Barangay Ginebra coach Tim Cone could only hope their fans would be there beginning Sunday when the Gin Kings open their title campaign against tournament leader Alaska.
“We’ll try to get through this first one without them,” Cone wrote in a text message to ABS-CBN News Online. “Then, hopefully, we’ll welcome them back in our next game. We, at Ginebra, are thrilled.”
Cone has paid tribute to the fans as the squad’s virtual sixth man.
The last time the Gin Kings won the championship during the league’s first ever bubble tournament last year, he made special mention of the Ginebra fans who continued to show their support, watching on TV and different platforms while continuing their love and adulation to the league’s crowd darling.
TNT coach Chot Reyes, meanwhile, said he was happy to learn that fans will be finally welcomed back in person.
“I’m more excited for the fans than anything else. As for us being champs, that doesn't affect our thinking. We don't consider ourselves that at all,” Reyes said, on playing in front of the fans with the Tropang Giga as newly crowned champion.
For veteran forward Arwind Santos, having the fans back at the venue brought back memories of his late mother, who usually watches him every game, being his No.1 fan.
“I really missed the fans, gaya ng pagka-miss ko sa Mama ko na nasa langit na kasi ang Mama ko ang aking No.1 fan,” Santos said.
Veteran guard Mark Barroca said he was also thrilled to see the fans, especially supporters of the old Purefoods franchise.
“Sobrang na-miss ko ang mga fans,” wrote Barroca in a text message. “Excited na nga ako maglaro ulit ng first game namin sa harap ng fans.”
San Miguel Beer team manager Gee Abanilla, whose team has yet to win in its first two games of the ongoing Governors’ Cup, said he hoped the presence of the fans might somehow inspire the squad in finally making it to the win column.
“Of course. May nag-react na nga sa akin na fans tungkol dyan,” Abanilla said. “I miss it badly. But more than anything else, it’s giving me at least a sign of sense of normalcy. I do hope and pray that we continue to contain the virus.”
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