Wednesday, May 25, 2011

The curious case of the 12-year-old prodigy

“There was this kid in the Palaro, who was really very good,” the official said. “With those skills, he’s a prodigy, a real asset in this age group.”

Coming from someone who has seen his fair share of prodigies and was even a prodigy himself, that statement was something.

But the curious thing is, they’re not sure he’s 12.

“Maybe 14 or 15,” the official said. And a good 14-year-old against fellow 14-year-old may seem special, but against 12-year-olds? He’s prodigious.

“He was getting past two or three defenders easily, really very good,” said the official.

So good that he called the national U13 coach and told him to recruit the kid for the national team.

Strangely, calls from the national coach went unanswered.

“He would really be an asset to the national team,” the official said before springing a surprise, “But his manager doesn’t want him to play daw.” The kid also doesn’t play in PFF tournaments.

A 12-year-old has a manager? Incredulous, I said.

Perhaps he, or “his manager,” is more afraid of the stringent age-screening of international competitions? And if he isn’t really 12, a lot of heads--his coach, his supervisors, his principal’s--will roll.

But the official clarified, under rules of the DepEd, which manages the Palaro, the 12-year-old who may or may not be 12, is really 12 since he has the papers to back it.

“But he’s late-registered, so we will never know,” he said.

They really wanted to know, so there was an offer for a dental check in neighboring Cagayan, by a neutral dentist. No takers.

“So, was he really 12?” I asked.

He was shaking his head, “You can really tell if somebody belongs in that age group or not. If he’s big for his age, sometimes, you can tell with the way how they move, in his case…”

But somebody interrupted us.

“Nah, he wasn’t 12, more of like 15!”

Age-cheating in the Palaro? That isn’t new. Having witnessed first-hand of how birth certificates were switched, of an older brother assuming the identity of a younger brother.

And then there’s the incredulous news of a college student who played elementary baseball. Uncovered by a national network, a mother admitted that her son, who was already a first year college student, played in elementary baseball during the Naga Palaro.

That news sparked the whole revamp. No more age cheating DepEd said. We will have more stringent screening process.

“Fat chance,” a skeptic told me.

“It’s not the screening process but the culture that is wrong,” he said.

In DepEd you see, to get promoted, you have to earn points—or brownies as one critic called it. And a Palaro title counts for more than a Masters degree, so would you be surprised why they try too hard to win?

“It will happen again.”

1 comment:

davidluiz said...

is this boy a member of the northern mindanao team that won the palarong pambansa elementary division?