Women's basketball rarely gets the support that it deserves.
The Philippine 3x3 women's team got overwhelmed with emotions when they heard the home crowd cheering them on as they debuted in the FIBA 3x3 World Cup on Friday.
Afril Bernardino, Jack Animam, Janine Pontejos, and Gemma Miranda capped off the day with a heartbreaking 12-10 loss to Germany but the fans rallied behind their valiant stand until the buzzer sounded.
The 19-year-old Animam, UAAP Season 80 Most Valuable Player, was reduced to tears when asked about the crowd's all-out support.
"It's a great feeling to see that our hard work is being appreciated. I wish everyone will support us more because that's really what we need now," Animam said in between sobs. "The crowd's reaction was the best part. We live for that moment, it was so amazing."
Coming in as underdogs in the tournament, the PH team surprisingly kept in pace with the 11th-seeded Germany. They displayed more aggressiveness on offense and defense, compared to their 21-11 defeat at the hands of the 4th-seeded Netherlands earlier in the day.
Coach Patrick Aquino and the girls are one in saying that they need more experience and exposure to compete better on the world stage.
"I'm just very happy for the girls that even though we lost, I felt that we could be in that level, that we could compete with other European countries. It's more of the lack of exposure," said Aquino.
"We really need more of this experience. Yeah, we've been into championships but this is different," shared Animam. "You're up against world. Sometimes even though we're good, the other team is more experienced. We need to experience a lot of this so we can be in their level."
Aside from scarce international opportunities, Animam also rued the lack of professional leagues for women basketball players in the country. She and her 3x3 teammates are stars of their collegiate teams but where are they supposed to play after they graduate?
"That's really what we're looking for. For men, after college, they have PBA. So why not for us women? We're all athletes, so we also deserve to a have a semi-pro league or a league for us," she said.
"In other countries, at an early age, they train everyone, not just men. Maybe that's what's lacking in the Philippines. There's no support for women's basketball," Animam continued.
Despite all the challenges and stumbling blocks, these athletes continue to sacrifice so that they can fight for the flag and bring honor to the country. The least that basketball-crazy Filipinos can do is extend their support to both men and women players.
"I think these are the best players we have in today's time. Just support us and give us a chance to prove that these girls are working hard. I know that they can be in a different level in the future," said Aquino.
"We are here not just for us but for the whole country," expressed Animam. "So I'm encouraging everyone to support women's basketball because it will be a great help for everyone, not just for us but for the next generation."