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Beyond Basketball: The Philippines Needs More National Sports

Several times over the last few weeks, I caught myself thinking, “Maybe we really aren’t meant for basketball.”

This sentiment was expressed by others online when the 2018 Asian Games concluded. Gilas Pilipinas, even with the help of Cleveland Cavaliers’ guard Jordan Clarkson, placed 5th in the men’s basketball competition. Despite being hastily assembled, the team had no real excuse. It simply underperformed.

One can argue that the pressure and expectations for the national basketball team to do well is borderline unrealistic. What’s worth mentioning though is the copious amounts of support and attention it receives. From Filipinos all over the world, corporate sponsors, and even the government. The Gilas fanfare is simply unrivaled.

So when the Asiad ended and I saw unfamiliar names such as Yuka Saso, Bianca Pagdanganan, Lois Kaye Go, and Margielyn Didal making headlines, winning golds for the country, I aptly raised an eyebrow.

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And I thought, “Maybe it’s time for us to elevate other sports to the same level as basketball?”

Beyond Basketball: The Philippines Needs More National Sports

Massive Potential in Other Sports

If there was anything the last Asian Games showed us, it’s that despite very little support from our fellow countrymen, athletes from other sports can excel in international competition. Empowered women took center stage as the only gold medals we won came from female athletes. Hidilyn Diaz, our weightlifting pride, led the way by snatching our first gold medal in the Asiad. It was then followed by Filipino-Japanese golfer Yuka Saso who won our second gold in the golf women’s individual competition. Saso also teamed up with Bianca Pagdanganan and Lois Go to win another gold in the golf women’s team event. Finally, Margielyn Arda Didal pulled off a cinderella story by smashing the competition and winning the gold medal for the women’s skateboarding street event.

Looking back in history, we’ve actually had notable Filipinos show potential in sports less popular than basketball. There’s Paulino Alcantara, a Spanish-Filipino football player who played most of his career as forward for FC Barcelona. Come to think of it, football should be top of mind when we’re looking for another national sport. Although it’s gained popularity in the last decade thanks to the Philippine Azkals’ success, it’s still miles away from being on the same level as basketball.

When it comes to sustainable support, I recently read on the news that Senator Sonny Angara has been trying to push the passage of a law that will raise incentives for national athletes. After discussing with Asian Games medallists on how to improve the state of Philippine sports, he’s said to be set on giving higher allowances to athletes, as well as improving sports facilities in the country.

Although these initiatives are a step in the right direction and will provide a big boost to those who represent our country, Pinoy athletes are going to need more than that. We the people, the great majority of Filipinos, will need to do our part. We need to come out and show our support whenever we can. We need to show our athletes, win or lose, that we have their backs just like how we’re always there for Gilas Pilipinas.

This is Not a Competition Between Basketball and Other Sports

Let me be very clear. When I say we need other national sports aside from basketball, it’s not because we’re getting lackluster results from Gilas. We should simply learn how to replicate the love and investment we are giving to basketball in other sports. If basketball can teach us values like hard work, teamwork, and camaraderie as well as unite our country and Filipino communities around the world, then there is no reason why sports like football, golf, skateboarding, weightlifting, volleyball, and more can’t do the same. And in the end, we’ll all win.

This post was submitted by Davey, an avid reader of Flying Ketchup.

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