(STAR) By Joey Villar - The Philippine Sports Commission will sit down with various sectors to draw up the foundation of a sports program aimed at strengthening the country’s grassroots development plan in pursuant to President Arroyo’s Executive Order 651.

PSC chair Butch Ramirez said they will coordinate with the Philippine Olympic Committee, the various schools in the country, the private sector and government agencies and bureaus like the Department of Education, Commission on Higher Education and Department of Interior and Local Government to discuss the project.

“We’re in fact forming a task force that would lay down the ground works of EO 651 in the next few months,” said Ramirez, in yesterday’s press briefing attended by commissioners Leon Montemayor and Joey Mundo, Sports Institute head Malou Cantancio and athletes’ priest Fr. Vic Uy. “We hope to start implementing this program maybe prior to 2008 or just before the Southeast Asian Games in Thailand.”

President Arroyo has already allotted P100 million – half coming from the General Appropriations and the rest from the Philippine Gaming Corp. – for the project.

Ramirez explained EO 651 will concentrate on five sports – chess, boxing, taekwondo, billiards and wushu – where the Filipinos are tipped to excel in international tournaments.

Ramirez said the move was in compliance with EO 651 signed by President Arroyo early last month and geared at developing a limited number of sports, including boxing and taekwondo, the best gold medal prospects in the Olympics.

EO 651 was instituted in line with Republic Act 6847, enacted to provide leadership and formulate policies in giving emphasis on grassroots, and EO 64, aimed at adopting a sports that would nurture healthy, disciplined and peaceful citizenry.

But Ramirez stressed that they would put emphasis on not just holding regional and national meets but also on massive education training, a scientific talent identification program and coaches’ education and training, among others.

Collision course SPORTING CHANCE By Joaquin M. Henson Friday, August 31, 2007

(STAR) USA and Argentina are likely to face off in the finals of the FIBA-Americas Olympic qualifiers but the tournament’s only two unbeaten teams will test each other in the quarterfinals this morning (Manila time) as a prelude to a climactic ending.

Four of the eight quarterfinalists will move on to the semifinals. USA and Argentina, both toting 6-0 records, are already assured of slots in the knockout semifinals. Brazil (3-3), Canada (3-3), Puerto Rico (2-4) and Uruguay (2-4) are in contention for the last two tickets. Tail-enders Mexico (1-5) and Venezuela (1-5) are out of it.

While today’s USA-Argentina is non-bearing, two games to watch in the bill are Puerto Rico versus Canada and Brazil versus Uruguay. The quotient system will apply to break a tie if Puerto Rico beats Canada and Uruguay defeats Brazil so the winning margins in both games are crucial.

If USA beats Argentina, it will play the No. 4 qualifier in the semis. If USA and Argentina survive the semis, they’ll officially qualify for the Beijing Olympics and meet again in the finals on Monday (Manila time).

Beating USA twice in a row may be next to impossible so Argentina could just go through the motions today. Argentina would rather take its chances and play hard against USA in the finals, not in the quarterfinals.

Argentina’s winning margin so far is 18.3 points compared to the USA’s 42.7. There’s no more explosive team than coach Mike Krzyzewski’s squad which is averaging 117.6 points in the tournament. Argentina’s scoring clip is 94.1. But the disparity in points given up is tantalizingly close. USA is surrendering 73.7 points while Argentina, 75.9, meaning they’re just about equally tough in defense. That makes for an interesting matchup because USA prefers to win with offense than defense. How USA will stand up to Argentina’s defense remains to be seen.

USA hasn’t been threatened at all. Its smallest winning margin was 27 against Mexico. Argentina, in contrast, beat Brazil by seven, Puerto Rico by 12 and Canada by 15. USA demolished Brazil by 37 and Puerto Rico by 39. From those comparisons, USA should beat Argentina by at least 20.

What’s going against Argentina is the absence of key players Manu Ginobili, Fabricio Oberto, Pepe Sanchez, Walter Hermann, Andres Nocioni and Ruben Wolkowyski – all NBA veterans who saw action on the fourth place team at the World Championships last year.

Only three players from Argentina’s gold medal team in the 2004 Athens Olympics are in the FIBA-Americas roster – Luis Scola, Carlos Delfino and Leonardo Gutierrez. In Athens, Argentina beat USA, 89-81, in the semis then crushed Italy, 84-69, for the gold medal. Carmelo Anthony, LeBron James and Amare Stoudemire are the three USA holdovers from the Olympic bronze medal team.

Only four players from Argentina’s last World Championship squad are back – Scola, Delfino, Gutierrez and Pablo Prigioni. By the way, the 6-8 Scola was recently signed by the Houston Rockets. Delfino, a 6-7 guard, plays for the Toronto Raptors.

It’s no wonder Scola and Delfino are showing the way for Argentina in the FIBA-Americas qualifiers. Scola is averaging 17.8 points and Delfino, 15.6. Others averaging in twin digits are 6-2 Paolo Quinteros (13.4) and 6-11 Roman Gonzalez (11.1). Both Delfino and Quinteros are hitting over 40 percent from three-point distance. Seven Argentine players are imports in the Spanish league. Antonio Porta, a 6-2 guard, plays in Russia.

At the World Championships last year, USA got back at Argentina, scoring a 96-81 decision in the battle for third place. Argentina lost a one-point squeaker to eventual world titlist Spain in the semis. By virtue of winning the title, Spain gained an automatic ticket to Beijing.

For USA , James has been phenomenal in his shot selection, shooting .797 from the floor and .700 from three-point range (14-of-20 triples). King James is USA’s second leading scorer with a 16.7 clip. Anthony’s average is 21.6 after sitting out the game against Uruguay yesterday.

James registered a perfect shooting game in mowing down Uruguay. He was 11-of-11 from the field, including 4-of-4 treys, and wound up with 26 points. The remarkable thing was he did it in only 14 minutes of playing time.

In Beijing, Argentina is expected to bring back its big guns in attempting to defend the title. USA, however, will be the logical choice to capture the gold, what with coach K finally getting the NBA stars comfortable in playing the international style.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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