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Root of the problem

SPORTING CHANCE - Joaquin M. Henson (The Philippine Star) - April 16, 2021 - 12:00am

Controversy has wracked the Pilipinas VisMin Cup’s inaugural season, barely a week old, and the consolation is the damage isn’t irreparable particularly as it came sooner than later. Last Wednesday’s game between Siquijor and Lapu-Lapu was a farce with players from both sides deliberately flubbing layups and free throws indiscriminately. There was no attempt to disguise the shenanigans and it could’ve been the players’ way to expose the apparent fix.

The match was stopped at halftime, supposedly because of a power outage which was merciful. Lapu-Lapu was on top, 27-13, when play was halted. Siquijor seemed like it was on a mission to lose, missing 10 free throws. Both teams combined to shoot 4-of-29 from the stripe. Siquijor scored five points in the first period and eight in the second in what had to be the most awful display of basketball since the creation of the shot clock. Lapu-Lapu hit 23 points in the opening quarter then sputtered to add only four in the second. It got so ridiculous that Lapu-Lapu’s Rendell Senining went to the line for two foul shots, threw up one with the left hand and the other with the right, missing both badly.

As a pro league, the VisMin Cup is supervised by GAB and chairman Baham Mitra was up in arms when the report came in of the tragic comedy. He said decisive action will be taken and instructed the GAB legal team to study if charges could be filed in court against the conniving parties. Under the principle of self-regulation, Mitra said the VisMin Cup officials will announce the sanctions. At presstime, the word was Siquijor would be banned from the league and some Lapu-Lapu players suspended.

VisMin Cup chief operating officer Rocky Chan called Siquijor “a disgrace” to sports. It’s alarming that even as the league is in its infancy, bettors have already penetrated the ranks. The MPBL was also plagued by game-fixing and it took league founder Sen. Manny Pacquiao to put his foot down and issue a strong warning to get things back in order. Unlike the MPBL, the VisMin Cup is under GAB supervision so Mitra, a stickler for doing right, isn’t taking this transgression lightly. A thorough investigation is underway as GAB is determined to get to the bottom of this mess.

Clearly, the players didn’t do this on their own. They were told to fix with the promise of remuneration, for sure. Who gave the instructions? The team owners? A betting syndicate? The coaches? Who are behind this crime? The players can provide the answers. If they’re threatened with lifetime suspensions unless they sing, they’ll talk. The players can’t take all the blame. The masterminds shouldn’t be allowed to escape. If GAB wants to attack the root of the problem, it has to dig deep and protect players who’ll act as whistle-blowers. Maybe, the players didn’t hide their wrong-doing because it was their way of rebelling against the stingers. An investigation should unravel what prompted the farce.

Still, what the players did last Wednesday was a disrespect to the game and an insult to the league. The VisMin Cup was conceived to primarily provide an opportunity for players to earn during this pandemic. For players to make a mockery of the game and the league is a travesty. Those who are guilty must be accountable and made to pay for this dastardly conspiracy.

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