Absalon and Saso

This is my Fair Play column for SunStar Cebu’s June 9 edition

In a 24-hour span, Philippine sports was rocked by the contrasting fates involving two national athletes—one had his career abruptly cut short, a victim of the senseless violence perpetrated by a rebel group that has been reduced to banditry and extortion; while the other grabbed the world’s attention and matched the record for being the youngest US Women’s Open champion.

On Sunday, Pinoy football fans were shocked to learn of the death of promising Far Eastern University player Keith Absalon, who once suited up for the U19 team and had dreams to play for the Azkals.

More shocking were the details of his grisly murder—he was cycling with relatives when an IED exploded. Worse, his family said he survived the blast, only to be finished off with a gunshot.

Described as a pillar for both his school and club team, Absalon had also gotten the attention of the national squad, earning a spot in the Asean Football Federation U19 championships in Indonesia.

“We are all still very much in shock. Kieth wasn’t just a player to us. He’s part of our FEU football family. We are all grieving his loss. Messages in our chat group are clear, he will never be forgotten,” Keith Santos, the FEU football program head and former Philippine team manager Vince Santos told Tiebreaker Times.

His family is crying out for justice, and I hope they get it. I hope, too, this would be the last senseless civilian death in the decades-long conflict waged by the New People’s Army, whose only accomplishment these days is being the President’s target.

DISBELIEF. Yuka Saso, a two-time Asian Games gold medalist, said she couldn’t believe that her name would be written in the storied US Women’s Open trophy alongside the other great players.

While the football community mourned on Sunday, on Monday, there was a reason to celebrate as Yuka Saso, only 19, won the US Women’s Open via playoff, two years after winning two gold medals in the Asian Games.

A new star was born, the US Women’s Open touted in its social media pages. And for most of the day, golf was the leading story in Philippine news.

A much welcome break of good news.

With women’s golf now part of the Olympics, we might just have another medal hopeful. The Olympics will have a 60-player field, which will be based on the rankings and as of May 31, she was at No. 22 in the Olympic ranking. As of June 7, she is at No. 9 in the Rolex world ranking.

With Saso in the team, this might just be our strongest Olympic delegation ever.

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