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Sports

A cry for sportsmanship

THE GAME OF MY LIFE - Bill Velasco - The Philippine Star

When teaching our children the value of sports, we express admiration for athletes who display exemplary sportsmanship. We nod our heads in affirmation of the player who contradicts an official even if it’s to his disadvantage, or the one who helps pick an opponent up off the court, or shows concern for a fallen rival. To our minds, it’s simply the right thing to do. In addition, we firmly believe that victory is won on the playing court, not the boardroom or officials’ table, nowhere else.

This writer received a touching e-mail from John Pages of Cebu, one of the most respected tennis organizers and businessmen in the country. When one speaks of honor and integrity, there are very few people who carry around unblemished reputations in both fields. John has supported the Philippine Davis Cup team, and has established several wholesome businesses in the province. I am glad to know the Pages family. John reached out not to attack or criticize anyone, but to commend an act of sportsmanship by a very young athlete, while questioning the circumstances that necessitated it in the first place.

While the country was off on vacation or visiting deceased family members over the break last week, tennis sensation Sally Mae “Em-Em” Siso was crying. She and the Pages family were in Puerto Princesa for the Palawan Pawnshop Junior Tennis National Championships, a Group 2 Philta-sanctioned event.

As part of an official tournament trip, their group of nearly 30 players and parents traversed the Subterranean Underground River, one of the new Seven Wonders of the World. But, when they arrived at the PNS tennis court where Em-Em was slated to play the Girls’ 18 final, she was given the shocking news. She had lost, and by default.

Apparently, her opponent refused to play. From what Pages says, their understanding was that the match would be played between 3 and 4 p.m. He says the majority of the matches were not played on time due to other activities and factors, and it was never a problem. But when they saw the official printout of the Girls 18 and below finals schedule, it read “3 p.m.”

Pages, his wife and daughter and Em-Em had just spent two hours coming back from the underground river, which was, once again, an official tournament trip. Had they known they would risk forfeiting the finals, they would have purposely missed that rare opportunity, because that’s not what they were there for. But even the tournament organizer himself and his family had joined the excursion. It didn’t get more official than that. In addition, when the other finalists arrived late for their matches the previous evening for the same reason, they played on, anyway.

Strangely, throughout the entire excursion, the contingent did not receive any calls or text messages reminding them to be back precisely at 3 p.m. Pages, who was acting as Siso’s guardian for the tournament, tried contacting the opponent’s parents. They did not reply or pick up. Ironically, their match was originally scheduled for the following morning, but was moved to the afternoon before.

What saddened Siso the most was that this was her swan song. Probably the most-decorated junior netter the province of Cebu has ever produced, she would be turning 19 soon after the tournament, ending a decade of dominance. And the difference in points between the champion and runner-up was just 20. She is a two-time recipient of the Sportswriters Association of Cebu (SAC) “Athlete of the Year” award. Other recipients include world boxing champions Donnie Nietes and Gerry Peñalosa. Other honorees include Guinness World Record holders Dancesport Team Cebu City.

Here’s where the character of a champion of over 100 tournaments comes in. The Pages group and that of Siso’s finals opponent were staying in the same resort hotel. As they were leaving for the airport, Em-Em Siso and Jana Pages took the time to knock on the rival’s door, greet the coach, and wish the family well.

You could argue that rules are rules. You could say that playing times should be absolute. And you could be right. But what about the boxer who agrees to postpone a bout because his opponent was injured, risking defeat? What of the basketballer who picks up the player who was just whistled for a blocking foul against him, despite his coach’s prohibitions? And what of a junior tennis player who loses the final tournament on a technicality, wipes off her tears, collects herself, and mere hours later, displays poise and courtesy beyond her years?

That’s character.

 

vuukle comment

ATHLETE OF THE YEAR

DANCESPORT TEAM CEBU CITY

DONNIE NIETES AND GERRY PE

EM-EM

EM-EM SISO AND JANA PAGES

GUINNESS WORLD RECORD

JOHN PAGES OF CEBU

PAGES

PALAWAN PAWNSHOP JUNIOR TENNIS NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIPS

SISO

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