Even if he previously said the country’s men’s national basketball team would lose to bigger opponents, President Rodrigo Duterte will watch the Gilas Pilipinas five in the 2019 Fiba World Cup in China, with Chinese Vice President Wang Qishan accompanying him to one of the games.
According to the Department of Foreign Affairs, the President may also meet the players prior to their World Cup opener against the Italians.
“That’s something that we’re working on but what’s definite is the President of course wants to support Team Philippines,” Chief of Presidential Protocol and Presidential Assistant on Foreign Affairs Robert Borje said during a briefing on Friday.
“I will be accompanied by the Vice President of China himself to watch the basketball game. That’s true. It’s a break in protocol, (the Chinese Vice President himself),” Duterte said in his speech during the oath-taking rites of newly elected officers of the Federation of Filipino-Chinese Chambers of Commerce and Industry, Inc.
Based on World Cup first round schedule, Gilas Pilipinas will battle Italy on Aug. 31, Serbia on Sept. 2 and Angola on Sept. 4. The games will be held at the International Sports and Cultural Arena in Foshan City.
Duterte did not mention which game he and the Chinese Vice President will watch but joked about the Philippine team losing against Italy and having a shot at beating Angola.
It is part of his visit to China from August 28 to September 1.
Previously, the President commented that the Gilas five would lose to its bigger opponents like the Italians.
“We will lose, we don’t have a chance. Let’s just bet on China. We will lose to Italy. They are too big,” Duterte said.