Give And Go
By Michael Angelo S. Murillo
The Year 2018 is about to end and in hindsight, as a sportswriter, there were a lot of standout moments in Philippine sports to remember.
Basketball surely had its share of memorable moments, both of the famous and the infamous kind.
The Philippine Basketball Association began the year by settling things following a rocky leadership crisis with the naming of erstwhile officer-in-charge and media bureau chief Willie Marcial as commissioner in place of embattled Chito Narvasa, who was asked by a majority of the board members to resign late in 2017 over “loss of confidence.”
PBA games were for the most part competitive with each of the three conferences won by teams under the San Miguel umbrella.
The San Miguel Beermen took the Philippine Cup over the Magnolia Hotshots Pambansang Manok, 4-1, in the finals. It was the Beermen’s fourth straight All-Filipino title.
The Barangay Ginebra San Miguel Kings, meanwhile, latched on to the midseason PBA tournament Commissioner’s Cup by edging San Miguel, 4-2, in the best-of-seven final series.
Magnolia eventually completed the SMC shutout in Season 43 of the PBA by winning the season-ending tournament Governors’ Cup, 4-2, over the Alaska Aces.
The young basketball Maharlika Premier Basketball League, meanwhile, continued to will its way into the national consciousness at the conclusion of its maiden season and into its second year while Alab Pilipinas got back to the top of the ASEAN Basketball League by winning the crown at the expense of Thai team Mono Vampire in May.
Gilas Pilipinas, right smack in the middle of its FIBA World Cup Asian Qualifiers campaign, started the year strong in its bid but hit some roadblocks after, including the now-infamous brawl with Australia in July that resulted in numerous suspensions on players and coaches as well as a major revamp of the team that saw Yeng Guiao named as new Gilas coach.
The nationals ended the year on a sour note as they fell in their matches in the fifth window of the qualifiers here at home that had them dropping in the standings in their grouping and needing to make things happen in the sixth big time and final window in February.
The year also saw Gilas player and PBA star Kiefer Ravena banned for a year and half for failing a FIBA substance test in May.
Collegiate ball had it solid, too, highlighted by the resurgence of the University of the Philippine Fighting Maroons in the University Athletic Association of the Philippines.
Riding the “Atin ‘To” battle cry, the Maroons made their move all the way to the finals of UAAP Season 81 after a 32-year finals appearance drought.
It made the UAAP finals a blockbuster in more ways than one.
They, however, would fall short, swept in the finals by the currently gold standard Ateneo Blue Eagles.
Also stamping their class in collegiate basketball was the San Beda Red Lions, who won their third straight title in the National Collegiate Athletic Association by dominating the Lyceum Pirates in the finals of Season 94.
In football, the Philippine Azkals made history by booking a place in the 2019 AFC Asian Cup with a gutsy victory over Tajikistan in March.
They made a coaching change in the middle of this year, selecting British Terry Butcher to replace American Thomas Dooley. Butcher though would reconsider his decision to take over the Azkals job less than two months after being named as coach.
In came World Cup coach Sven-Goran Eriksson who helped the team get back into the semifinals of the AFF Suzuki Cup and now channelling his focus on the Asian Cup where the Philippines is grouped with South Korea, China, and Kazakhstan.
In the local pro league, Ceres-Negros FC continued with its dominance by claiming another Philippines Football League title while Kaya FC-Iloilo was crowned the maiden winner of the Copa Paulino Alcantara.
The PFL though was hit by a number of pullouts in 2018, with the teams citing difficulty in maintaining a team in the league, among other things.
Ilocos United FC and Loyola Meralco Manila Sparks were no longer part of the league when the 2018 PFL season began while Davao Aguilas FC decided to leave the league after the season ended.
Reports have it though that the PFL has been rebranded as the Philippine Premier League, which will be under a new leadership but nonetheless is hoping to continue its thrust of helping in the development of football in the country.
The development is said to be garnering interest from possible new league entrants, something stakeholders, especially the fans who are hoping the sport gets its due chance in the sporting ecosystem of the country, are banking on.
Also noteworthy was the performance of the Philippine Malditas who are now through to the second round of the Tokyo Olympic qualifiers.
(To be continued)
Michael Angelo S. Murillo has been a columnist since 2003. He is a BusinessWorld reporter covering the Sports beat.