Provided by Misael Perez
The title may sound a bit dramatic but it may or may not be the truth. It remains however that most of the time the truth is difficult to bear. What has been tru lately is that post-SEAG athletics is mired in resentment, feuding and allegations.
In his first statement after SEAG 2011, Go Teng Kok, and President of the Philippine Amateur Track and Field Association (PATAFA) was quick at demanding the Philippine Olympic Committee (POC) and the Philippine Sports Commission (PSC) take responsibility for the poor showing of the Track and Field contingent at the recent games. POC’s declaration of persona non grata of Go and his eventual expulsion had distracted him from attending to the needs of his National Sports Association (NSA).
In blogs and newspaper interviews, track and field national team coaches like Roselyn Hammero were quick to defend their NSA president and blamed the poor support of the government’s sport agency, the PSC. She has been responsible for the accommodations of the national team by the Laguna local government unit (LGU) to train and lodge in their facilities. Her initiative and the LGU support did the athletes well.
In other interviews we also have national team athletes like Danilo Fresnido and Arniel Ferera lamenting the fact that they lacked supplies like shoes, vitamins and other training gear. Those in Baguio, whom I met with prior to the SEAG, were spending their own money to buy their much needed supplements.
Last August I bumped into Commissioner Richie Garcia in the Philsports oval while he was making his ocular inspection of the facilities. In our conversation he explained to me his plans of replacing the football field with synthetic surface in order to provide high level soccer games in the stadium. I then asked how throwing events of track and field may take place if the field is synthetic. I also added that since Rizal memorial stadium can no longer be used for throwing events also then there is no place in Metro Manila to hold standard track and field meets. I believe he is deeply considering this dilemma but it is clear to me that our government sports agency, the PSC, is unwittingly “killing” track and field.
I say unwittingly first because it was the previous PSC administration of Harry Angping that came up with the brilliant idea of “selling” usage rights to de La Salle University (DLSU) in exchange for the university’s funding of the stadium’s rehabilitation. The rehabilitation under the Angping administration’s plan was to convert the track oval into a world-class football field at the expense of track and field. When the Garcia administration took over it found itself in a legal quagmire since there were unsettled matters in the contract between DLSU and Angping’s PSC. In a conversation with a DLSU sports official, I think La Salle got the raw end of the deal.
If the new PSC administration is giving priority to Philippine soccer, other sports will have to understand it in the same way we understand the privilege of basketball being the country’s premier sport. Soccer is now on the upsurge mainly because of the Azkal’s popularity. The PSC will have to give priority support for the game because the public wants it. The people of this country are showing popular fan-based support for the sport. It will be unfair of government not to give soccer priority support. Track and field is my passion but nationhood comes first. There is a need to support the popular swelling of soccer. If PSC gives it priority, for the good of the country, then so be it.
PSC may be “killing” track and field. Maybe the PATAFA president and his coaches are right for blaming the lack of government support. Maybe however, what is really happening is that it is simply a matter of kicking a dying horse. In a Pinoymiler post- https://pinoymiler.wordpress.com/2011/11/20/its-not-the-worst/ you will see that in 1983 and 1985 we won 11 and 10 SEAG gold medals respectively during the Gintong Alay era. From 1987 to 1999 in seven SEAG meets we won an average of 5 Gold medals. This is the Go Teng Kok era already. An upswing came to an average of 7 gold medals from 2003 – 2009 in 4 SEAG meets. Then we won only 2 Gold medals this year, thanks to the splendid performances of Maristela Torres and Rene Herrera. They saved the day.
So a downtrend is evident. One also has to wonder how popular the sport stands nowadays. I don’t think the nation will rank it as popular as baseball, swimming or Taekwondo – and Athletics is a compulsory Olympic sport.
What is also evident is that PATAFA can hardly get commercial sponsorship to fund its competitions. Colgate had pulled out of the PATAFA weekly relays last year. The NSA was just fortunate enough that last year, Jolly Gomez, now PSC Commissioner, helped fund the relays just to keep it afloat. If the sport is not widely popular then why will corporate sponsorship jump in? What exposure mileage will benefit them?
In the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) Member Federation Manual (you can Google it), it is the primary responsibility of the NSA to “[…] obtain and manage the financial, human and technical resources required for the functioning of the federation and the sport.” One can obviously surmise, after reading the manual that it is the NSA, in this case, PATAFA, who bears the sole responsibility of creating and managing its resources: funding, members, coaches, athletes, facilities, equipment, material etc.
The NSA should not be dependent on the government, i.e. PSC, for its resources to keep it afloat. PSC assistance is mainly that – assistance. The NSA must be resourceful and self-sufficient. PSC assistance is merely a bonus to the NSA. In the present case our national team coaches blame the government for lack of support like it is the government’s duty to support the NSA. If so, aren’t the national team coaches like Hammero biting the hand that feeds them when they criticize the PSC for lack of support?
Going back to the pinoymiler blogpost: in the Gintong Alay era we were track and field giants, given the 10-11 SEAG gold medals won during that time. For more than 20 years to this day it has been the Go Teng Kok era and the prestige of the Gintong Alay glory days never returned. In fact we know there is a decline but no one wants to admit it. Therefore, maybe Go Teng Kok should also issue a statement that he too bears responsibility for the decline. It might be high time to man up and be accountable. The truth may hurt but I hope it sets him free.