MANILA, Philippines – Two years ago Filipinos were against the guys in green at the Spain FIBA World Cup. This time, the home fans found themselves rooting for the visiting Senegal in the 2016 FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament.
As Senegal tried to take down the favored Canada on Wednesday, July 6, the African squad found surprising support from the crowd waiting to watch Gilas Pilipinas take on New Zealand in the day’s second game.
“That was really incredible of them, we didn’t expect that at all,” said Maurice Ndour, whose 3-pointer late in the fourth brought the Senegalese to within a point, turning the game to a thriller.
That sent the crowd in frenzy and prompted chants of "defense!" on the other end.
“For the crowd to just give us a bit of a boost, it was amazing. That kind of kept us in the game too.”
Senegal, playing in Group A, ultimately fell short as Canada escaped with a 58-55 victory and with a 2-0 slate will move on to the next round.
“Coming from Europe that was a great surprise for me,” said head coach Porfirio de Fisac via an interpreter. “The public can enjoy the game and not only the colors. These players are very thankful to the Philippines. Thank you for the support.”
Senegal is not only familiar to Filipinos because of the World Cup – having been the Philippines’ opponent in its first victory on the world stage in decades – but also due to Hamady N’Diaye, who played for Kia in the PBA in 2015.
N’Diaye was grateful for the love and experience of getting cheered once again by Filipinos.
“Amazing. It’s amazing. I’ve been cheered for here before and for the Filipino fans watching cheer for us in Senegal, I’m grateful, I’m really grateful,” he said, before wishing Gilas Pilipinas good luck. “Hopefully tomorrow we’ll have the same (crowd support).”
Senegal will battle for its tournament lives against Turkey on Thursday, July 7 at 6:30 pm. – Rappler.com