Italy coach Gianmarco Pozzecco had one of the best 24 hours of his life in Manila.
Pozzecco, who won the FIBA Europe Cup in 2019, realized his long-time dream of meeting Manny Pacquiao when the boxing legend invited him to his house. This came a day before he witnessed his Azzurri team overcome a 16-point deficit to beat Serbia 78-76 in the second round of the FIBA Basketball World Cup 2023.
“Let me share something. First of all, I want to tell you a story. I came here to the Philippines, and you are such lovely people. I love you. And then, at one point, I started talking about a guy who represents you, of course, in the world. That’s Manny Pacquiao,” said Pozzecco.
“I was joking, you know? I’m really a fan of Manny Pacquiao because I love boxing, and I was a fan of his. A couple of times, I said I had a desire to meet him, and this was true, but I never expected in my life that he would invite me to his house for dinner.”
The 2022 Italian League champion had previously mentioned that he particularly supported Pacquiao when the General Santos City native faced Floyd Mayweather in 2015.
While FIBA Basketball World Cup matches were taking place last night, the former Senator posted photos on his social media accounts showing his meeting with Pozzecco and the rest of the Italian staff. He was even presented with an Azzurri jersey with his name on it.
“Last night happened, and you have to be proud of him, all of you Filipinos because he’s an amazing person. Amazing. He’s really humble. He surprised me because he’s a true legend in the history of sports, not just in the Philippines or boxing,” said the 50-year-old coach.
“We played chess. I lost and said ‘rematch in the ring.’ But after tonight, I lost five, six years, so I’m even older. I’m not in shape to go into the ring. He’s a really nice person.”
The Italians improved their record in the FIBA Basketball World Cup to 3-1 in the second round. They will face Puerto Rico next on Saturday as they aim to advance further in the tournament.
Regardless of what happens on the court, meeting Pacquiao in person was a personal victory for Pozzecco.
“Thank you. Manny Pacquiao is the best,” he said before he left the press room.