All the fans at the 2023 FIBA World Cup showed their love for basketball, but these fans stood out as some of the loudest and most passionate.
We love World Cups.
Of course, a huge part of what we love about World Cups, no matter what the sport, comes down to the drama that takes place on the field, the court, the track, or what have you. But apart from this, another part of these global tournaments that we live for is getting to see the fans of different countries all flocking together to watch their national squads compete. It isn’t easy to fly to another country not knowing exactly how long your team will stay in the competition, but you can count on sports fans to be passionate enough to go for it.
As the Philippines was one of the co-hosts of the 2023 FIBA Basketball World Cup, we got to see just how passionate basketball fans from all around the globe can be. But, as always, there are certain groups of fans who stand out more than the rest of them.
In our humble opinion, these are the top three countries with the best fans at the 2023 FIBA World Cup.
Every time Latvia was on the ball at any time throughout the 2023 FIBA World Cup, you would clearly hear the cheers of their fans in the stands, cheering as loud as they could. It was easy to understand why — it was a historical moment for their country, as 2023 marked their first time qualifying for the World Cup. And even as debutants, they impressed on the global stage, making it as far as the quarterfinals.
Although their World Cup run ended with a loss to powerhouse Germany in the quarterfinals, they had a dream run as debutants, defeating Lebanon, France, Spain, and Brazil. Their fans — a sea of maroon — made sure to show their pride in their players, showing up to the stadiums with their jerseys, face paint, and flags, and offering high-fives for the team at the end of every game.
Whoever handles the FIBA World Cup’s official social media pages said it themselves about Lithuania: “Best fans at this World Cup?” They very well may be.
If you watched any of Lithuania’s games in the World Cup, you wouldn’t be able to deny this statement as well. Their fans were arguably some of the loudest in the tournament, and how could they not be? A handful of them packed their own drums into the stadium to help cheer on their team as best as they could. There is no doubting their country’s passion for basketball, especially traveling all the way to Asia.
And these fans are not selfish, either. They were more than happy to share their energy with their neighboring country, Latvia, as a group of them were spotted cheering on Latvia’s national team.
One fan in particular, whom many refer to as Lithuania’s number-one basketball fan, has been following their country’s national team around the world for 20 years and has attended every international tournament. You may recognize him in the photos above — his long beard (and his loud cheers) has become iconic.
We wouldn’t mind calling ourselves biased for adding the Philippines to this list, but in reality, Filipino basketball fans are truly among the most passionate in the world. In fact, in the 2014 World Cup held in Spain, FIBA awarded the MVF (Most Valuable Fan) Best Country Award to the Philippines. As the hosts in 2023, they came in full force.
In the opening ceremony of the 2023 FIBA World Cup, Filipino basketball fans traveled from all over the country to the Philippine Arena to watch Gilas Pilipinas in their first match of the tournament. In total, FIBA counted 38,115 fans in attendance for the opening — a FIBA World Cup record.
The Philippine National Team, Gilas Pilipinas, did not have the best World Cup run. But, despite losing all their three games in the Group Stage of the tournament, the fans continued to show up for their team, cheer loudly in their home stadiums, and make their presence felt, until finally, Gilas managed to take their sole win in their last World Cup game.
Apart from watching their own team’s games, Filipino basketball fans also made sure to take advantage of the rest of the World Cup, showing up to other showdowns, cheering for their favorite players (and even booing for the players they did not like).
The Gilas Pilipinas fans did not fail. It was as though the outcomes did not matter to them all that much (even though they surely did), and all that mattered was that they needed to rally behind their players. After all, a country hosting the FIBA World Cup does not come every so often, and the Filipino crowds made sure to make the most out of this opportunity.
Banner image by Vyn Radovan.