France hopes to keep Gilas fans from taking over game
MANILA, Philippines – "We will try to not let them get in the game.”
France national team coach Vincent Collet wasn’t only referring to the Philippine national team on the eve of their match in the FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament, but the crowd as well.
Collet and his lieutenants got a firsthand glimpse of the loud Gilas Pilipinas fans when they scouted the Philippines in their tune-up match against Turkey last Friday, June 1.
"We know it is the first game of the competition,” added Collet, who has been at the helm of Les Bleus for 7 years now.
"We know the expectations of the (hometown) fans and what it means to play against France. We have several NBA players in our roster so there is an interest in them. I think the atmosphere is going to be something amazing. It will be one part of the game. The Philippines is a very good team. They have very good players.
"I have fear that they will play at an unbelievable level with the home crowd support.”
Gilas supporters are among the most passionate of any national team in the world, and earned international recognition at the 2014 FIBA World Cup when the Philippines was awarded as having the "Most Valuable Fans."
"You can see in the game they were being dominated by Turkey but they showed they (the Filipinos) could come back," continued Collet.
"They play up and down. You could see the gym and the 4,000 people — there will be 20,000 tomorrow probably — who go crazy when the Philippine team played better. So we want to control that. We have to slow them down as soon as they get the momentum. We will try to control the pace of the game as much as we could.
"They will try to elevate the tempo of the game. So the interest is to level the tempo we will see this from the beginning of the game."
Sports patron Manny V Pangilinan urged Gilas fans to wear white for the game, which takes place at 9 pm on Tuesday, July 5 at Mall of Asia Arena.
Collet also talked about the addition of swingman Nicolas Batum, who is scheduled to arrive in Manila today, Monday, July 5. Batum won't be allowed to play for France until after July 7, when he's able to sign his new contract with NBA team the Charlotte Hornets.
"Nicolas Batum has been a player for France for 7 years now. He is one of our leaders. We have several NBA players but we could have some others, some chances with this team to have them but it didn’t happen.
"It so happened that Nicolas is here to help us. He gives us athleticism, and he can play without the ball very well. He is a special player because unlike others who need the ball in their hands to be effective, he doesn’t." – Rappler.com