JAKARTA, Indonesia ? More than winning titles in the Asia Pacific Little League championships here, Philippine officials are obsessed with the country regaining its credibility in the sport.
The Philippines has been hounded by scandals and controversies over the past 18 years and the stigma, according to Little League Philippines assistant district administrator Chito Gonzales, remains until now.
Gonzales said that, despite its status as one of the biggest grassroots-based programs in the country, Little League has yet to lure a big sponsor since the scandal of 1992 when the Philippines, then represented by Zamboanga, was stripped of the World Series crown.
The world body found out that Zamboanga fielded over-age players in the boys? 11-12 tournament and took back the championship.
?No matter how we win, we feel that Philippine Little League will always be remembered for that scandal of 1992,? Gonzales said.
The Philippines won its first World Series softball title in 2003 when Bacolod City captured the Junior League (13-14) crown in Kirkland, Washington.
But the past few years have also seen other controversies like fielding bloated delegations and team officials overstaying in the United States after the World Series tournaments.
?It really doesn?t help that these things are happening,? said Gonzales.
Although they are the body recognized by World Series International, the LLP has no control over the number of members of the delegation for each team in the same way that it has no responsibility to seek funds for Philippine teams bound to the World Series.
The organization though needs to make sure that only eligible players are donning the national colors.
And LLP district administrator Jolly Gomez, who took over from the late Serge Bernal four years ago, has taken over the task of curbing cheating even in the Philippine Series level.
Gomez has gone to the extent of visiting the players in their home province and interviewing their parents.
Gomez thinks the issue strikes the very core of sports, which is promoting honesty and character development.
?We may not win all the time, but now we always play by the rules, which, for us, is more important,? Gomez said.