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RSA backs Gilas, MVP

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San Miguel Corporation president and chief operating officer Ramon S. Ang, in a rare appearance to watch a basketball game Tuesday, bared after the Philippines’ FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament preliminary against France at the Mall of Asia Arena that he had taken time out from his busy corporate schedule to throw his support to the Philippine team and to the man behind the Gilas Pilipinas program.

“Pumunta ako rito para suportahan ang Gilas national team and Manny Pangilinan,” said Ang, who arrived minutes before the game started and took a seat between PBA chairman Robert Non and SMC sports director Alfrancis Chua across the Philippine team bench.

Behind San Antonio Spurs star guard Tony Parker and a third quarter breakaway, the French rallied from 10 points down in the first half and weathered a late surge by Gilas to pull off a 93-84 victory.

Though the Philippines fell short in its opening game in a bid to return to the Olympic stage since 1972 in Munich, Ang, who owns three ballclubs in the Philippine Basketball Association and who once bankrolled the national team, believed Gilas Pilipinas acquitted itself well.

“Kayang-kaya natin yung France na yan,” he said. “Kita mo nga nalamangan agad natin. Sayang nga lang at di naalagaan at medyo minalas na tayo noong huli. Konting balasa rin siguro ng tao.”

A whole ringside section separated the two business moguls and known rivals during the game, with Pangilinan, president of the organizing Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas, in the row of seats beside President Rodrigo Duterte, SM’s Hans Sy and FIBA secretary-general Patrick Baumann.

But the corporate howitzers eventually met when Ang and his entourage were making their way out, with the two big guns shaking hands and chatting for a few minutes.

A few minutes earlier, Ang said that given the opportunity, he would love to return and watch a couple more Gilas games.

“Pag me tiyempo, manonood uli ako,” he said.

That could be in the semifinal game against Steve Nash’s Team Canada on Friday, assuming the Philippines hurdled New Zealand late Wednesday night.

Will his dropping by to savor the action extend to the PBA Governors’ Cup which kicks off on July 15?
“Usually hindi kasi marami tayong trabaho e,” Ang said.

Maybe next time.