The local sports community is abuzz with the opening of the new season of the two foremost collegiate leagues in the country. The 89th season of the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA), the oldest collegiate league in the Philippines, unfurled on June 22 , while the United Athletic Association of the Philippines (UAAP) ushered in its 76th season with an elaborate ceremony today.
We Filipinos love sport. Someone somewhere said that basketball is really the national sport of Filipinos (In reality it is arnis based on Republic Act 9850). The nation is on a standstill every time Manny Pacquiao fights. We cheer the Azkals, the Malditas and the Volcanoes every time they compete in international tournaments. Some of our athletes are also among the best in the world and yet there is something very wrong in Philippine sports. We performed dismally in the last Olympics and the dream of winning the country’s very first gold medal in that quadrennial meet remains just that – an elusive dream. Even our performance in the regional Southeast Asian Games deteriorated, from being no.1 in 2005 to finishing 6th in the 2011 edition of the meet.
So what went wrong? It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that we need more than raw talent and the cheers from our countrymen to excel in the international sports arena. To produce athletes of international caliber requires a workable program, good coaches, proper nutrition, cutting-edge science and frequent exposures to competitions abroad. Achieving these goals requires money and that’s where the problem begins. Philippine sports, which is highly politicised, reeks of corruption.
Many national sports associations (NSAs) are under the patronage of corrupt politicians. They simply serve as cash cows to them. There is money to fund the athletes’ needs, but corruption always gets in the way. Purge the system of corruption and without doubt the Philippines will excel in international sports.