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Dear sports officials

  • Written by Ed Andaya
  • Published in Opinion
  • Read: 453

OK , sports fans. Let’s write  a letter to Philippine Sports Commission (PSC) chairman  William “Butch”  Ramirez and  his four  commissioners -- Ramon  Fernandez, Arnold Agustin,  Charles Maxey  and   Celia Kiram.

Make it  urgent. Also, personal.

Dear Chairman Ramirez and commissioners Fernandez, Agustin, Maxey and Kiram,

I  know  we’ve been  over this many  times before, but  with all the urgent changes that now need to  be done, it bears repeating.

It’s about sports, of course. You  know, the biggest reason why we’re all here.
I  do  not exactly  know how to bring  this matter  to all of you and  when  and where  it  is more convenient. I  wanted  to  take up the  issue  during the  recent PSC Top-Level Consultative  Meeting at the Century   Park  Sheraton Hotel in Vito Cruz.
There’s no better time to talk about sports and  the many changes we  all  need  than during the two-day  summit attended by  top officials from both government and private sectors.
In fairness to your staff, I received an invitation to attend the  gathering by email a few days before the event, but I had to excuse  myself due to prior commitments.
But  as you  all know by now, change is needed in sports.
With President Duterte, change is already here less than three months since close to 16 million Filipinos voted overwhelmingly to make him as the country’s  highest  official.
And as President Duterte’s alter egos in sports, it is imperative that you initiate the much-needed change.  Now or never.
Weightlifter Hidilyn Diaz -- bless  her  heart -- may have won the  country's third silver  medal in the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro but even  that does not  take away the fact that a lot is  needed to be done en pronto.
You  see,  Philippine sports is dying.  It is like a patient in the intensive  care  unit of  a government hospital. Not dead  but badly -- and  desperately -- needing medical attention while  trying to catch his breath in the emergency room.
You’ve all heard about the “Sick Man of  Asia” tag that was once used  to describe   our country. Well, we’re also now the “Sick Man  of  Southeast Asia” as far as sports concerned.
You  know it very well. Check the facts, if  you wish.
In this side of the sports universe,  there  are more  jeers than  cheers.  Losses far  outnumber the victories.
From SEA Games overall champion during the   “Miracle   of 92” once  upon a time in   Manila, we’re now happy to finish sixth behind Indonesia, Thailand, Malaysia, Vietnam and even  Singapore in  the medal standings. At least, we’re still  ahead of Myanmar or Brunei.
Something to think about, right gentlemen and lady?
You remember GM Wesley So and  the  2013 Kazan Universiade in Russia?
Maybe you’ve heard all about the  heart-warming stories of his dramatic, Armageddon-style victory over GM  Zaven Adriassian of Armenia to win the country's first-ever gold medal in the 54-year history of  the Universiade.
It was a Universiade gold medal  that glitters as bright as the Olympic gold. Exaggerated? Not really.
When So climbed the podium  to receive his gold medal and the Philippine  flag was carried on  stage, the  whole  chessworld tood in  attention. The Russians, considered  as the best in the  world since the early days of the game, were dumb-founded  to watch a Filipino teenager came to their beloved  homeland to steal a gold they have  always coveted.
The  few Filipinos who joined So  while he was being mobbed by fellow players and plain well-wishers were  speechless.
The feeling was surreal.
I should know. I was there.
And why am I suddenly telling you about this now?
Well, our beloved country lost So, a  prized possession that comes only once in a lifetime, in November 2014.
The Filipinos have lost a gold  mine  mainly because of the indifference of  our over-staying and  under-performing sports officials, who have embarrasingly turned  the  historic Rizal Memorial  Sports  Complex  into  a ‘Home  for the Aged.’
The same  holier-than-thou officials turned a blind eye and refused to recognize  So ‘s achievement in Kazan for  the  disgusting  reason  that they do not approve of the Federation of  School Sports Association of the Philippines (FESSAP).
FESSAP, the local governing body  recognized by FISU and headed by businessman David Ong,  was the one which sent So to Kazan, all-expenses paid.
Unlike Diaz and all other athletes who brought honors to the country, So did not get a single centavo. Not even a congratulatory message.
Now,  you ask me how good this chess player So is?
I  say he’ s so good he can be as  unstoppable  as tomorrow. A future    world  champion, perhaps.
And now he plays for the United States  even though  he still wears his barong tagalog during  awarding ceremony.
Are you still with me?
The same know-it-all officials even sent a  three-man delegation  to Kazan  to  try to  stop So, the  swimmers under Philippine Swimming  League  (PSL) of former Sen. Nikki Coseteng and Susan Papa snd other Filipino athletes from  competing. Imagine Filipinos  bad-mouthing fellow Filipiinos during the FISU General Assembly attended by more than 200  member-nations.
Of course, they did not succeed. The gods of sports know better. It  was  affirmed: FESSAP is to FISU what the POC is to IOC.
I  am  really glad to know that  you’re taking your roles in the government sports agency seriously. You're reaching out and  talking to as many people in the sports world possible. You’re looking very deep into the  real problems that affect the performances of our athletes and trying to find a win-win solution.
The  PSC  Consultative Meeting is a good way to get the ball rolling, so to speak.
And by  this time I'm sure you  already  know that politics in sports is as much a problem as lack of funding.
You should know by now that officials of  the  so-called Old Boys Club who  run sports like a  private playground should now be replaced by young and action-oriented leaders.
You should know by now that the Olympic motto of Citius, Altius and  Fortius, or Faster, Higher and Stronger should  also be  applied not only in the selection  of athletes but also  of officials.
So let’s make no mistake about it. President Duterte put all of  you there  to do the job. You come with the great responsibility to put things  in order. You have to crack the whip and do  whatever is necessary  to achieve  the change we all  wanted.
You can do it. Just do it.

Ed Andaya

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