If there was one team that endeared themselves to the Filipinos during the 2018 FIBA 3X3 World Cup, it was Italy.
Coming into the tournament, only a few expected them to win it all. They were not as tall as the defending champions Russia or top-ranked squad China. Moreover, they ended their elimination round campaign with a tough 20-21 loss to the Czech Republic.
But if there was a battlecry Rae Lin D’alie and the Italian quartet used all throughout the tournament, it was “puso” — the same rallying call used by every Philippine national team.
“It’s a journey that we started many years ago. With even different players and staff that aren’t here today but are part of this journey. And we inserted new two players and they gave us more than we could’ve expected,” reflected Marcella Filippi.
“The thing that pushed us forward is our heart and we put that in, every game we played, game after game. And then the Filipino crowd helped us.”
And as they racked up the wins, the more the Filipinos embraced the team. Maybe, the crowd can relate to eventual-tournament Most Valuable Player Rae Lin D’Alie.
“I think for me it was in the quarterfinal. I think we already had the support of the home court before that. But I think we really believed we could do it. And then after that quartefinal, we were like, everybody hold on, cause we’re just gonna take energy and we’re just gonna go,” recalled D’alie about the moment that got the Philippine Arena siding with them.
“For me personally, that’s after that game, I was just, ‘Wow, I think we could really do it.’”
Just like every Filipino, the Italian Four had to overcome a lot in this tournament. They faced a young yet cohesive USA squad in the quarterfinals, they had to topple the great wall of China, before they dethroned the much-experienced Russian team.
As the team stood together on the podium, they exclaimed in unison, “We love the Philippines!”. The Filipinos in attendance returned the favor by sticking after the awarding ceremony to get a picture with their new heroes.