HANOI — Philippine billiards has gone past winning the golds medals in the 31st Southeast Asian Games here. It is now in the business of putting up a show.
On Friday night, its best players led by legends Efren “Bata” Reyes and Francisco “Django” Bustamante headlined exhibition matches after a deluge of requests from local fans here.
And there’s absolutely nothing wrong with the sideshow. The Philippine team can sleepwalk through its last two finals matches and still win the gold in the men’s and women’s 10-ball event after making the hunt for gold in both title matches an all-Filipino affair.
“We are really thrilled by our performance here,” said team manager Roy Malinao after pool stars Rubilen Amit and Chezka Centeno breezed through their women’s semifinals, and Carlo Biado and Johann Chua did the same in the men’s bracket.
Amit and Centeno clash at 10 a.m., Saturday while Biado and Chua square off in a rematch of their 9-ball final at 2 p.m. No matter what happens in both matches, the Filipino pool sharks will go home with four gold medals, three silvers and two bronzes.
The presence of the country’s top pool players heightened the sport’s popularity here as people would fill up the Ha Dong Gymnasium, especially whenever Reyes took centerstage.
That made the decision to repay the adoring fans a no-brainer, thus the friendly matches.
Former world champion Reyes and Biado were paired up while Bustamante, also an ex-world titlist, and Chua joined hands playing against different local tandems.
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