SEPTEMBER 12, 2008
(STAR) SPORTING CHANCE By Joaquin M. Henson - Former Philippine Olympic Committee (POC) president Col. Julian Malonso and 1952 Helsinki Olympic cager Rafael (Paing) Hechanova are two outspoken observers of Philippine sports. They’ve witnessed the best and worst of times in the country’s sports history.

What’s more, both were once active athletes who played basketball at a high level. Their passion for the game led them to share their thoughts on the state of Philippine sports in the wake of the recent Beijing Olympics.

Malonso, 84, said “some politicians are using sports for their political ends” and “sports leaders should inspire athletes to play more for love of sports and country rather than for money or publicity” while Hechanova, 80, called for the merger of the POC and Philippine Sports Commission (PSC) to create a sports governing authority (SGA) like the Philippine Amateur Athletic Federation of yesteryears.

Malonso said he speaks with the voice of experience, having been involved in sports since the Philippines ‘ Olympic debut in 1924 with one athlete and Dr. Regino Ylanan as the flag-bearer, head of delegation and coach. He attended the 1980 Moscow Olympics, which the Philippines boycotted with the Free World.

Here’s Malonso: “Many countries improved much while we lagged behind. Historically, sports in the Philippines has been controlled by politicians from President Quezon, Jorge Vargas to Don Antonio de Las Alas although politics is prohibited by the IOC. Fortunately, the Church does not interfere because religious institutions are also prohibited from getting involved in sports by the IOC. Businessmen who exploit athletes are banned, too.

“Some sports leaders are more concerned about just joining athletic delegations. One cause of our failure is corruption. Like government, like sports.

“The PSC is a government entity duplicating the powers of NSAs. It is the dumping place of political supporters. It was created by politicians supposedly for the grassroots but the funds are not spent mainly for this purpose.

“The real objective of sports is to develop the youth spiritually, morally, mentally and physically. Winning medals is only secondary. But the press publishes the medals won and the winners of championships and the public is more concerned about them.

“We should not blame the athletes for not winning medals as long as they did their best. We should limit our participation to sports where we excel.”

* * * Hechanova, for his part, traced the root cause of the problem to the structure of the sports organization.

“We have the POC as the SGA with no money and the PSC with the money but no authority. A Marcos decree established the POC as the SGA. In other countries, the Olympic committee is charged only with promoting the Olympic ideals (now obsolete) and accrediting the participation of athletes in the Olympics. Running the Olympics is the work of the International Sports Federations (ISFs).

“The PSC is a creation of Congress which can amend the PSC charter to provide for an institution devoid of political control by converting the PSC into a corporate entity, run by executives of various sports departments on a four-year term with reelection for another four-year term coinciding with the Asian Games or the Olympics as a measure of their performance.

“A policy Board of Directors, like in Australia, will be composed of educators, sportsmen and corporate managers from the private sector in a majority role with the Department of Local Government and the Department of Education representatives in a minority. Other countries even have a Department of Sports with cabinet rank and included in the national budget.

“The policy Board can be appointed by the President upon the recommendation of a Council similar to the present judiciary and Bar Council. The SGA program will have three directions – promotion or development of the dream, competition and training.

“Promotion will be done by showing films of athletes who reach their ‘impossible dreams’ through hard work and sacrifice. The SGA shall establish regional offices in the 12 or 13 regions headed by a regional director who will promote sports, coordinate and hold tournaments and recommend gifted and talented athletes for further training. The SGA will also set the direction for emphasis in sports where we have a reasonable chance to excel.

“The NSAs will be under the SGA in handling the technical training of the mass athletes. The NSAs used to claim they were autonomous. How can they follow the ISFs and not follow our own SGA?

“The gifted and talented athletes will go into a training pool where they will be given the proper incentives to excel. Foreign coaches will be tapped for them to achieve their potential. They should aim initially at surpassing the Asian Games record and eventually, the world and Olympic records. How can we expect our athletes to win an Olympic gold medal when in most cases, they have not reached the level of an Asian Games champion?

“The time to start is now. Postpone the election for a POC president. Let us start discussing this in detail in a summit and have Congress act.”

You may disagree with Malonso and Hechanova but you can’t deny they’re setting a fine example – as octogenarians – of trying to find a way to upgrade the quality of Philippine sports. Malonso and Hechanova are issuing a challenge for sports officials to get their act together.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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