‘Back where they belong’: UAAP teams welcome back fans
MANILA, Philippines — The UAAP will get a jolt of energy on Tuesday when fans are welcomed to the Mall of Asia Arena for Season 84 men’s basketball games.
It marks the first time since March 2020 that spectators will be allowed to watch UAAP games in person, as the first four play dates of the season were held behind closed doors at the Pasay City venue.
Only a limited number of fans will be accommodated, but having a real audience — as opposed to canned cheers and drum sounds — is a boost to the spirits of the players and coaches.
“What I’m excited about is, for the people of the Philippines to be back where they belong, supporting their teams,” said Ateneo coach Tab Baldwin, whose team has a perfect 4-0 record in the season. “The students, the alumni back in the stadium, enjoying the atmosphere.”
“I think the UAAP has done the right thing by getting the fans back,” he added. “We should all be giving thanks for the fact that we have a healthy society again, and our basketball … seems to be healthy as well.”
“That’s just gonna make everybody breathe a big sigh of relief and feel like life is beginning to be normal again.”
For De La Salle coach Derrick Pumaren, the fans’ presence will be a massive help especially when they’re in a challenging situation — much like they were last Saturday in their rivalry game against the Blue Eagles.
The Green Archers had fallen behind in the third quarter against the defending champion, and Pumaren acknowledged that having fans to boost their morale would have helped at the time.
“We’re pretty excited about it, after how many years, almost two years na there’s no crowd, there’s nothing sa UAAP,” he said.
“So, hopefully the supporters will be able to pump up the team, especially when we’re down and things are not going right for us. They could be a big help, they could be our sixth man there,” he added.