THIS last quarter itself, there will be over 750 races to be held mainly in Europe and North America. Chris Robb, the founder of Mass Participation World, claims that around 4.5 million runners have raced since the pandemic rudely appeared in March of 2020 and only five actual Covid cases were recorded among the participants.
Here, in the Philippines, the pandemic has given birth to a cycling tribe. Out of the blue, biking has become the norm; runners have given up their lanes to the two-wheelers. City governments all over the country have constructed or demarcated bicycle lanes as though it was going out of fashion. How much planning has been put into this is another matter.
My recent conversation with the Iron Princess, Princess Galura of Sunrise Events Ironman Group, revealed that they are ready to hold the three Ironman races in Davao, Subic and Cebu next year. All she needs is the blessing of the local government and the other authorities such as the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases and the Games and Amusements Board for elite sports events.
“The need for support of the local government is crucial for such an event as Ironman. We have proven that the social and economic impact for the host city is so remarkably high and advantageous,” stated Galura.
Indeed, due to the success of the Ironman races, all three host cities—Cebu, Subic and Davao—have received due recognition as Destination of the Year by the Philippine Sports Tourism Awards in its six-year span. Hosting such a sporting event brings in millions of pesos from thousands of participants from all over the country and abroad.
Galura hopes that the Ironman series of events can be held in Davao in March 2022, Subic in April and Cebu in August after a two-year absence. “We know we have the capability to manage these events well, following strict protocols and yet keeping the excitement high,” Galura said.
Meanwhile, the lowering of quarantine levels in most key cities in the country augers well for the sporting community. Bubbled events have been successfully held for basketball and volleyball in a number of Luzon cities with sheer determination and passion from all the relevant sectors. Kudos to the Samahang Basketbol Philippines and Philippines National Volleyball Federation.
However, I am at a loss for words in describing the inaction of the organizers to confirm the holding of the Philippine Football League (PFL) even after two or three postponements. The six qualified teams have been preparing for this professional league for months, and not seeing action in a simple round robin tournament does not speak much and good of the officials of the world’s most popular sport in the Philippines.
Surely, the bubble would not burst even before the first whistle. Dependence on a single venue for a league of this magnitude lacks foresight in planning. Not much was done to strike a happy balance between the national league and the national team commitments. The Azkals are due for heavy duty in preparations for the Suzuki Cup in December. A few hundred footballers of the six professional teams, meanwhile, wait hopelessly for the league to happen in November.
My instincts tell me that sacrificing our Azkals to play in a cramped 22-day local league is too big a risk. There will not be sufficient time for a centralized training which other teams such as Thailand, Vietnam, Indonesia and Malaysia have long started. Injuries to players are also bound to happen in the PFL.
Perhaps, the Philippine Football Federation (PFF) can come out with a compromise. National duty comes first. No ifs and buts. All national players report to camp. All others in the six teams must play in the league. Warning: Any team not agreeing to this will be suspended for future tournaments.
Without naming teams, surely there are enough talents for the more elite clubs who are so heavily laden with national players, to field a formidable eleven in any game. PFF should still allow clubs to register new players to replace those from the clubs who would be involved in the Suzuki Cup.
No more procrastinations, please. You will run out of time again.