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Wishes for 2018

It’s the year of the dog and we’re hoping 2018 will open a lot of doors for Philippine sports to prosper with bark and bite. There will be severe challenges, for sure, but nothing is impossible. If our sports officials govern with honesty, sincerity, transparency and wisdom, then it’s more than half the battle won. If our athletes work hard, persevere, sacrifice and compete with all their heart, victory is inevitable. If our government and the private sector join forces to support a strong sports program for elite athletes and grassroots development, there can be no looking back.

Here are 10 wishes for the new year in Part 1 of this series. Tomorrow, we’ll list the next 10 wishes in Part 2.

• Let the voters decide. The Pasig Regional Trial Court has ordered fresh elections for POC chairman and president on Feb. 23, nullifying the results of the 2016 polls where Ricky Vargas and Bambol Tolentino were disqualified by the POC COMELEC. If the POC resists the ruling, it has the right to go to the Court of Appeals and try to secure a TRO. The POC may seek redress all the way to the Supreme Court in what could be a long-drawn process of delay. If the POC stalls the process, it will be justice denied for those prejudiced by the COMELEC’s disqualification. The sporting thing to do is to let the elections proceed on Feb. 23 and let the chips fall where they may.

• Impact at the Asian Games. At the SEA Games last year, the Philippines finished a lowly sixth in the medal standings behind Malaysia, Thailand, Vietnam, Singapore and Indonesia. At the 2014 Asian Games in Incheon, the Philippines brought back a gold, three silvers and 11 bronzes to finish No. 22 of 36 countries that claimed at least one bronze. There were 45 countries that participated in the Incheon conclave. The Philippines’ sole gold came from Danny Caluag in BMX cycling. The silvers came from wushu (two) and boxing. Will the Philippines surpass its 2014 harvest at the Asian Games set Aug. 18-Sept. 2 this year in Indonesia?

• Successful staging of FIBA 3x3 World Cup. The Philippines will host the fifth edition of the FIBA 3x3 World Cup on June 8-12. The venue will be announced at a press conference organized by the SBP on Jan. 18. There will be 20 men’s and 20 women’s teams participating in the event that is set to make its Olympic debut in Tokyo in 2020. The Philippine women’s team has never played in the World Cup which is held annually. The men’s team of Kobe Paras, Kiefer Ravena, Jeron Teng and J. R. Quiñahan represented the country in the competition last year. Since the Philippines will co-host the 2023 FIBA World Cup, all eyes will be on the local organizers as they try to put the country’s best foot forward in staging a successful 3x3 battleground.

• Azkals to qualify for the AFC Asian Cup. The Philippines has never played in the AFC Asian Cup since its inception in 1956 because it failed to qualify or simply didn’t participate in the eliminations. Now, the Azkals are in the third round of qualifications for the 2019 AFC Asian Cup to be held in the United Arab Emirates. The Philippines’ next game is against Tajikistan in Bacolod on March 27. Last month, the Azkals saw action in a four-nation tournament in Taiwan, beating Laos, 3-1 but losing to Chinese-Taipei, 3-0 and Timor-Leste, 1-0.

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• Unity in volleyball. While the sport is gaining widespread popularity, the leadership crisis continues. But there are positive signs of solidarity in the offing. A meeting has been set on Jan. 15 to get the men and women behind the PVF, LVPI, PSL and PVL together. Athletes are torn in deciding which group to fall in line with and it’s a shame. A source of confusion is the POC recognizes LVPI as the NSA for volleyball but the international governing body continues to accredit PVF.

• PSC to crack the whip. No more compromises. If an NSA has unliquidated accounts, then it can’t receive any more funding assistance from the PSC. So as not to disenfranchise athletes, perhaps the PSC can work an arrangement with the POC to install interim officers-in-charge in the discredited NSAs so there is no stoppage in the development process. NSA officials who are not responsive to the PSC’s call for reforms must relinquish their positions if only for the sake of their sport and athletes.

• A capable, fair and respectable PBA commissioner to emerge. The pro basketball league is without a commissioner at the moment. The PBA Board of Governors will meet on the last Thursday of this month to agree on a selection process and criteria to qualify candidates. PBA chairman Ricky Vargas said there will be a new commissioner before the Second Conference begins at the latest. 

• SEA Games plan of action must be set. Whatever planning has to be done for the 2019 SEA Games must be laid out now. Facilities must be lined up to determine what’s available and what venues need to be fixed or constructed. It’s important to set a timetable of activities and pinpoint areas of responsibility within the organizing committee. What sports or events will be in the schedule is a priority for reckoning because it will determine the required venues.

• Gilas to advance to the second round of FIBA Asia/Pacific qualifying for the 2019 FIBA World Cup. The Philippines is undefeated in two games of the first home-and-away window of the first round of qualifying. Gilas will play Australia in Melbourne on Feb. 22 and host Japan on Feb. 25 in the second window then it faces Chinese-Taipei on the road on June 29 and meets Australia at home on July 2 in the third window. The top three teams of each qualifying group advance to the second round of another series of three home-and-away windows. The Philippines hopes to claim one of seven tickets allocated for Asia/Pacific in the World Cup. The seven tickets will exclude China which has an automatic slot as host.

• Pacquiao to regain the world crown. As the only fighter ever to win world titles in eight weight classes, Manny Pacquiao isn’t used to walking around without a crown. He’s hinted to make a ring comeback in April, possibly in China, for his first fight since losing the WBO welterweight belt to Jeff Horn in Brisbane last July. Horn earned a purse of $750,000 in his first defense, ignoring a $3 Million invite from Pacquiao for a rematch in Manila. The Australian is holding out for a $2 Million purse to fight Terence Crawford but why not take on Pacquiao in a neutral country for a bigger payday? The ideal scenario would be for Pacquiao to regain the world title then end his storybook career with a farewell bout, perhaps against Floyd Mayweather, Jr., at the Philippine Arena.

More wishes in tomorrow’s column.

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