Saturday, November 23, 2013

Fair Play: A fund-less PSC can't solve the ills of Philippine sports

(This is my Fair Play column for Sun.Star Cebu's Nov. 23 issue)
BECAUSE of its actions in the past few months, it would be easy to revel on the tongue-lashing the PSC got from Sen. Pia Cayetano during the deliberations for its budget.

Sen. Cayetano, a sports buff, also enumerated the ills of the PSC, especially in how the Philippine team to the Southeast Asian Games was formed.

It’s ironic. The PSC got lambasted for its ridiculous criteria--that a team must be a medal contender--and its power to decide which team will go, but it is being undone for what it has no power over. Yes, the PSC decides who among the teams, players nominated by the NSAs will be sent, a power which some say it has abused, but it has no power over which players get nominated by the NSA.

Sen. Pia Cayetano lambasted the non-inclusion of a record breaker in swimming and of the world champion in Dragon Boat in the SEA Games, but, this time, I have to agree with the PSC. When it comes to NSA affairs, the PSC is really powerless.

The world of sports is a curious thing. We expect the government to be involved, but get too involved, the NSA can cry “government interference,” and it gets suspended.

Take swimming. I was introduced to the fractured world that is Philippine swimming during a dispute here in 1997 and it also involved coaches playing favorites and I was told, “politics in swimming is really bad, they’ve been doing that for years.

That was in 1997. Now, there’s the PSI, the recognized NSA, and there’s PSL, the breakaway faction. (It used to be Pasa vs. Asap.) How powerful is an NSA? The other group can have 10 Michael Phelps but if the NSA says they can’t compete unless the rival group kowtows to them, then they can’t. The PSC or even the President of the Philippines can do nothing about that.

It got so bad that at one time, the gifted Echavez sisters were prevented from receiving a medal in the Arafura games in Australia because they weren’t affiliated with the right group.

All NSAs are not answerable to the Philippines, or even the Filipinos, or even their own athletes. They are answerable only to the International Sports Agencies that they are a members of, and the presidents of these ISAs, of course, support the NSAs because they need to be elected, too, and they need support during crucial issues.

And when it comes to elections or courting favors, well, you know what happens.

Why do you think it took a long time for the PFF to get rid of its malaise?

The solution to the problems hounding Philippine sports will not come from the PSC, POC or even the people leading the NSAs. It will come from the people who elect the NSA officials—yes, the voters, sounds familiar? As long as they keep electing individuals who are after nothing but power, then you’d have a never-ending power struggle that alienates gifted swimmers and teams.

A PSC with a zero budget is certainly powerless to address the ills of the sport. Punishing the PSC that way, means you also punish the young athletes, who have no part of the politics of the NSAs.

Aside from funding the national teams, the PSC also runs the Batang Pinoy program, which is aimed to discover the next national teams.

So, how to address the ills of the NSAs. Perhaps no government involvement may do.

Let the swimming and dragonboat NSAs iron out their mess, and while they do, don’t give each a single centavo from the PSC. Let each NSA involved in a power struggle sort itself out before they get any centavo from the PSC.

It’s drastic, yes. But so is a zero funding move for the PSC that will affect all NSAs.

Punishing the PSC may seem the popular move, but I think it would be wrong. As what many are realizing now, going with the popular choice may not be the right move.


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