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When the national team of France meets Gilas Pilipinas today at the start of the Olympic Qualifying Tournament (OQT), one possible spectator that will cheer the Filipinos is President Duterte.
Asked to comment when told the President wants to see a Gilas victory, French coach Vincent Collet flashed a meaningful smile.
“I’m not sure… sorry. But that’s not possible,” said Collet, whose team is heavily favored to win the tournament set July 5 top 10 at the Mall of Asia (MOA) Arena.
The national team of France, ranked No. 5 in the world by FIBA, arrived last Thursday – the same day Duterte was sworn into office as the 16th President of the Republic of the Philippines.
“He’s the new President… Duterte,” said the 53-year-old Collet, who has been the mentor of Les Bleus since 2009.
The Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas (SBP), headed by its president, telecommunication mogul Manny V. Pangilinan, has extended its invitation to Duterte as soon as he won the May 9 election to be the special guest of the qualifying tournament.
Last week, Philippine Sports Commission chairman Butch Ramirez confirmed Duterte will watch a Gilas game, and a source said yesterday it would be against France.
The event serves as a qualifying meet for the Rio Olympics, with the winner of the OQT earning a spot to the Summer Games.