SEVILLE, SPAIN - After three heartbreaking losses, Gilas Pilipinas will need to hurdle a tall, agile Senegal squad to have any hope of reaching the knockout phase of the 2014 Fiba World Cup.
Top basketball patron Manny V. Pangilinan may have a more compelling reason to want a victory over Senegal.
According to a member of his inner circle, the head of the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas was at the receiving end of a taunt from Senegal basketball officials on Sunday night - four days before Gilas meets the team at the end of the group phase of this 24-nation quadrennial showpiece.
Pangilinan, the source said, was walking the streets of this charming, laid-back capital of Andalucia in the company of PLDT president and CEO Polly Nazareno, Meralco CEO and president Oscar Reyes, and Meralco vice president and MVP Sports Foundation head Al Panlilio when they came across a group gathered in a roadside eatery.
"Go home," came the taunt.
The MVP camp, the insider said, didn't recognize anyone from the group but was certain they were members of the Senegalese delegation, judging from the colors that they wore as well as IDs that are only issued by Fiba to officials of each competing nation.
Senegal officials have every reason to be on a high in this tournament, with their team on the cusp of reaching the second round after victories over Puerto Rico and Croatia - its first in the world championships in 1998 - following an opening loss to Argentina.
On the other hand, Gilas came close to beating Argentina and Croatia but failed to finish the job, leaving the Filipinos in a must-win situation going into games against Puerto Rico on Wednesday and the Senegalese in their final Group B match on Thursday.
Pangilinan, the source said, felt insulted by the taunt but still kept his cool. However, Reyes picked up the cudgels for the group, not letting the taunt go unanswered.
"We'll go home after we beat you," came Reyes' calm but emphatic response.