HANGZHOU, China — The Philippine flag starts flying in the Athletes Village, signaling the start of the 19th Asian Games in this enchanting city at the heart of the Zhejiang Province.
But the appeal of the Philippine Olympic Committee about the inclusion of the four basketball players in the national roster is not yet over.
POC president Abraham “Bambol” Tolentino said he is still fighting for the inclusion of Calvin Abueva, Jason Perkins, Mo Tautuaa and Terrence Romeo in the Gilas Pilipinas squad that will compete in the prestigious quadrennial meet starting Tuesday at the Hangzhou Olympic Center Stadium here.
After a fruitless campaign in the FIBA Basketball World Cup two weeks ago, Gilas head coach Chot Reyes stepped down while other stars like Jordan Clarkson, Dwight Ramos, Rhenz Abando, Kai Sotto and AJ Edu already returned to their respective mother teams.
Worse, Jamie Malonzo and Brandon Ganuelas-Rosser got injured, prompting the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas to scamper for replacements.
The federation tapped Abueva and Perkins to replace Malonzo and Ganuelas-Rosser while enlisting Tautuaa and Romeo despite not being part of the 37-man pool that it submitted to the Hangzhou Asian Games Organizing Committee.
The organizers sent feelers that they will not allow the substitution that was done way past the deadline last 25 July. Gilas coach Tim Cone braced for the worst-case scenario and recruited four players in the initial list in Kevin Alas, Chris Ross, CJ Perez, and Arvin Tolentino while tapping Marcio Lassiter as replacement for the injured Roger Pogoy.
The five new recruits already reported for training and will see action when Gilas battle the Changwon LG Sakers in a friendly duel on Friday at the Philsports Arena. They are also expected to join the team when it leaves for China on Saturday.
But the POC chief said his appeal for Abueva, Perkins, Tautuaa, and Romeo is not yet dead until the lineup has been finalized during the team managers meeting a day before Gilas battle Bahrain in the opener on Tuesday.
“We will push it a thousand times. We will push it every minute and every time they deny, we will make an appeal,” Tolentino said shortly after presiding over the first flag-raising ceremony together with chess legend Eugene Torre, deputy chief of mission Nikki Cheng, and POC legal chief Wharton Chan.
The appeal of the men’s basketball team is the last appeal of the local Olympic council.
The HAGOC had already denied the appeal of golf, fencing, gymnastics, and football while that of men’s basketball remains hanging in limbo.
The National Golf Association of the Philippines failed to include the replacements for Chanelle Avaricio and Princess Superal while the Fencing Association of the Philippines failed to replace Alexa Lareabal, Hae Abella and Lee Ergina.
Gymnastics Association of the Philippines’ bid to include Levi Jung Ruivivar as replacement for Emma Lauren Malabuyo also got denied.
Still, Tolentino stressed that the athletes are pumped up and ready to wage war in the biggest and most prestigious sports spectacle in Asia.
“It’s going to be the start of the warm hosting and showcasing of Hangzhou for the Asian Games. We’re praying for a fair and successful sports spectacle,” said Tolentino, adding that there will be no political tension between the Filipino athletes and the host country when the opening buzzer of the Asian Games sounds off.
“There will be no politics here. Sports unites, not divides, people.”