By PJ Navarro
It goes without saying that if you want world-class success, you have to give it love and support. The proper allocation of funds and training are, of course, included. With those ingredients alone, expect honor and results to come your way.
Sadly, this is not happening. And Filipinos are wondering why.
The Philippines has been there before but now, we find ourselves on the tail-end, struggling and left puzzled as to what happened to our sports dominance a century ago.There was a time when our athletes were heralded as one of the dominant forces in popular sports such as basketball, boxing, billiards, swimming and athletics. However, at present, we are nowhere near that. Not even a single gold medal to show or, better yet, a haul of medals which the Philippines once enjoyed.
Gone are the days when Filipinos would celebrate jubilee when top athletes would bring home the bacon. Before, it was a matter of counting the number of medals in the medal tally standings. At the South East Asian (SEA) Games, for instance, the Philippines was considered a dominant force. We were up there in terms of medal standings. The best moment was perhaps in 2005 when the country topped the entire event and finished with the gold overall. Prior to that, the Philippines was tagged as one of the favorites, being in the top three in 1977, 1981, 1983, 1987, 1991, 1993, and 1995.
But then after that breakthrough in 2005, everything seemed to take a turn for the worse. It seemed the Philippines had been wiped out of the sports circle in the blink of an eye.
Why is that?
Politics and lack of knowledge and support
Many believe that the government is to blame for the disappearing act of Philippine Sports. With the endless bickering which has turned into a circus, sports has not been spared from the after-effects of it.
And things seem to be getting worse with the never-ending topic now in the country best known as the The PDAF (Priority Development Assistance Fund). But that is just the tip of the iceberg.
Back in the day, we had the right people for the job. Sadly, it seems apparent that is not the case for now.
The assigned people to head the multiple sports bodies right now are being questioned and rightfully so. For how can an organized sports body be successful if you don’t have the right people with the right knowledge and qualifications to lead the sport that they are tasked to lead? Except maybe for basketball and boxing, all the other sports unions are hardly visible. In fact, people these days may not even know they exist.
Many would blame the lack of funding they would get from the government. If that were the case, why not abolish the whole sporting union and allocate the funds elsewhere?
In the Philippines, we all know about the “Padrino” practice (best perhaps known as Godfather measures) to appoint people in certain government agencies.The sad thing about it all is that for people placed into power, looking for the right people to hold the right positions seem to be restricted to the people in their circle. Just like in companies, referrals from their team get first crack before the proper and highly qualified ones are considered. That is happening right now.
There is one sport where the current union head is obviously unaware of his duties. Already a controversial figure, this supposed head was already facing a lot of flak in the sport where he was best known for. Now, just because he is married to the sport’s patron, he gets to enjoy a high position, with all its perks and benefits but minus the proper knowledge of the sport. And when recognition is due, he comes out and takes the credit. How despicable is that?
While the issue of improper leadership in sporting unions does not cover all, the fact remains that there are more to the mix that has contributed to the poor performance of the Philippines in sports.
Money changes everything
We all know how the times have changed, how hard our economy has been. Sports, of course, is not spared. Improper training facilities, the inability to train abroad and limiting resources have weighed heavily on why our normally top sporting events have disappeared into thin air.
Athletics was usually the prime source of medals, recalling the times of Lydia De Vega and Elma Muros. We have yet to find a successor to these two track greats and unless the proper support is given, that may nearly be impossible to see. Boxing too has been far from impressive, failing to follow the historic feat of Onyok Velasco in 1996. But unlike athletics, boxing has its financial support coming from the MVP group and has been up there waiting for its chance of shining glory. Government allocation? Yeah right!
Basketball is a sport that is sacred to most and a last place finish is unacceptable. Thankfully we have a sport-loving patron in mogul Manny V. Pangilinan who is obviously behind the success of the Gilas Pilipinas squad. But as far as the government sector is concerned, not a penny; or if there was, chump change.
Ice Skating is perhaps a long shot but you will have to admire the efforts of Michael Christian Martinez. It goes without saying that if you want to realize your dream, you have to get it from your own pocket. Thankfully, he has a very supportive mother in Teresa Martinez who went through all the pains of helping his son realize his ice skating dream which is a very expensive sport. But unlike the other sports, the cost of competing and training may be something that would be feasible, considering the state that the Philippines is in and the diversion of funds somewhere out there. And of course being a tropical country which has a handful of skating rinks, training abroad will certainly be atrocious.
The current Philippine Sports Commission (PSC) head has been taking the brunt of the blame but is he being advised properly? Are his subordinates, the local sporting union heads, actually communicating with him and giving him progress reports of their respective niches? And if it does reach the PSC, what would be their basis on the granting of funds?
These are the gray areas which has deeply contributed to the demise of Philippine sports management. The PSC wants results, better yet medals and prestige. Without funds and support, though, how could that happen? Sports in the Philippines may have died a long time ago if not for private sectors who have come forth to provide the financial aid that most sporting bodies would need.
Approaching sports scientifically
Sports has grown too much that hard training and sweat alone are not enough. It has evolved into a science, requiring proper planning in order for any athlete to be lined up among the best in the world. That includes having to train abroad, being coached by the best and going up against the greats of the sporting niche where he or she is at.
Again, that would mean money to make it all happen. Sadly, businessmen and companies can only do so much. The government needs to do its part and this comes in the form of funds. Where is that?
We hear about pledges and support but hold on. We are talking of the Philippine Peso for crying out loud. When you talk about training abroad, we are talking about foreign currency, the dollar in most cases.So before you go yapping about dishing out five million pesos (Php 5,000,000) do the conversion before gloating. That is close to only $113,000.00. Breaking it down to allowances, transportation and coaching fees, you would be lucky to make that amount last for at least four months, depending and variant to the sport you are investing in.
So again, you boomerang the whole thing to the government. Where is the proper allocation of funds for this sector, sports to which many see as the bright spot where the Philippines could prosper? Your guess is as good as mine. Maybe the money is stashed out there, for interest may be? Or maybe it has been allocated to some other part of the government’s needs such as road development or maybe used in the witness protection program of high profile whistle-blowers.
Read the rest of this article on the April 2014 issue of Playboy Philippines on Buqo.