SEVILLE, Spain -- Die-hard Pinoy basketball fans here seemed to have met their match at the Palacio Municipal de Deportes San Pablo on Monday when Argentine fans came by the busloads to back up their team against Gilas Pilipinas.
Unlike in the previous Gilas games here at the FIBA World Cup of Basketball where Pinoy fans outnumbered their foreign counterparts, Argentines poured in to support the Luis Scola-led squad.
"Madami ngayon 'yung spectators ng Argentina," said Francis Martinez, a Norway-based Filipino, who witnessed the Gilas-Argentina game.
"Parang 50-50 ang dami ng tao," said Dick Ranile, who came all the way from Ireland to cheer the nationals.
Nevertheless, they enjoyed the thrilling exchange between the Philippine team and Argentina.
Gilas came close to beating the world's No. 3 team, nearly completing a down the wire finish. But Argentina managed to hold on their lead toward the end and hacked out an 85-81 win.
Ryan Kho, who also flew in from Ireland, described the match as a roller coaster ride. "Happy kami, pero kinakabahan kami. Ang dibdib namin parang 'boom-boom-boom-boom,'" said Kho.
Jeiel Guarino, who won a free ticket to Spain courtesy of Master's Facial Care promo, said the Gilas locals were able to step up when Andray Blatche got benched.
"Gumagawa lahat kahit wala si Blatche. Hopefully ma-sustain," said Guarino.
Renile agreed, adding that Gilas was able to erase the fans' doubts especially after its 70-82 loss to Greece. "It was a good game... Akala natin matatambakan tayo, kasi No. 3 sila," he said.
Martinez, meanwhile, said Gilas' recent performances showed that they could win the last two assignments.
The nationals will play against Puerto Rico on Wednesday before wrapping up their preliminaries against Senegal on Thursday.
"Kaya na nila ang Puerto Rico at Senegal. It's proven, they can compete," he said.