Palace to Gilas: Take Duterte’s prediction as a ‘challenge’ ahead of FIBA World Cup

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, August 28)— Gilas Pilipinas should only take President Rodrigo Duterte’s loss predictions as a “challenge” ahead of the 2019 FIBA World Cup, Malacañang said Thursday.

Sabi niya lang I'm speaking on reality na medyo tagilid tayo pero ang bola ay bilog,” Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo said during a media briefing in China, where the prestigious basketball tournament will be held.

[Translation: He just said, I’m speaking on reality, that we’re at a disadvantage, but the ball is round, anything can happen.]

“The statement of the President that most likely you will lose should be a challenge to you and should inspire you to make him wrong and he will be very happy,” he added.

Duterte earlier predicted an opening game loss for the national basketball team, which will square off with Italy on Saturday.

The President, who drew flak for the comment, said the likely defeat is due to the team's height disadvantage.

READ: Gilas against the world: Dream matchups in FIBA World Cup

Panelo said the chief executive’s presence on the sidelines of the Gilas-Italy game should serve as an “inspiration” for the team as it battles the European powerhouse.

“Gawin niyo lahat ang makakaya niyo. ‘Yan ang mensahe niya kaya nga manonood para mainspire naman sila,” the spokesman said. “Palagay ko matatalo Italy. Mananalo 'yan dahil nandoon si Presidente.”

[Translation: Just do your best, that’s the President’s message. That’s the reason why he’ll watch, to inspire the team. I think Italy will lose. Gilas will win because the President will be there.]

After Saturday’s crucial match, Gilas will next face Serbia on Monday, September 2, and Angola on Wednesday, September 4.