Phl to Tchoukball Worlds

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

BACOLOD – After celebrating the success of the first Masskara Tchoukball Tournament, there was more good news from the Tchoukball Association of the Philippines (TAP). The nine-team event, attended by sponsors, local government officials and hundreds of rabid fans, was a notice to the world that the sport is alive, healthy and active and ready to take on the world, literally.

In practically a last-minute call in June, TAP decided to deploy at least a men’s team to the Asia Pa­cific Tchoukball Championship in Malaysia last August. Two months’ preparation was not really enough, and budget allowed for the national sports association to send only eight players (seven are on-court at any given time) even though a maximum of 12 is allowed. The gamble paid off, as the Philippines finished in third place behind world No. 1 Taiwan and No. 3 Singapore. The country thus qualified for the World Tchoukball Championships in the Czech Republic in August of 2023.

“This is a big opportunity not just for the players or the federation, but for the country,” admits TAP president Raymund Jamelo. “In past world championships every four years, ba­sically any teams that were available or could afford it could go. This time, there was a strict qualification process, and the men earned it.”

The remarkable achievement entitles the squad to an incentive from the local government, said first-time Councilor Jason Villarosa, who represented the city government at the Masskara Tournament opening. Villarosa, who heads tourism for the city, promised to help tchoukball become part of Bacolod’s future sports tourism plans. TAP is based in Bacolod, and even hosted the Asia Pacific Tchoukball Championship there in 2012. Their latest achievement might even qualify them for recognition or an incentive from the Philippine Sports Commission under the Incentives Act.

But now, the real work begins. The national team has 10 months to prepare for this grueling adventure, the first time the Worlds will be staged outside of Asia. Tchoukball is in almost 50 countries around the world. In 2018, the Philippine men’s and women’s teams landed in the top 10 in the World Beach Tchoukball Championships in Taiwan. This time around, the target is much higher, fourth in the world in regular tchoukball. At the World Cham­pionships, teams from the same continent will be dispersed into different groups. Thus, the earliest the Philippines would possibly meet perpetual foils Taiwan or Singapore would be in the semi­finals. The nationals would only have to look out for world No. 2 Italy and emerging power Sweden along the way. All the others are beatable.

The first challenge will be how to get there. There are no direct flights to Czech Republic from the Philippines. Travelers have to go through Malaysia and / or Germany before changing air­lines. Total airfare for a 12-man contingent alone would be roughly P1 million. So TAP is appealing to potential sponsors to rally behind the national team while there is still plenty of time. This is a rare chance for a national team in a new sport to vie for a world title. Tchoukball is one of the few sports not based in Metro Manila, so they need all the help they can get. They have represented the country with dignity, honor and valor. All they need is our help, and they can be world-beaters.

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