Fair Play: Cebu's Olympic dream hits a snag

(This is my Fair Play column for Sun.Star Cebu's March 16 edition)
A COUPLE of years ago, the Cebu City Sports Commission launched an ambitious project aimed at sending a beach volleyball team to the Olympics, powered by the belief that if you give a local players the chance, they can make it.

But such is the challenge of being an athlete in a Third World country that the CCSC is learning, albeit late, that even beliefs, dreams or the honor of playing for the flag isn’t enough.

Edmar Bonono, a member of the beach volleyball team, is forgoing his spot in the qualifiers because he wants to turn pro after getting picked by Cignal TV in the pro league. A third year student of the University of Southern Philippines Foundation, Bonono said he wants to pursue his chance so he can save up for college.

Bonono has been playing volleyball for years and has maximized his five-year eligibility in college and is no longer an athletic scholar, hence the jump.

To say that the CCSC is disappointed is an understatement. CCSC commissioner Ed Hayco said they’ve worked out a few deals that would have made Bonono earn P23,000 a month from Eric LeCain (P6,000), Cebu City Hall (P9,000) and the Philippine Sports Commission (P8,000).

Of course, if only they were recognized as Class A athletes of the Philippine Sports Commission, they would have received P24,000 a month but such is the crazy set-up of volleyball in the Philippines in the last few years that those chasing an Olympic spot get as
much as those in the developmental pool.

Is Bonono wrong for abandoning the Olympic dream in favor of a spot in the pro ranks? No, not really. You can’t begrudge him for chasing a personal dream.

Such is the reality in sports, athletes have short shelf lives and they maximize what they can get in the present. If Bonono skipped this draft, a spot next year isn’t even a sure thing with the number of college players coming out.

The timing stinks as the team is set to compete in a series of qualifiers but what’s done is done and the Olympic dream, barring a miracle, is undone.

But was it a waste?

Not really.

The CCSC and the remaning members, Jade Becaldo and Edward Ybanez, and even Bonono, have picked up valuable experience in their stint as that upstart Cebu team that dared to represent the country in the Olympic qualifiers against all odds, and even without formal recognition (and Class A allowance) from the government body.

And those couple of deals the hard-working Ed Hayco and Eric LeCain had with City Hall and PSC show that if you are willing to find a solution, there will be an answer to an athlete’s financial worry.

Is Cebu’s Olympic dream over? Perhaps for beach volleyball but the journey isn’t. Knowing how chairman Hayco operates, it’s not the destination that matters but the journey. Chasing this dream has always been a challenge but I hope this latest setback will only serve to boost the next attempt.

This Olympic dream, dashed it may be, will only be a waste if there’s no second attempt.


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