President Rodrigo R. Duterte took a break from his busy work schedule to watch the much-awaited game between Gilas Pilipinas and France in the ongoing 2016 FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament (OQT) at the MOA Arena in Pasay City.
PRRD made the ceremonial toss of the ball to signal the start of the game at 9 p.m. As he entered the court, the President bowed twice to the crowd amid thunderous cheers and yells from the fans chanting ‘”Duterte, Duterte, go go Gilas Pilipinas!”
It was a rousing welcome for PRRD who was escorted by FIBA officials and some Cabinet members. The President stayed to watch the entire match and boost the Gilas team’s morale against France, which is ranked fifth in the world according to FIBA statistics.
The national squad was leading in the first quarter and most of the second quarter. But the French team led by NBA stars Tony Parker and Boris Diaw caught up and eventually won.
Gilas will face the New Zealand squad today (Wednesday) in the Manila leg of the OQT. Two other legs are currently being held in Belgrade, Serbia and Turin, Italy. One winner from each of the three OQTs will join nine other countries that have already qualified for the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil next month.
Historically, the Philippine men’s basketball team’s best finish was when it captured the bronze medal in the 1954 FIBA World Championship in Brazil. It was in the 1972 Munich Summer Olympics that the Philippines last participated in the world’s largest sports conclave. (PA)