(This is my Fair Play column for SunStar Cebu’s July 26 edition)
Yet another failure of Gilas Pilipinas has our basketball-manic country up in arms. This after losing the Southeast Asian gold medal for the first time in a generation.
The fans will keep asking the questions and the stakeholders will keep ignoring them, ensuring a continuity that while basketball reigns supreme in the country, the sport can never get rid of its self-imposed shackles.
But still I hope and I wish that the success of the Philippine women’s national football team will teach the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas (SBP) how to run a sport properly.
You see, while the SBP is the national sport association for basketball in the country, we really don’t have a national sport association in the strictest sense of the word.
Majority of basketball events—tournaments and grassroots programs included—exists outside of the SBP, which is basically a Manila-based organization whose main concern are the big leagues.
Contrast that with football. You can’t hold a local tournament, even an inter-barangay tournament without having it sanctioned by your regional football association, or in the case of Cebu, the Central Visayas Regional Football Association (RFA).
What’s the advantage? They will provide you with the list of qualified referees and the standard rates. Your event gets calendared, making sure there are no conflicts. And any misconduct in your event means their punishment will last not only with your event but with all events sanctioned by the local body.
Then there are referee and coaching courses. Refs and coaches need to be licensed and for some tournaments coaches and referees need to have a certain license.
In other words, there’s a structure. That does not exist in our basketball-manic country. Any Tom, Dick and Harry who’s the team owner’s friend can coach a basketball team, any former player can get a whistle in a basketball tournament.
It’s time for SBP to do its job and be the national sport association for basketball in the country, and not just for Manila. Have local representation, who like football, will have all tournaments, coaching programs and referee programs under its wing.
Sounds impossible? Yep, as impossible as beating Australia in women’s football. In 2009, we lost to Australia, 14-0, in 2022, we beat Australia, 1-0.
What has the Philippine Football Federation (PFF) done since 2009? So many things. The RFAs had coaching and referee courses, under the auspices of the PFF. Each RFA had to come up with a team for the Festival of Football regional tournaments, where the best young players were selected to form the Visayas, Mindanao, National Capital Region and Luzon delegations who will compete in the national edition.
From the national edition, a pool was formed and this pool had to compete with a separate pool culled from US camps. Yes, there were some hiccups, but at least you get to see the structure formed for years and the result in 2022.
There’s no such thing in basketball. Basketball relies on an Old Boys Network where various programs, not connected with each other, spots a potential player and one coach contacts another, “I have a player for you, what do I get?”
Football in the country has been gaining major grounds, especially in the women’s game, while basketball has suffered tremendous setbacks lately. I think its time for SBP to think out of the box and look at the PFF as a model as to how it should restructure its national presence.