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'Pandesal Boys' test mettle in Singapore water polo tourney

Waylon Galvez - Philstar.com
'Pandesal Boys' test mettle in Singapore water polo tourney
File photo of a previous iteration of the Philippine men’s water polo team during a competition in 2019.
STAR / Jun Mendoza

SINGAPORE – For the first time in nearly three years, the Philippine water polo team gets to compete in an international tournament as they face Indonesia in the inaugural Singapore Water Polo Inter-Nation Cup 2022 at the OCBC Aquatic Center here Wednesday.

Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, a number of water polo tournaments abroad were called off, but with the easing of restrictions, the Singapore meet is finally happening and the national team has been allowed to participate.

Philippine Team mentor Rey Galang said that players are all excited to compete against the elite teams in the region. The national team takes on Indonesia for its opening match at 5 p.m.

“We’re all excited, the players, the coaches. This is our first tournament in almost three years. Our last was in 2019 during the Southeast Asian Games that our country hosted,” said Galang, who will continue to have his trusted assistant coach in former national team standout Dale Evangelista.

“We know that this tournament is very competitive, so while we are all excited, we also understand the task ahead. We want to perform well in this event because we are playing our rivals in the region.”

The national team — popularly known as ‘Pandesal Boys’ because of their chiseled body — participated in the FINA Water Polo Challengers’ Cup that Singapore hosted back in November 2019. The Philippine Sports Commission (PSC) led by chairman Butch Ramirez and the Philippine Swimming Inc. (PSI) headed by its president Lailani Velasco made this trip possible for the national team.

Aside from the Philippines, Indonesia and host Singapre, which will field in two teams A and B, seeing action in the tournament are Malaysia and Thailand.

Indonesia won its first ever gold during the 2019 SEA Games, ending the long domination of Singapore, which ruled the event since its inauguration in 1965. The national team earned a silver medal — its first in 10 years — while Singapore settled with the bronze medal.

In the biennial meet three years ago, the Philippines drew with Indonesia in its opening game and had the same result against Singapore on the final day of action.

Indonesia stunned Singapore in their lone encounter that gave them the gold medal.

“If you think about the SEA Games in 2019, that game with Indonesia was crucial. That’s why in this tournament here in Singapore, although water polo is not in the Hanoi SEA Games, the level of competition here is high considering the teams seeing action — SEA Games level,” said Evangelista.

On Thursday, the Filipinos takes on Singapore’s Team B, before they play Thailand on Friday. The national team battles Singapore’s Team A on Saturday then closes out its campaign with a match up with Malaysia on Sunday.

The national team will continue to rely on veteran goalie Tani Gomez and Roy Cañete, as well as Adan Gonzales, Macgyver Reyes, Mark Valdez, Romark Belo and Mummar Alamara.

Other members of the national team are Mico Anota, Matthew Yu, Aljon Salonga, Paolo Serrano and Abnel Amiladjid.

The top three finishers in this tournament will earn medals.

WATER POLO

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