IT’S beginning to look a lot like Christmas, so allow us to make a list of wishes for some of our leading sports personalities even before the holiday season.
By thus time, Santa should also now be making his list, checking it twice and finding out who’s naughty and nice in sports.
If I were Santa, here’s what I would give them:
Boxing legend Manny Pacquiao -- A blockbuster rematch with arch-rival Floyd Mayweather should be high in the wish list for the country’s beloved sports superstar in the coming holiday season. It’s the fight that the whole boxing world wants to see. And why not? A Pacquiao-Mayweather II in summer of 2017 will be a joy to watch. It will also surely keep the boxing world alive.
Rio de Janeiro Olympics silver medalist Hidilyn Diaz -- Weightlifting’s biggest find is looking for an encore in Tokyo 2020 and it is every Filipino sports fan’s wish that Diaz will fulfill her dream. The 25-year-old pride of Zamboanga City, who ended the country’s 20-year Olympic medal drought, deserves the full support of the nation forever in search for a hero.
Chess champion Wesley So -- A chance to finally contend for the world chess championship now held by GM Magnus Carlsen of Norway is on the minds of almost all local chess fans and supporters. Although he now plays for the United States, the Bacoor, Cavite-born So remains a Filipino by heart. The chess world will always look up to him as a Filipino much like when he climbed the podium to receive the gold medal in the 27th Summer Universiade in Kazan, Russia in 2013.
Basketball superstar June Mar Fajardo -- Nicknamed the ‘Kraken’, the 6-11 center of San Miguel Beer is widely-regarded as the country’s most dominant player since Ramon ‘El Presidente’ Fernandez in the 80s and Alvin ‘The Captain’ Patrimonio in the 90s. When he plays and plays well for the Beermen, he could be as unstoppable as tomorrow. They sometimes now spell basketball as F-a-j-a-r-d-o. A third straight MVP award and more individual accolades are high on our wish list for this well-loved native of Pinamungajan, Cebu.
Volleyball sweetheart Allysa Valdez -- With volleyball enjoying tremendous popularity, you always like to see one of the most talented, most beautiful players on the court. And what could be a better gift from Santa to all volleyball fans but the chance to watch more of Allysa and other eye-catching beauties showing their wares in top-notch tournaments all year long in 2017.
Philippine Olympic Committee (POC) president Peping Cojuangco -- At 82, Cojuangco is old. Forget about all those claims that age is just numbers. It’s different in sports. Even the International Olympic Committee (IOC) send their top officials home by the time they reach 78. Cojuangco will be 86 by 2020 Tokyo Olympics. Most of the athletes and officials are now looking for change and seeking young and more action-oriented new leaders. Ask them. The wish is for Cojuangco to finally step down and give sports a chance.
Philippine Sports Commission (PSC) chairman Butch Ramirez -- An unlimited budget in sports to help him finance the training and international participation of the country’s elite athletes is on top of our wish list sent by the head of the government sport agency. Without the necessary funding from the national government and support from the private sector, Ramirez knows he can do very little to make a big difference.
PSC commissioner Ramon Fernandez -- One of the greatest-ever Filipino players to hold the basketball, Fernandez remains a giant on the hardcourt even long after his retirement. And now that he was given the chance to be at the government sports agency by no less President Duterte, here’s wishing basketball’s ‘El Presidente’ continues to get the much-needed assist in his crusade to put sports in order while going up against powerful individuals.
Basketball legend Robert Jaworski -- Several years after Barangay Ginebra retired his legendary No. 7 jersey, Jaworski remains synonymous with basketball. You can’t talk about without mentioning one another. And what could be the gift that Jaworski could still be looking for under his Christmas tree next month? A long and healthy life where he can continue to share his many blessings with the less fortunate is our wish.
PBA chairman Mikee Romero of Globalport Batang Pier -- Now on its 42nd season, Asia’s first play-for-pay league is looking to make a difference anew under the leadership of Romero, the amiable team owner of the Batang Pier. Romero hopes to continue the successful program initiated by Robert Non of San Miguel Corp. With fresh new ideas and leadership skills, Romero knows he can lead the league to even greater heights. If the PBA is well, basketball is well in this country. We wish them well.
Sports patron Manny V. Pangilinan -- The best Christmas gift that the local sports world could probably give to MVP is what they call in the business world as a ‘return of investment.’ After spending a fortune helping in the promotion of basketball and several other sports, MVP is yet to get the big one. A major intenational title by Gilas Pilipinas in the world stage perhaps. Or maybe, gold medals in taekwondo, badminton and other sports which benefitted a lot from his generosity. It’s only fitting that he’ll be finally rewarded with accomplishments by the athletes themselves.
Basketball Association of the Philippines (BAP) secretary-general Graham Lim -- One of the nicest but most misunderstood personalities in sports, Lim hopes to finally returns home where his heart is. This wish list this holiday season should include a quiet and peaceful life with his family and friends. And maybe another chance to organize basketball, which he loves a lot. Not too much to ask, if you ask. This Christmas, let’s give him a break, please.
NOTES -- Happy birthday to my youngest son, Brian Paul, who turns 20 on Nov. 25. An avid Russell Westbrook and Oklahoma Thunder fan, Brian is one of my three basketball-loving sons who would stay with me late at night to watch Hardwood Classics on television and keep me in endless conversations about basketball.