MANILA, Philippines – Gilas Pilipinas relies on the ever-present Filipino support in Doha to negate its homecourt disadvantage against Qatar as it kicks off the sixth and final window of the FIBA World Cup qualifiers.
The Filipinos and the Qataris duel at the Al Ghafara Sports Club at 7 pm in Doha on Thursday, February 21 (12 am on Friday, February 22, Manila time).
"The positive thing for us is we all know there are lots of Filipinos in the Middle East, in Qatar," head coach Yeng Guiao said in a mix of Filipino and English before the team flew to Qatar on February 16.
According to a report by journalist Priya DSouza in 2017, there were approximately 260,000 Filipinos living in Qatar, which comprised 10% of the country's total population then.
"[W]e're hoping that they'll cheer for us, they'll back us up, and they'll give us some of their energy just by cheering for us."
It is an all-important match for the Philippines, which sits at 4th place in Group F with a 5-5 record behind Australia (9-1), Iran (7-3) and Japan (6-4).
Qatar, meanwhile, only looks to play spoiler since it has already been eliminated after compiling a poor 2-8 record in Group F. (LIVE UPDATES: Philippines vs Qatar - FIBA World Cup Qualifiers final window 2019)
Should the Philippines repeat on Qatar, which it defeated 92-81 at home in the fourth window, it will boost its chances of returning to the top 3, which guarantees a World Cup berth.
But first, the Philippines will be rooting for Iran to punch its World Cup ticket and end Japan's six-game winning streak.
An Iran triumph means the Philippines – provided it tops Kazakhstan in its final game on Sunday, February 24 – can tie Japan with a 7-5 record by the end of the qualifiers.
Since the Philippines swept Japan in their head-to-head matchup earlier, it will then leapfrog to 3rd place and reach the World Cup for the second straight time.(SCENARIOS: How Gilas can qualify for FIBA World Cup) – Rappler.com
Delfin Dioquino dreamt of being a PBA player, but he did not have the skills to make it. So he pursued the next best thing to being an athlete – to write about them. He took up journalism at the University of Santo Tomas and joined Rappler as soon as he graduated in 2017.