MANILA, Philippines – Will Gilas Pilipinas boycott the Incheon Asian Games?
Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas vice-chairman Ricky Vargas raised the possibility on Monday, Sept. 8, after being notified by the Olympic Council of Asia (OCA) that naturalized center Andray Blatche was ineligible to compete in the sportsfest.
At a press conference held in the afternoon, Vargas disclosed that the SBP received an e-mail from OCA stating that it would be strictly enforcing its three-year residency rule in the case of Blatche, who was naturalized earlier this year.
Based on OCA’s Eligibility Code, a naturalized athlete needs to establish residency in his new country for three straight years before being able to compete in all OCA-sanctioned competitions, including the Asian Games.
OCA regulations are a departure from the eligibility rules of the International Olympic Committee and the International Basketball Federation.
The IOC and FIBA requirement is that naturalized players hold passports of their new country and have not seen action for the national team in any international tournament of their previous one.
A native of Syracuse, New York, the 6-foot-10 Blatche was thus able to suit up for the Gilas Pilipinas squad in the FIBA World Cup currently ongoing in Spain.
With Blatche playing superbly on both ends of the floor, the Gilas cagers narrowly lost their first four games before prevailing in their last qualifying match, 81-79, over Senegal, for their first win in 40 years on the world basketball stage.
“Sad. They (OCA) probably saw how we played with Blatche,” Vargas noted. “The games are going to be done in Incheon, South Korea. If you compare how we played in the FIBA Worlds with Blatche, we’d probably have a bigger chance of winning the gold medal.”
He outlined three options in the wake of the OCA decision: compete in the Asian Games with Marcus Douthit, the country’s other naturalized player, snub the men’s basketball tournament, or seek legal redress such as the Court of Arbitration for Sport.
Douthit, who last played for the PH squad in last year’s FIBA Asia championships in Manila, however, also is doubtful for the 17th edition of the Asian Games kicking off on Sept. 19 in Incheon, South Korea.
He was not included in the provisional roster submitted by the Philippine Olympic Committee earlier to the Incheon Asian Games Organizing Committee where Blatche’s replacement must come from.
The POC, SBP consultant Mauricio “Moying” Martelino – a former Asian Basketball Confederation secretary general and the predecessor of FIBA Asia – and Philippine Sports Commission chairman Richie Garcia – the national team chef de mission – will make a last-ditch bid for Blatche’s inclusion during the Asian Games delegation registration meeting set for Thursday and Friday in Incheon.
Asian Games participants will be screened and approved during the crucial meeting.
“What’s frustrating, before they can even leave, an e-mail like this is out already, saying they will follow the OCA rules,” Vargas said.
“We also want to tell people that support Gilas that we’re doing our best to see to it that we get the best team out there. Second, puso Pilipino. We don’t want to get trampled upon in a situation that we are getting bullied by unseen hands,” he said.
Vargas did not name names but pointed out that “maybe (these are) countries that feel that we are already strong and we have a bigger chance of winning the gold medal in the Asian Games (with Blatche).” – Rappler.com