[PHOTO AT LEFT - Outgoing Philippine Sports Commission chair Harry Angping]

MANILA, JULY 10, 2010 (STAR) THE GAME OF MY LIFE By Bill Velasco - Philippine Sports Commission chair Harry Angping raised an old but very relevant point at a sports forum last week. He noted the depletion of athletes from developmental pools and national teams in sports across the board. It is an alarm that has been raised time and again, but not with this kind of urgency.

If we look back at what is considered the golden era of Philippine sports – the 1980’s to early 1990’s, we’ll notice that, for over a decade, the same names pop up again and again, regardless of whatever programs are supposedly in place by their respective national sports associations: Lydia de Vega, Paeng Nepomuceno, Efren Reyes, Isidro del Prado, Monsour del Rosario, Eric Buhain, Elma Muros and a fixed platoon of familiar A-list athletes. They competed for the country regardless of injury, age or mileage. Ready or not, they were our best, well beyond their optimum years.

The refrain has been repeated in recent years, and although some sports have brought in fresh blood, many have not, and the attempts to replicate the glory days of the past have failed, also because the other countries have gotten better in the interim.

The first problem is recruitment, as Angping reiterated. Outstanding athletes have to be caught early, right before they hit puberty, before they form bad habits or lose interest. The problem is that many parents refuse to allow their children to live in Metro Manila, where the national training facilities are. They look at the big city as a corrupting influence, one that will change their innocent children irreversibly for the worse. This despite the improvement in living conditions of our athletes (dorms that can house over 300 of them), and the removal of less wholesome establishments along the outerwall of Rizal Memorial Sports Complex.

Also, parents in the provinces want to be able to lean on their children for chores, errands and income. Children are obligated to give back whatever their parents provide them. In many cases, they are expected – no, conditioned – to take over farms and small businesses, or perhaps go overseas and be breadwinners even before they attend their first class. The familial ties and social pressure are so great, even the promise of athletic greatness cannot sever them. AdTech Ad

The next problem is that athletes do not earn much, particularly in their early years. If a national athlete receives an allowance of P15,000 to P 20,000 a month, most of them send half of that back to their parents in the provinces, leaving precious little for them to subsist on in a city where everything is more expensive. And yet, we expect athletes who are living off instant noodles to beat the best in the region. Our competition gets blood tests, vitamins, herbal remedies, measured and formulated nutrition and supplements. Our athletes are eating out of cardboard and styrofoam containers.

Psychologically, adolescent athletes have problems adjusting to city life and suffer homesickness. They’re used to their environment, no matter how sparse and simple it is. Their comfort zone is being around parents and siblings. It is a rare youth that can simply uproot to pursue a dream. This is one area where many casualties to the national cause come from.

One solution would be to strengthen the Philippine Sports Commission’s regional offices. A few NSA’s like the Amateur Boxing Association of the Philippines (ABAP), have set up training centers in areas where the talent pool is thick, solving the problem of homesickness. But for the PSC to do this, it needs the cooperation of the national sports associations, local governments and Department of Education. The latter two are the conduits to the biggest source of raw materials: students and out of school youth.

Next, the national sports association will have to want to work with the PSC. The agency was envisioned as a planning agency, but has been misinterpreted into being a piggy bank that their demand must accede to their every wish. But it doesn’t work that way. Like any line agency in government, the PSC must explain and justify its expenditure to the Commission on Audit. If NSA’s don’t liquidate, they can’t get their funds replenished. And when that happens, they can’t sustain talent development or recruitment.

Lastly, if the PSC and NSA’s cast a wider net, they will net more talent in the end. For every thousand who may fit a profile, perhaps only 10 or 20 may make it to the national pool. And from those 10 or 20, maybe one or two may have true potential. But we have to want it. The new government has to see that excellence in sports is a worthwhile endeavor, not only serving as inspiration for its citizens, but also as impetus for change.

If our political will extends to sports, it will make a huge difference. Hopefully, when they say the time for change is now, it means in sports, as well.

Peping: Some Noynoy people want me out AMITA O. LEGASPI, GMANews.TV 06/22/2010 | 08:11 PM Email the Editor Print Share This Share45

Some individuals around President-elect Benigno Simeon "Noynoy" Aquino III want his uncle Jose ‘Peping’ Cojuangco (photo at left) out of the "circle."

In an interview with radio dzBB Tuesday, Cojuangco said the issue regarding the supposed "Kamag-anak Inc." — a phrase referring to close friends and relatives who reportedly influence government policy — was being revived to ease him out.

"They want me out of the way kaya marami na silang nilalabas laban sa akin (that’s why they are raising issues against me)," he said.

The term "Kamag-anak Inc." was coined by critics of then President Corazon "Cory" Aquino, referring to her relatives who were allegedly meddling in government affairs and using their connections to advance their interests.

"Nung panahon ni Cory…lumabas na it was the people around Cory that started the story (on Kamag-anak Inc.) na gusto palang masolo si Cory, na hindi kami makaistorbo. And I feel it is the same thing now, hindi nila alam na yung mga nakapaligid ke Noynoy e gusto i-eliminate ako, lalo na ako," Cojuangco said.

(During Cory’s time, it emerged that people around her started the story about Kamag-anak Inc. so that they could have her to herself. I feel that it is the same thing now. The people don’t know that people around Noynoy want to have me out of the loop.)

He added those people were wary of him because they know that he would challenge their wrong decisions. He admitted that the President elect’s relatives could not really keep quiet or distance themselves from the incoming administration because they were among those who pushed for the former’s candidacy.

"I feel that kami na kamag anak nila, we owe it to Ninoy (former Senator Benigno Aquino Jr.) and Cory to take care of them because ito namang nangyari kay Cory it's not for their family, it's for the country," said Cojuangco.

The former Tarlac congressman pointed out that none of those who pushed for Aquino’s presidential bid asked for anything in return but he wants them to be recognized. "What about these people that joined the (campaign) para mailagay, mailuklok si Noynoy, who will now recognize them?" he said.

On another issue, Cojuangco denied that he pushed for the "Noy-Bi tandem" of Aquino and outgoing Makati mayor and Vice President-elect Jejomar Binay, although he admitted that he is closer with the Binay than Aquino’s runningmate, Senator Manuel "Mar" Roxas II.

"As far as Noy-Bi (issue is concerned), hindi tutuo yun. Ako ay Noy-Mar," he said.

He said his closeness with Binay started in 1978 when Aquino's father, the late Senator Benigno "Ninoy" Aquino Jr., who was then incarcerated, asked him to form a group, later known as Lakas ng Bayan (Laban), that would campaign for the latter who was allowed to join the elections for Interim Batasang Pambansa.

"One of the key people there was Jojo Binay. He was one of the lawyers that really helped me out all throughout that campaign…naging tuloy tuloy na ang samahan namin niyan and we became very, very close," he said. - RJAB Jr/KBK, GMANews.TV

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