Mendoza: International sportswriter

Al Mendoza
·2 min read

NEW York comes to mind again because of the pandemic now bedeviling the Big Apple. A dear childhood buddy of mine living there for nearly 30 years has succumbed to Covid-19.

Renato E. O. Valdez was his name. My classmate from Grade 1 to fourth year high school. Class salutatorian. My basketball playmate. Glass mate. He was in the pink of health when the goddamn virus struck him down just very recently.

Renato (we addressed each other by our first names from elementary to high school) and I were together in New York in October 2019. One whole day of eating and chatting just was inadequate to reminisce on the good old days. Indeed, you don’t know when the thief of the night comes a-visiting. A prayer for Renato’s soul, please?

Speaking of New York, I was there first in 1982.

As Recah Trinidad would put it, “It’s like this.”

Florencio “Campo” Campomanes (bless his soul) bought me a Sabena Airlines ticket to cover the 25th Chess Olympiad in Lucerne, Switzerland.

Set from Oct. 29 to Nov. 16, 1982, the Olympiad also scheduled the election of the Fide (World Chess Federation) president, with Campo as the lone foe of Iceland’s Fridrik Olafsson.

Despite being the underdog, Campo pulled off an upset, in the process becoming the first Filipino—and Asian for that matter—to become Fide president.

My fellow sportswriters Jun Engracia (Daily Express), Eddie Alinea (Philippine News Agency), the late Roger Flores (Times Journal) and I (Bulletin Today) had helped Campo tremendously in the campaign. Our fractured Spanish won the game-changing votes from South America.

“With you around, I knew I’d win,” said Campo to me. “You are going to New York as your prize.”

In New York, during an arrival/dinner party in my honor, my mother’s brother, Tio Amading(+), spoke and told the guests: “I am privileged to present to you our special guest tonight, my dearest nephew, the international sportswriter who is fresh from Switzerland, Mr. Alfonso Soriano Mendoza.”

First time I heard of an animal called international sportswriter. But was I? Still am?