More New Year’s wishes

SPORTING CHANCE - Joaquin M. Henson (The Philippine Star) - January 3, 2021 - 12:00am

Last Friday marked the start of a new year and the beginning of a renewed hope for better times. In our first column of 2021, we shared four of 10 wishes for sports – back to normal in all levels of competition, Gilas returning to top three in FIBA Asia, super WBA welterweight champion Sen. Manny Pacquiao to win again and the Philippines making an impact in the Tokyo Olympics. Here are six more wishes:

• Staying in SEA Games contention. The Philippines took overall honors in the 2019 SEA Games as host of 56 sports, the most ever in the conclave’s history. The next SEA Games will be held in Hanoi on Nov. 21-Dec. 2 with only 40 sports in the calendar. The Philippines is out to prove that finishing first at home was no fluke. POC president Rep. Bambol Tolentino is in the forefront of making sure there is a fair representation of sports in Vietnam and has negotiated to include jiu jitsu, triathlon, e-sports and bowling with sambo and skateboarding in the wait list.

• PBA season off the ground. There is still no certainty on what the coming PBA season will look like. At the moment, the plan is to inaugurate the 46th campaign on April 9, the day when the league played its first-ever game in 1975. The goal is to stage the usual three conferences but it will depend on government guidelines and the availability of a vaccine. The bubble awards night will be on Jan. 17 and the next draft on March 14. Whatever is the final decision, the PBA Board of Governors and commissioner Willie Marcial are committed to do what’s in the best interest of the fans and the league with health/safety considerations a primary concern.

• No hitches in resuming college sports. The NCAA plans to restart in March with limited sports while the UAAP has postponed its season to September. The IATF has still to approve guidelines for individual training preparatory to body contact drills and eventually, actual games. The trigger point is the IATF’s approval. Let’s pray that the pandemic will end soon so that student-athletes may once again revive dreams of playing proudly for their schools.

• New record for most Filipino world boxing champions in a year. It was in 2018 when the record was set with six Filipinos reigning as world boxing titlists. In 2021, the record may be surpassed. There are now five holding court – Pacquiao, WBO bantamweight champion JohnRiel Casimero, interim WBC bantamweight king Reymart Gaballo, IBF superflyweight ruler Jerwin Ancajas and IBF minimumweight beltholder Pedro Taduran. A sixth champion will be crowned when Robert Paradero and Vic Saludar dispute the vacant WBA minimumweight crown on Jan. 30. In line for title cracks this year are Michael Dasmarinas, Nonito Donaire Jr., Mike Plania, Mark Magsayo, Rene Mark Cuarto and Jayson Mama.

• EASL is launched with a bang. The East Asia Super League will come off the wraps in October with the Philippines, Japan, South Korea and Greater China bringing in two teams each to roll out the first home-and-away, five-month season. It will be Asia’s version of a champions’ league, assembling the best of the best to vie for the $1 million first prize. FIBA has given its blessings to EASL which is groomed to become one of the top three hoop leagues in the world.

• Creating more waves in pandemic sports. There are stay-at-home sports that thrive in this pandemic – particularly, e-sports and chess online where the Philippines has performed creditably. Last June, the Philippines joined Australia, Argentina, Italy and Saudi Arabia as winners of their geographic conference in the first FIBA E-Sports Open with 114 players from 17 countries around the world. Golf is another thriving sport because of its outdoor nature with Yuka Saso and Bianca Pagdanganan showing the way for the country.

An added wish is for FIBA to recognize Fil-foreigners as locals in international tournaments, regardless of when they obtained their Philippine passports for as long as they can prove their Filipino heritage. The recognition should also apply to athletes with bloodline from other countries. The hope is for FIBA to respect the citizenship laws of each country in determining eligibility of athletes as locals or naturalized imports.

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