Working out a comeback | Inquirer Sports

Working out a comeback

Aiming for health task force’s nod, PBA prepares practice protocols as it seeks a pathway to season resumption

An “upbeat and hopeful” Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) will submit its health and safety protocols to the government interagency task force (IATF) overseeing the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) crisis in a bid to open regular workouts to its players, a move that the league sees as a path toward finally resuming its interrupted season.

The Philippine Football Federation (PFF) also reiterated that it was working toward crawling out of the hiatus imposed by the pandemic, buoyed by tournaments around the world that have either begun practice sessions or actual matches.


These developed even as another sports official discounted the possibility of a return to competition without a vaccine for the virus responsible for shutting down the global sports scene: Philippine Tennis Association (Philta) president Antonio Cablitas on Wednesday said he won’t sanction any tennis tournament unless a cure is developed.

The PBA will forward to the IATF the protocols it set for a return to action, which commissioner Willie Marcial proposed to the board in a lunch meeting on Wednesday at the league office in Pasig City.


Reacting to Marcial’s “very thorough presentation,” PBA board chair Ricky Vargas said the league governors were “very upbeat” and “were eager and ready to go back to the court.”

“We want the PBA back and running as soon as possible,” Vargas added on Wednesday during a videoconference call with journalists.

“Certain improvements [around the country] really create a sense of hope for everyone in the country, that’s why we are preparing this early just in case the government allows us [to return], first in practices and eventually in games,” PBA vice chair Bobby Rosales said.

The target date for the decision to resume the season, however, remains in August, league officials said.

“The mood was very upbeat,” Vargas said in describing the board meeting that tackled the league’s proposal at the PBA office on Wednesday.

“I felt that everybody is eager and ready, especially among the governors, to go back to the court. But it has to be safe. It has to be a safe place for our players and families and for also the fans if we do go that far.”

Looking to do the same

Among the protocols, which Marcial described as even more stringent than the one prescribed by International Basketball Federation (Fiba) for actual games, include hospital-level sanitizing and disinfecting of training venues, limiting of workout participants to just six people per session (four players, a trainer/conditioning coach and a safety officer), enforced social distancing and no-shower policy (players must go home within five minutes after their session), and, more importantly, persistent testing every 10 days, alternating swab-rapid-swab tests within a month.


“We want players to be assured that when he returns from practice, he is free from the disease and he is safe,” Vargas said.The PBA will submit the protocols to the IATF for approval on Thursday.

“Hopefully we can start practicing by July,” Marcial said.

But the return to practice is merely a prelude to the PBA’s main goal, which is to resume its milestone 45th season, which was suspended after just one game because of the global pandemic.

The PFF is looking to do the same—get players back on the pitch for its Philippines Football League (PFL) season. Both leagues reflected the optimism of athletes who are eager to get back to competition.

‍The Inquirer recently randomly polled more than two dozen athletes across various sports and a majority (64 percent) said they were willing to get back to action even without a vaccine for the virus.

Netters out of work

The Philippine Sports Commission (PSC) and the Philippine Olympic Committee were not as bullish about a return to competition before the end of the year as long as no cure was developed yet for COVID-19. And tennis is taking heed.

“I can’t really risk it, Philta will be responsible for it,” Cablitas told the Inquirer on Wednesday. “We will not go beyond what is allowed by the government and top sports bodies.”

That means the country’s tennis pros, like Francis Casey Alcantara, Jeson Patrombon and Alberto Lim Jr., won’t have a revenue stream until at least the end of the year. And for pros who are under the national team and receive allowances from the PSC, these stipends will be slashed as a cost-saving measure.

“We can’t do anything about it, we just have to accept,” Alcantara said. “The important thing is to always be in shape.”

PFF president Mariano “Nonong” Araneta said he is hopeful that the PFL can resume even minus a vaccine and he is taking his cue from other leagues around the world.

“Of course, the No. 1 [thing] that we have to consider is the safety of the players. If it’s not safe for the players, we might as well not start it,” Araneta said. “But it has been shown in other countries that has been worse-hit than the Philippines, they are starting their leagues, they are starting their practice sessions. Of course Bundesliga has started three weeks ago, They already had two match dates, like nothing has happened as far as any cases are concerned. La Liga has already started its practice sessions two weeks ago, and they are supposed to start June 8 or June 15.”

Like the PBA, the PFF is hopeful that its own protocols will gain the nod of the IATF to resume football activities. And like the PBA, the PFF is hoping to begin with practices.

“Allow us to practice first then let’s see from there,” Araneta said.

The PBA, meanwhile, is set to meet with player representatives from all teams to further fine-tune health guidelines for the workouts.

“We’ll get their inputs on what more we can do,” said Marcial, who will talk with two players from each team.

Several teams have already tested their players with more scheduled to undergo tests in the coming days.

“The [COVID-19] situation is very uncertain. It’s something that we cannot predict,” Vargas said. “But as we improve … then it gives you hope that you can [resume the league]. Like the commissioner said, let’s take it a step at a time and start with practices.

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TAGS: coronavirus disease (COVID-19) crisis, Philippine Basketball Association (PBA), Philippine Football Federation (PFF)
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