SEA Games: ‘Seventh man’ pushes PHI to historic feat

Mark Escarlote on Dec 08, 2019 11:54 PM
 SEA Games: ‘Seventh man’ pushes PHI to historic feat
Siyempre, sobrang tuwa kasi eto naman talaga yung hinihingi namin dati pa. Simula pa lang, sabi namin sana kami naman yung mapanood ng maraming tao. Para makilala naman kami -- PHI men's team head coach Dante Alinsunurin

It may sound like the ultimate sports cliché, but the Philippine men’s volleyball team was grateful for the thousands of fans who came and cheered in its semifinals game against powerhouse Thailand in the 30th Southeast Asian Games on Sunday.

The squad’s sixth – or in volleyball’s case seventh – man did their job well in inspiring the team.   

From just 2,500 in their first game, the gate attendance at the PhilSports Arena in Pasig City ballooned.

“Siyempre, sobrang tuwa kasi eto naman talaga yung hinihingi namin dati pa. Simula pa lang, sabi namin sana kami naman yung mapanood ng maraming tao. Para makilala naman kami,” said PHI head coach Dante Alinsunurin.

A total of 6,700 screaming fans rocked the newly-renovated stadium as the Philippines made a huge upset to set up a gold medal match 42 years in the making.  

The size of the crowd was an achievement itself for the team, which is fighting for their share of attention after years of being in the shadow of the more popular and marketable women’s division.

“Sabi nga namin nung first game, meron na tayong dumagdag na 12 persons. Second game, nanalo tayo, meron tayong 13 persons,” he said. “Sabi ko tuluy-tuloy lang tayo, malay niyo sa third game natin, magiging 20 na yan. Yun lang lagi ginagawa namin.”

The effect of the home crowd, which prayed, cheered and lifted the spirits of the players, energized the squad especially in the fourth set when the Filipinos stared an impending defeat straight in the eye before pulling off a great escape to force a decider.    

“Sobra grabe. Ako personally pagpasok ko pa lang sa arena, sa court, napa-wow ako sa crowd kasi sobrang dami,” said top hitter Marck Espejo. “Di namin ini-expect na ganoon karami ang manonood, na susuporta at magtsi-cheer para sa amin tapos nilabas namin ang laro namin.”

And the Nationals did not disappoint.

The Filipinos completed a remarkable come-from-behind, 17-25, 25-20, 23-25, 27-25, 17-15, victory that catapulted them to their first gold medal match since a runner-up finish in the inaugural edition of the biennial meet in 1977 in Malaysia.

“Sana magtuluy-tuloy na yung gusto ng men’s team sa Pilipinas na makilala naman kami at sabihin nating tumaas yung level ng laro ng mga lalaki sa Pilipinas,” said Alinsunurin.

But the battle is not yet over for the men’s team as it will face group stage tormentor Indonesia for all the marbles on Tuesday.

The team will again need its ‘energizer’ one last time.

 

 

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Follow this writer on Twitter, @fromtheriles

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