Gilas fans console players after sorry loss
The game may have already ended but the cheering from Filipino fans continued until the bus carrying the country’s most revered national team left.
Thousands packed the Mall of Asia Arena to the rafters to watch Gilas Pilipinas play and hundreds more showed up to line up along the barrier separating the open parking space and the area where players exited after a heartbreaking loss.
Chants of Gilas filled the air once more as if the team didn’t just lose its last shot to make the Rio Olympics.
“Salamat talaga sa suporta nila. Kahit papaano sinubukan nila akong i-cheer. My heart goes for them,” said Gilas forward Japeth Aguilar, who still had the crowd behind him even after getting benched in a loss to France and having a bad game in another setback to New Zealand.
The crowd erupted the moment Marc Pingris walked out from the tunnel and towards the fans who had their mobile phones ready to snap photos of their favorite players.
The roar intensified when Pingris, the ever accommodating, made his way to the crowd and took ample time to pose for pictures and sign autographs.
“Gusto ko magpasalamat sa mga Pilipinong pumunta at nanood. Kahit na natatalo kami talagang pinaparamdam nila sa amin na panalo pa rin kami sa puso nila,” the veteran internationalist said. “Ito na lang din yung pagkakataon namin na mapasaya sila sa konting autograph at pictures. Kung wala sila, wala rin kami dito.”
Other players also entertained the fans, who were happy to console the team after ending its Fiba Olympic qualifying campaign two days into the tournament, before boarding the bus.
Gilas has had many heartaches in the past, but its 89-80 loss to New Zealand ranks among the most painful ones given that it happened at home.
But somehow, the adoring and loyal fans make losses like this less painful that it actually is.
“Kapag nakikita mo sila, hindi mo naiisip na talo ka. Nawawala yung pagod mo. Talagang grabe ang pagmamahal nila,” Pingris said.