Pride, Politics, Passion, Philippine Sports

Despite the false sense of pride and dirty politicking, our athletes remain passionate for their love of sport and country.

The 18th edition of the quadrennial Asian Games officially began last 18 August 2019 in Jakarta and Palembang in Indonesia.

The Philippines will be represented by a total of 299 athletes in 31 various sporting disciplines. The country looks to bounce back from a disappointing showing in the 17th Asian Games in Incheon, where it ended up with only 1 Gold, 3 Silvers and 11 Bronzes, good for 22nd in the overall medal tally.

The 18th Asian Games will also be the first acid test for the Philippine Olympic Committee's (POC) new President, Mr. Ricky Vargas, who succeeded Mr. Peping Cojuango's 13-year reign in the POC.

The preparation for the Asian Games has not been smooth as envisioned, with many controversies and disagreements surrounding the preparations between and among the country's various sporting associations and agencies.

A couple of weeks ago, the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas (SBP) initially decided not to field a men's basketball team. This decision was met with severe criticism from fans, sports analysts and even key leaders of the PBA. Succumbing to the mounting pressure, the SBP decided to send the core of PBA club Rain or Shine Elasto Painters, together with select players from other PBA teams, to represent the Philippine men’s basketball team. In an effort to bolster its perceived 'rag-tag' team, the SBP also made a last-minute appeal to the NBA for Filipino-American Jordan Clarkson to be allowed to play for the "Gilastopainters"-backed Philippine team. The NBA initially disallowed Clarkson to play in the Asian Games as it is not part of the NBA's agreement with FIBA, but eventually were persuaded after incessant protests from Filipino fans led by the country's Chef De Mission (CDM) Richard Gomez.

More than a month ago, the POC and the Philippine Sports Commission (PSC) were once again at odds over the funding of athletes to be sent to the Asian Games. The PSC has long expressed its intention to solely fund athletes who won either gold/silver in the previous Southeast Asian Games in Kuala Lumpur. Asian Games CDM Richard Gomez did not agree to this ruling and insisted that PSC fund the Philippine contingent as a whole, instead of being selective. There is no clarity whether this issue was resolved.

Politics has always been the cancer that has restrained the progress of Philippine Sports. The tiffs between sporting associations, corporate sponsors and personalities have derailed the preparations of our athletes, who have no other intention but to give pride and honor to the country.

Be that as it may, we should expect no less than the best effort and performance from our athletes, despite limited support and short preparation time. However, we must also learn how to temper our expectations in terms of medals, given the confusing and politically-laden environment of Philippine Sports.

Nevertheless, our athletes should be congratulated for their bravery and courage in representing our flag and country despite these circumstances.

Despite the false sense of pride and dirty politicking, our athletes remain passionate for their love of sport and country.

About the Author
Mr. Aaron Benedict De Leon is currently a Business Development Practitioner in a private consulting firm. He has more than six years of professional experience in leading and managing political and non-government organizations, specializing in organizational management, policy development and program management. He has had stints with notable political/socio-civic organizations, serving in various capacities as: Secretary-General of the Centrist Democratic Party of the Philippines (CDP) [2013-2015], Founding Chairperson of the Centrist Democratic Youth Association of the Philippines (CDYAP) [2012-2014], Philippine Representative to the International Young Democrat Union (IYDU) [2011-2012], Chairperson of the Christian Democratic Youth [2011-2012], Secretary-General of YOUTH Philippines [2010-2011], and Spokesperson/Communications Director of the GT2010 Gilbert Teodoro Presidential Campaign [2009-2010].
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