Gilas players grateful for Duterte's support: 'Nararamdaman na natin s'ya'
President Duterte makes the ceremonial toss for the Gilas-France game. Jerome Ascano

MEMBERS of Gilas Pilipinas expressed their heartfelt gratitude to President Duterte for showing up and supporting the team right in its opening match in the Fiba Olympic Qualifying Tournament against powerhouse France.

Big men June Mar Fajardo and Ranidel de Ocampo said the mere presence of the former Davao City mayor at the Mall of Asia Arena to personally lead a crowd of more than 20,000 in cheering the national team, was a big boost to their morale.

Never mind that the host fell short in the end, 93-84, to Tony Parker and Co.

“Nakaka-proud at nandun 'yung Presidente natin na sumusuporta sa team,” said the 6-foot-10 Fajardo.

[See Cheers of 'Du-ter-te' ring out as President makes first appearance in sports event]

Greeted by the deafening chants of 'Duterte! Duterte! Duterte!' the tough-talking Chief Executive arrived as promised to make the ceremonial toss in the main game of the featured opening double-header.

Duterte gamely stayed on and didn’t leave the arena until the game was over.  

“Yung panonood ni Presidente, malaking bagay yung para sa katulad naming nagsisilbi rin sa bansa,” said De Ocampo, a vocal Duterte supporter during the last elections.

“Kasi hindi katulad nung ibang Presidente na sumusuporta lang pag championship na, hindi katulad nito una pa lang andyan na siya, nararamdaman na natin siya,” said the veteran national player.

[See Parker has only good words for 'very aggressive' Gilas guards]

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