Friday, August 15, 2014

Homecourt edge for Gilas Pilipinas in Spain, 2014 FIBA World Cup

For the Philippine national basketball team (Gilas Pilipinas),  it’s home away from home in Spain where Gilas will play at the FIBA World Cup starting Aug. 30 after a 36-year absence from the global stage. The estimate is about 5,000 Filipinos will storm the stands at the 7,000-seat Palacio Municipal de Deportes San Pablo in Seville for the Group B round-robin competition involving Croatia, Greece, Argentina, Puerto Rico, Senegal and the Philippines.

Philippine Ambassador to Spain Carlos Salinas said some 40,000 to 50,000 Filipinos live in Spain and he plans to mobilize the residents to cheer for Gilas in Seville. If the Philippines finishes in the top four of Group B, Gilas will advance to the next round in Madrid.

In a portent of things to come, two busloads of Filipinos and others driving in their own cars trooped to the Municipal Multi-Sport Center of Mendizorrotza in Vitoria-Gesteiz, a Basque northern city 285 kilometers from Madrid, for Gilas’ friendly with the Spanish league ACB (Asosacion de Clubs de Baloncesto) selection last Sunday. At least 100 Filipinos were on hand to watch Gilas’ 89-58 romp.

The group that assembled the Filipinos is known as SIKAP or Samahan Sa Ika-Uunlad Kapatiran at Pag-Asa, a Filipino organization in the Basque country. Leading the group was Analyn Eligado Sirot of Munoz, Nueva Ecija. Sirot, 33, has worked in Spain the last seven years and lives there with husband Edwin and their two daughters Angela Eunice, 13, and Grazielle Anne, 11. The Sirots are employed in a restaurant.

SIKAP was established in 2009 by Filipino volunteers and has over 150 members. Its main objective is to promote and preserve the Filipino culture in the Basque country. Some of SIKAP’s projects are the celebration of Philippine Independence Day, staging of basketball tournaments, organizing the Filipino drum and lyre corps composed of kids, assisting the Philippine Embassy in consular outreach programs, fund-raising for calamity victims in the Philippines and helping out Filipinos to process documents and find employment.

Sirot said SIKAP rented two buses for the one-hour ride from Bilbao to Vitoria. “We brought the Philippine flag, the SIKAP banner and puto which we shared with the players and coaches,” said Sirot in an email to The Star. “We will bring more food next time. The day after the game, some of those in our group went back to Vitoria to bring them sinigang and pinakbet.”

Sirot said the Filipinos in the stands were impressed by Gilas’ showing. She singled out Marc Pingris as one of the friendliest players in the team. Naturalized player Andray Blatche was also cited for being so accommodating to fans. After the game, the players and coaches posed for unlimited pictures with the Filipinos and Blatche, Paul Lee, Beau Belga and Jeff Chan were right in the middle of the big crowd. Others spotted in the group picture were coach Chot Reyes, Gary David, Gabe Norwood, JunMar Fajardo, Jared Dillinger, Jimmy Alapag, Jay Washington, Japeth Aguilar, Marcus Douthit and Ranidel de Ocampo. Several Filipino fans wore Gilas Pilipinas T-shirts and jerseys.

Sirot said the Filipino group will also watch Gilas’ warm-up games in San Sebastian, about a two-hour drive from Vitoria. Gilas is scheduled to play a Basque selection Euskadi on Aug. 19 and Angola on Aug. 21, both in San Sebastian.

Sirot said the plan is to organize Filipinos to drive to Seville by bus to watch at least one of Gilas’ five preliminary round games, probably against Greece on Sunday, Aug. 31, because it’s their free day during the work week.

With the long history between the Philippines and Spain, Sirot said there is a special place in the heart of Spaniards for Filipinos. “The Spanish people value the Spanish-Filipino relationship,” said Sirot, a pharmacy graduate of St. Louis University. “For our part, we’ll try to make our players and coaches feel at home. One trait that Filipinos always bring with us wherever we are is our hospitality.”

Sirot said she was a huge PBA fan before migrating to Spain and still idolizes Alvin Patrimonio but lately, she hasn’t followed the PBA games on TV or the internet because of her busy work schedule and family obligations.

“With the help of SIKAP, we will try to watch Gilas’ tune-up games, to make our team feel that there are a lot of Filipinos in Spain cheering for them,” she said. “If not only for the economic crisis that we’re suffering right now, all of us could go and watch Gilas live. Our prayers will always be with our team. One thing is for sure, the SIKAP banner will be present from Vitoria to Seville and hopefully to Madrid. God bless Gilas Pilipinas.”

 source: philstar

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