Ultras Filipinas invade SEABA tourney

For the first time since 2013, the Ultras Filipinas are in a Gilas game.
By Ivan Saldajeno

QUEZON CITY--They may be usual fixtures in international football matches, but on Friday night, the Ultras Filipinas were in full force at the Smart Araneta Coliseum for Gilas' first game in the SEABA Men's Championship.

The Ultras even brought in their usual stuff, a drum (they did not use it, though) and a gigantic Philippine flag that stretches to approximately 1-16th of the arena's Upper Box A section.

When asked by Dugout Philippines on why they decided to attend a game of a national team not named the Azkals, one of the members said that this is still part of their duty.

"Yung national team natin naglalaro, so kailangan naming suportahan," said Leo Salayo. "Wala namang pinagkaiba [ang Azkals at Gilas]. Pareho [silang national teams]," while hinting that we may also see them in Volcanoes matches soon.

Unlike in open fields like the Rizal Memorial Stadium in Manila and the Philippine Sports Stadium in Bocaue where only boom mics placed near their area can make you hear their chants on TV, the Ultras' cheering echoed throughout the fabled indoor arena.

"Yun ang maganda dito kasi kulong," continued Salayo, whose Ultras Filipinas squad also went to the Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay to cheer for Gilas during the 2013 FIBA Asia Cup, where the national team clinched a return trip to the FIBA World Cup.

What made the Ultras' chants even more audible was the decision of Coach Chot Reyes to let them take the lead in the cheering.

"At the start of the ballgame, we would try to get the guy who's controlling the sound system to cut the music off because the Ultras were already starting their chants," Reyes bared during the post-game presser following Gilas' 107-point mauling of Myanmar.

He then commended the Ultras, saying, "I love the Ultras. We expect them to be there every single game. It is great to have them there."

Reyes may not need to worry about it as Salayo would tell Dugout Philippines that the Ultras will be in attendance for the remainder of the tournament.

Follow him on Twitter: @IvanSaldajeno