Saturday, September 6, 2014

‘It happened to us before’: Eligibility issues of Filipino naturalized players is not new

The Philippine national men’s basketball team is currently fighting for naturalized star Andray Blatche to be eligible for Gilas Pilipinas in the 2014 Asian Games in South Korea following the organizers’ decision to disqualify him due to residency issues.

This is not the first time that the national basketball team has experienced such incident, as the country also lost some naturalized players when they were deemed ineligible in an Olympic qualifying tournament in 1983.

Naturalized players Jeff Moore and Dennis Still, tasked to bolster the Northern Consolidated-backed Philippine squad, were then not allowed to play midway through the tournament.

“It happened to us before,” Franz Pumaren, member of that national team that played in Hong Kong, told InterAksyon in a telephone interview.

“Ang masakit, andun na kami sa Hong Kong nung sinabi ng organizers na ineligible sina Moore and Still. Pinalaro muna kami tapos nung naipanalo na yung tatlong laro, biglang sinabi na hindi sila eligible.”

Because of the eligibility issues, the Philippines’ first three wins were forfeited and the Filipinos missed the opportunity of qualifying for the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics.

Pumaren hopes that the issue on Blatche will be resolved soon for that unfortunate event not to happen again.

“Mabuti pa nga ito nasabi na agad sa kanila. Baka puwede pa nila maayos o magawaan ng paraan,” added Pumaren.

The eligibility issue on Blatche was relayed to the Philippine Olympic Committee and the Philippine Sports Commission by an official of the Olympic Council of Asia.

In a letter, OCA pointed that for a player to represent a country in the Asian Games, he/she should be: “a citizen of the country and have lived there for a period of not less than three years” or “they are naturalized in the country and have permanent residence there.” Organizers also ruled out competitors born outside of Asia, unless they meet the first two conditions.

But Gilas Pilipinas head coach Chot Reyes said they have reviewed the rules and believes that Blatche should not be affected by the three-year residency requirement.

“There is a question, may mga naglalabas na may rules sa Asian Games na kailangan three years residence. We checked it and it’s not,” Reyes said to a group of sportswriters.

“It doesn’t apply (to basketball). I think it applies to baseball. It doesn’t apply to us. Or, it applies to a player who had previously represented a different country,” he added. “Yun nga yung kung magri-represent ka ng ibang bansa, kailangan mong mag-establish ng three years residency. It doesn’t apply to Andray.”

FIBA has already expressed its support to the Philippines, and declared that Blatche should be eligible to play.


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