Dark Clouds

Lipa City, Batangas May 30, 2015 Dark Clouds Unofficially, the 28th Southeast Asian Games has started with some football games in Singapore. Officially, the biennial multi-sports meet will open on June 5 with 11 countries including our beloved Philippines battling for gold medals and the honor of having the country’s flag raised and national anthem played. In a few days, the bulk of our 466-strong delegation is ready to leave, do battle and win us some golds and pride. In the bottom of our collective hearts, we all wish them the best luck and say a little prayer for their journey. They will need it because the road our athletes will take is treachearous. Believe it or not, our top sports officials say otherwise. Philippine chief of mission Julian Camacho predicted before leaving last week that we will rake in about 50 gold medals. He said his calculations came from the vetting of the national sports associations fielding a team in the SEAG. He counted athletics, basketball, billiards, boxing, cycling, fencing, gymnastics, judo, rowing, sailing, practical shooting, softball, taekwondo, tennis, triathlon and wushu as the sports expected to strike golds. Really? Let’s state some facts here. The last time we won 50 or more golds was when we hosted the SEAG exactly a decade ago and ended up harvesting a 113-84-94 (gold-silver-bronze) haul and clinching the overall title for the first in a long while. It was all downhill from there as we finished sixth in the 2007 edition in Thailand (41-91-96), fifth in 2009 in Laos (38-35-51) and in 2011 in Indonesia (36-56-77) and a catastrophic seventh place in 2013 in Myanmar (29-34-38). For the last five stagings in the decade-long span, we experienced debacle after debacle. The last one in Myanmar was the worst. So what have we done special in the last two years to be suddenly optimistic? The question really is why do we suck in sports when we produced the likes of a Manny Pacquiao? And a world-beater in Wesley So, before he decided to leave us in favor of representing the United States. And a Paeng Nepomuceno. An Efren “Bata” Reyes. A Eugene Torrre. A Lydia de Vega-Mercado. A Caloy Loyzaga. It will take me days to explain everything but I will try to be as concise and simple as possible. The national sports association (NSA) runs the training and does the selection of our athletes. The Philipppine Olympic Committee is the mother organization of all NSAs. The Philippine Sports Commission gives funds to NSAs, which in turn funds the athletes’ training. Whether small or big the fund is, it will be up to the NSAs to use it. Some fail, some succeed. Most are reliant on the PSC money alone while some, like basketball, boxing, taekwondo, football and volleyball among others are self-sufficient and get their own funding from big private corporations. The government can’t do it all. They give what meager money they can give. So we’re lucky some NSAs have made the initiative to get corporate backing. So it all boils down to money. Hard to run when you have no fuel. So we pour in money and we solve part of the problem. Not all though. Some say it’s the culture. Like Pacquiao, we all need to challenge ourselves if we’re an athlete or coach and not be content in what one has done thus far. Some say its our leaders. Heck, us media are to be blamed too for sometimes painting a wrong picture. But let’s get back to the SEAG where I will do my own counting. Centerpiece athletics, thanks to the efforts of track and field chief Popoy Juico and the Philippine Sports Commission’s Fil-Am deluge, they have the ability to win about eight golds. We will lose in all sports but not in men’s basketball because our Gilas Cadet will sweep it. Billiards is also a sure thing but expect some upsets. Boxing should win us some especially our world-class lady pugs. Taekwondo and wushu are traditional goldmines so expect them to win not less than two each. Fencing and cycling will face challenges but should deliver. Softball? We thaught everyone in this region the sport so why can’t win this? The rest? We’re expecting some surprise gold medals. So overall, we’ll be lucky to win 30 to 35. Making the 40-gold plateau will be a big bonus. Finishing fifth isn’t also bad the way our neighbors are improving. Now 50? That’s a stretch. But hey, this is a democractic country. Mr. Camacho and our other officials have the right to say what they want. Let’s just hope they’re not giving us false hopes. Because if you ask me, I see dark clouds looming over the horizon. Behind it, I see a storm coming. And it is named “Debacle.” Follow me on Twitter: @JoeySVillar seag (Photo courtesy of PSC)

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