Leagues still hopeful despite latest disruption

August 05, 2020

STILL OPTIMISTIC. That's best describe the Philippine Basketball Association and two other professional leagues even after taking another disruption in their bids to take the first step towards resuming their respective pandemic-hit season.

The first move is resuming training sessions this month for the PBA, Chooks-to-Go Pilipinas 3x3 and the Philippines Football League after the easing of some health restrictions on pro sports the other week, something that brought smiles on the faces of coaches, players and officials of the three leagues.

But a week later, the said leagues found their timetables getting disrupted once more following a decision of  the government to place Metro Manila and several nearby provinces under modified enhanced community quarantine or MECQ starting Tuesday.

The government made the move in the wake of an urgent call from healthcare workers for a much-stricter quarantine protocols because of the rising number of  coronavirus cases.

In fact, Games and Amusements Board (GAB) chairman Baham Mitra said he's  optimistic that the MECQ will be lifted after two weeks, thus allowing  professional teams to proceed with non-scrimmage practices.

"Ako po, sa tingin ko magi-improve (ang situation), and sa tingin ko makaka-practice na tayo in two weeks' time," Mitra said during  the Philippine Sportswriters Association Sports Forum online where he was the special guest on Tuesday.

"Hopefully, before the end of the month, makapag-practice na rin," he also said. "Hindi naman talaga ito stop. This gives us a very good chance to sit down and work on the guidelines, and comply with the 14-day health monitoring."

The practices of professional leagues are guided by the joint administrative order recently signed by GAB, the Department of Health, and the Philippine Sports Commission.

Mitra admitted that their agency, and the leagues themselves, are eager to get sports started again in the country, after seeing other professional leagues abroad resume action.

Professional football leagues in Europe, such as the Bundesliga and the English Premier League, resumed in May and June. The National Women's Soccer League successfully completed its Challenge Cup in July, and the WNBA and NBA are ongoing in separate "bubbles" in Florida.

"Watching the resumption of sports in other countries, we are not only envious but also gigil to have it resume here as well," said Mitra.

Nonetheless, he stressed that safety and health are their primary priority.

"We're anticipating the possible problems and doing everything we can to make sure it will be safe," said Mitra.

The JAO mandates that a maximum of five players are allowed to train per session in basketball, and 10 players in football. It also requires the presence of a health officer during practices. In boxing matches, referees are required to have face masks and eyeshields. Testing is mandatory before any practice session or fight is held, and there is a strict no-audience rule in place across all sports events.

Mitra knows that zero transmission is all but impossible.

"We cannot guarantee that," he said. "Pero we're gonna do everything na hindi na magkaroon ng transmission."

"Ang pinaka-success, sa tingin ko, is 'yung ma-anticipate natin 'yung risk, and mai-put in place natin 'yung safety protocols na tama. Para sa akin, 'yun ang magiging success," he said.