting 74-65 victory.
Jeff Chan said he expected an empty venue at Palacio Multiusos de Guadalajara, but was surprised to see thousands of Filipino fans that started cheering the moment they entered to the court.
“Nagulat nga ako nung pagpasok ko sa court, na ganun sila (Filipino crowd) kadami,” Chan told Spin.ph on Monday.
“Akala ko walang manonood dito kaya nagpapasalamat talaga kami sa kanila. Alam naman natin sila ang “sixth man” natin kaya yung cheer nila nakakapag-bigay ng kumpiyansa sa amin,” he added.
Marc Pingris said playing in front of a loud Filipino crowd reminded him of the exhilarating experience they had when they bagged the silver medal in last year’s Fiba Asia men’s championships at the Mall of Asia Arena in Manila.
“Parang nasa MOA (Arena) lang kami. Super grabe, ang sarap talaga ng super init na pagtanggap nila sa amin,” said the 6-5 Pingris, who finished with 12 points, while battling Egypt’s tall frontline.
Ranidel de Ocampo said several fans even gave them home-made Filipino food after the game.
“Grabe ang mga Pinoy na kababayan natin, kasama sa paglaban para sa bayan,” said a beaming De Ocampo.
“Sa lahat ng trips namin sa Gilas abroad, lahat ng bansa merong Pinoy, at kahit konti or madami sila, todo talaga ang suporta kasi ipinagluluto pa kami ng Pinoy food at kahit magbayad sila sa bus sa tickets at biyahe, buo suporta nila,” said the sweet-shooting Talk ’N Text star.
Gilas winds up its series of tuneup matches in Spain with another game on Monday (Tuesday in Manila) against the Dominican Republic, also in Guadalajara.
The Nationals will then finalize their preparation with several more days of practice before opening the country’s campaign in the Fiba World Cup against Croatia on August 30 in Seville.