AS Gilas Pilipinas’ historic success in the just-ended 27th FIBA-Asia Basketball Championship continues to inspire Filipinos, Senator Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III today said that Philippine sports needs new leaders for the generation of new ideas and approaches in sports.
Pimentel described the success of the Filipinos as the product of a bold decision by audacious corporate basketball patrons led by businessman Manuel V. Pangilinan and other officials of the revitalized Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas, led by its vice-chairman Ricky Vargas.
“High noon is upon sports in the country today. But we have to make big decisions and change our old ways to continue reaping success,” said Pimentel.
Pimentel said that the entry of new leaders in sports has gained tremendous headway as he cited the experiences of other sports now being managed by young leaders like football and chess that have seen the emergence of world class talents.
He said the phenomenal rise of the Azkals, the national football team, in the world rankings is a result of the innovation and foresight of young leaders, among them Philippine Football Federation president Mariano Araneta and the Azkals’ team manager, Dan Palami.
The Azkals had won tough battles against erstwhile tormentors in Southeast Asia and the Asian regions, capping their outstanding performance with a titular triumph in the four-nation Philippine Cup last year, their major diadem in nearly a century.
Pimentel said the country has started producing grandmasters in chess, like GMs Wesley So, Oliver Barbosa and Mark Paragua, after a long hiatus because of the aggressiveness of the new leaders in the National Chess Federation of the Philippines who provided them with international exposures to toughen their games.
He said the new leaders of basketball, football and chess have introduced new ideas to their organizations, holding extensive talent searches, instituting a serious training program and international exposure, and leaving out politics from their game-plan.
Pimentel said that the scheduled Senate inquiry on the country’s preparations for this year’s Southeast Asian Games in Myanmar will determine whether the Filipinos are going to the biennial meet to bring home the medals or gain the necessary experience for future competitions.
“How many are we sending to Myanmar to win medals? How many are going there for experience,” asked Pimentel after Senate sports committee chair Sen. Pia Cayetano questioned the decision of the Philippine Olympic Committee (POC) to send only a small contingent to the SEAG.
The POC had earlier declared that it would be fielding a limited delegation to the SEAG, using as a qualifying standard the Filipinos’ gold-medal performance at the last SEA Games in Singapore where they finished fifth among 11 competing countries.
Those with gold-medal potentials are likely to be included also in the delegation which is pegged only at a maximum of 200 athletes.
Pimentel said the Senate inquiry will also try to get to the bottom of the POC’s action and give legislators an opportunity to distinguish government participation in sports without breaking into the autonomy of the POC to prevent international sanctions.
He also proposed to unify the committees of amateur and professional sports. In keeping with international practice, Pimentel said that it’s time to collapse the committees to come up with a single body.