Fair Play: Homegrown obsession

(This is my Fair Play column for Sun.Star Cebu's June 20 edition)
THE Philippine national team is off to its best start in the World Cup qualifiers, winning the first two games against dangerous Bahrain at home and Yemen in Dubai.

And do you know what are some fans concerned about? Where’s the homegrown talent? Where are the pure Filipinos?

A week ago, sprinters Eric Cray and Kayla Richardson swept the century dash gold medals in the Southeast Asian Games and some again asked where our homegrown talents were, as if getting these Filipinos raised abroad to represent the country in international competitions is a mortal sin. Some even blame them for having the flags that were sewn in their jerseys upside down.

This from a country that scours talent shows all over the world for that contestant that has Filipino blood or shares posts like 20 celebrities you didn’t know have Filipino blood.

One of the major points against the fielding of Filipino-foreigners is that it’s a temporary solution and yes, it is. While local talents are not up to par with the rest of the world, why should we not get the best Pinoys all over the world to compete for us, just like in football? It’s a temporary solution, but not a permanent one, because right now, our grassroots is still playing catchup with the rest of the world.

As for our track stars, if you have one who runs the century in 11 seconds and another who runs it under 11 seconds? Would your primary consideration be whether he grew up in the Philippines or abroad? Or would you only be concerned about what he can deliver?

It’s not as if the Philippine Amateur Track and Field Association has simply abandoned local development over the fielding of Filipino-Americans. Patafa has for years been holding national opens for both junior and senior divisions and it is where they get their talents for international competition.

I see nothing wrong with the fielding of Filipino-foreigners for international competition, at least, gone are the days of David Bunevacz, who was more hype than performance. What is wrong is this seemingly misplaced sense of nationalism of having only locals play for the flag.

Why? Are the Filipinos raised abroad are only good for joining reality shows on TV and not for competing in international sports?

We are a nation that has some 10 percent of its population living abroad and whose local talent pool isn’t even one percent of the total population living here.

Do the math. If you want to field a strong team, then you have to expand your talent base outside the borders. And besides, we are looking for athletes with Filipino blood, not athletes who are willing to switch nationalities for a prize as what some rich Middle East countries are doing.

Besides, look at our boxing team. Why do we field a team of locals? Because any fighter who learned his craft here is as good or even better than those who learned it abroad. That’s not the case in other sports.

So where are our homegrown talents? Well, in the SEA Games, they won the gold medals too in boxing, athletics and other sports. They were never displaced.

Guys obsessed with having pure Filipinos in the lineup were just too busy to spot them.


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