Gilas Pilipinas landed safely in Belgrade, Serbia on Friday ahead of the Fiba Olympic Qualifying Tournament (OQT) but endured a flight scare after their connecting flight aborted takeoff from Istanbul.

/ 26 June 2021

The Philippine national men’s basketball team not only endured a long flight but also was momentarily caught in a terrible delay after the pilot of the connecting flight to Belgrade slammed on the brakes just before takeoff.

“After a scare caused by an aborted takeoff from Istanbul, Gilas Pilipinas has now safely landed in Belgrade, Serbia for the OQT. #ParaSaBayan #Puso,” the SBP shared in a Facebook post.

Gilas left the country at 9:30 Thursday and was supposed to leave Istanbul, Turkey early in the afternoon but had an incident that made all passengers disembark from the plane and be transferred to another. 

“It was a scary moment for everyone on board, according to Ms. Yvette Ruiz,” averred Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas special assistant to the president Ryan Gregorio.

Fortunately, the Filipino team eventually flew from Istanbul at around 3:50 PM and arrived in Belgrade minutes before 6:00 PM.

“They had to board a different airplane. Thank God they landed safely in Serbia,” added Gregorio.

The national team spent almost three hours at the Istanbul airport from the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) before boarding its connecting flight to Belgrade.

The 20-person delegation comprises the 12 players consisting of Dwight Ramos, Angelo Kouame, Justine Baltazar, Kai Sotto, Carl Tamayo, SJ Belangel, RJ Abarrientos, Isaac Go, William Navarro, Mike Nieto, Geo Chiu, and Jordan Heading which will face Serbia on the 30th followed by Dominican Republic two days after.

The coaching staffs are Tab Baldwin, Jong Uichico, Caloy Garcia, Sandy Arespacochaga, and Sandro Soriano which is also joined by physical therapist Dex Aseron, compliance officer Yvette Ruiz, and utility man Rolly Arguelles.

Only the winning teams in each of the OQT legs—Belgrade, Split, Kaunas, and Victoria—will advance to Tokyo.