Calvin Oftana felt immensely honored to make the Gilas Pilipinas team that will take on Thailand in the 2021 FIBA Asia Cup Qualifiers on Monday.
“Na-excite ako sobra kasi first time in my career na mag-represent sa country,” the 24-year-old native of Dumaguete City told Tiebreaker Times.
“Kahit nung first game excited na rin ako noon kahit hindi ako na-lineup. Siyempre, tiwala ako sa coaches namin sa mga decision nila. Mas may alam sila sa ikabubuti ng team.”
It was not just Oftana who felt relieved, as social media flooded with congratulatory messages for him.
After all, he is the reigning Most Valuable Player of the NCAA.
However, Oftana also saw the toxicity when he became the final cut last Thursday. Some fans went to namedrop certain players whom they felt should not have been picked over the 6-foot-5 San Beda Red Lion.
But for Oftana, that should not happen since they all went through the same sacrifices and have different roles in Gilas.
“Hindi dapat ganun eh, we all deserve the spot. Parehas kaming naghirap at nagtrabaho. Plinanuhan ‘yun ng mabuti ng coaches kung sino ang ilalagay.
“Sa mga supporter ko and nagtitiwala sa capability ko, thank you so much po. Pero what I need po is to support all of us na nandito sa Bahrain because mahirap eh. Mahirap malayo sa family, ‘yung sacrifices na ginawa namin dito sobrang hirap lalo na may COVID pa. Hindi talaga madali,” he continued.
“Support niyo po lahat kami na nandito na makuha namin ang panalo, and pray for us na ilayo sa trahedya at sa COVID. Para po sa inyo ‘tong ginagawa namin para maging proud po kayo na kahit mga bata at wala gaanong experience ‘yung naglalaro dito, ginagawa po naming lahat para manalo para sa inyo,” he pleaded.
Now that he is set to make his Gilas debut, Oftana feels pressured.
After all, he and Jaydee Tungcab must sustain the momentum earned by Mike Nieto and Will Navarro during Gilas’ 93-61 demolition of Thailand last Friday.
“May kaunting pressure siyempre kasi ang ganda nung run namin nung first game so baka mag-iba,” shared Tungcab.
“Pero I will do my best para ‘yung intensity namin nung first game, mas mataas pa sa game namin sa Monday.”