San Miguel Corp. chairman Eduardo “Danding” Cojuangco congratulates UST's Jeric Teng after La Salle won the UAAP men's basketball championship last Saturday. Photo by Rem Zamora for ABS-CBNnews.com
MANILA – Businessman Eduardo “Danding” Cojuangco, who is considered the top patron of the De La Salle Green Archers, added a spiritual dimension to team’s close victory last Saturday over the University of Santo Tomas to emerge as this season’s winners of the UAAP men’s basketball championship.
“God made it happen,” the San Miguel Corp. chairman told sports columnist Joaquin Henson, as reported by the Philippine Star on Monday.
“When UST opened a 15-point lead in the third quarter, I prayed so hard to give us strength. We wouldn’t have won if the Man upstairs didn’t call it,” Cojuangco added.
According to Henson, Cojuangco’s support for the Green Archers was “unconditional.”
“He refurbished his house adjacent to the La Salle campus on Agno Street to provide quarters for the team with a resident cook and a full-time prefect/academic adviser. He conceptualized an innovative educational program where players may choose to enroll in preferred courses as scholars beyond their years of playing eligibility. He tapped the services of dieticians, nutritionists and conditioning experts to prepare and sustain the Archers for the long campaign. He made sure the players were on track academically and spiritually. He organized Holy Masses to be celebrated in the dressing room before games, reminding the players that faith in God translates into believing they will excel with the Lord’s guidance,” Henson wrote in his column “Sporting Chance.”
As such, La Salle president Br. Ricky Laguda told Henson the Green Archers’ victory was also “God’s gift to Cojuangco who attended to the team’s necessities like a father caring for 13 sons.”
Henson said it was Cojuangco’s dream to see La Salle win the championship again.
Team manager Terry Capistrano also told the veteran sportswriter that the Green Archers were “inspired” by Cojuangco during last Saturday’s winner-take-all game with UST.
“You see a great man like Ambassador Danding, a Philippine icon, get involved in details about the team and if you’re a player, you’ll be embarrassed not to play your guts out in every game,” Capistrano told Henson. “Ambassador Danding brings out the best in you. He inspires not only the players but everyone else with the team. He makes you work harder and commit to achieving your goal.”
Capistrano, who considers this year’s championship the “best” in his 11 years with the Green Archers, added: “The guys were determined to win. Imagine we were 15 down in the third quarter and four down in overtime of Game 3 but we still held on. Ambassador Cojuangco was our inspiration.”
On Sunday night, San Miguel Corp. president Ramon Ang hosted a victory dinner for the Green Archers at the Diamond Hotel.
For his part, Fr. Joey Faller, who blessed each player during a Mass at the dugout one hour before Saturday’s game, dubbed this season’s Green Archers as the “miracle team.”
“La Salle won with Divine Intervention. Nobody expected La Salle to go all the way except one man with the strongest faith – Ambassador Danding,” he told Henson.
Meanwhile, Henson reported that Cojuancgo will send La Salle’s coaches – head coach Juno Sauler and assistant coaches Allan Caidic and Jun Limpot – to attend the San Antonio Spurs training camp on assistant coach Chip Engelland’s invitation this Saturday.
The three coaches will also go to Sydney, Australia for a five-day specialized development program next month, he said.