Philippines wins Fiba’s Best Country fans award
Because of its animated fans that energized Gilas Pilipinas, the Philippines won the Most Valuable Fans (MVF) Best Country award handed out by Fiba during the World Cup Finals won by the United States Monday in Madrid.
Filipinos coming from all over Spain and those who paid hard-earned money to make the trip from the Philippines flocked to the Centro Deportes San Pablo in Seville to cheer for Gilas, which won its first World Cup game in 40 years on the final day of Group B action against Senegal.
There were about 1,000 flag-waving, feet-stomping Filipinos in each of Gilas’ five games and no nation during Group B play was able to outcheer them.
Fiba played a video of Gilas fans during the awards rites in Madrid as the Philippines officially became the darling of the tournament despite finishing tied for last in its group.
Gilas also made fans out of a huge number of foreigners during the conclave as noted mediamen published columns praising the Filipinos’ tenacity.
The Philippines took World Cup regulars Croatia, Argentina and Puerto Rico to the limit with only Greece winning convincingly. The Filipinos nipped Senegal, 81-79, for a 1-4 card.
Officially, the Philippines finished 21st out of 24 countries, outranking South Korea and Finland, which both wound up winless. Iran was the only Asian country that finished higher than the Filipinos, at 20th.
Andray Blatche, the former Brooklyn Net in the NBA, also led everyone in the efficiency department with an average of 22.4 per game. The 6-foot-11 naturalized Filipino’s 13.8 rebounds per contest also led the tournament, with another Asian, Hamed Haddadi of Iran, finishing second with 11.4.
JJ Barea, who burned the Philippines with 30 points in a 77-73 win, led everyone in scoring with 22 a game. Bojan Bogdanovic of Croatia and Blatche tied for second with 21.2.