July 19, 2024

The recently concluded 32nd Southeast Asian Games in Cambodia was a travesty of sports. It made a mockery out of the spirit of sportsmanship. It sacrificed the essence of fair play in lieu of the gold medals gathered by the athletes.
The tournament, itself, descended into the level of a commercial enterprise, which is so far removed from the camaraderie that it intended to foster. To say it bluntly, this version of the SEA Games was a farce, a mockery of what sports should be.
The official delegates of each country, specifically the host nation, were laden with foreigners, who, in this level of competition, were obviously superior than their local counterparts.
For instance, the Cambodian men’s and women’s basketball teams were composed of African Americans who were taller, bulkier, and faster. They were enlisted as citizens of the country they represent, yet they have no drop of native blood in them. They were there to “play for pay” and to enhance the chance of their “adopted” country to win the gold medal.
It is the same in other fields of competition. In wrestling, there were Iranians, in karate there were Japanese, in swimming there were Europeans, etc., etc. The list of foreigners that were qualified overnight to represent some countries in the name of the gold was pretty much apparent. It gave undue advantage to countries that were willing to spare no dime in reinforcing their roster.
Those who did this kind of athletic enhancement contend there was nothing unfair in the scheme they implemented. They did it to make their country more competitive. After all, the rule that any person who has a passport of the country they represent, whether or not they are citizens by blood or by naturalization or not at all, may participate, was unanimously approved by all member countries. Thus, to enlist as many as desired and affordable cannot be a form of cheating. There is nothing in the rules that proscribe it.
That is true. However, what satisfaction will it give the people of country to win first place knowing those who represented them did not do it for flag or country, but, solely for money? There is nothing patriotic nor sensible in letting professional and paid athletes, who were hastily granted passports only for the purpose of winning a gold medal, represent them. How can the conscience of a nation appreciate the success of their athletes knowing that those who accomplished such feat are mercenaries?
We are not sour-graping because our athletes lost in some our most beloved sports competitions to these mercenaries. They were out-muscled, out-hassled, and out-weighed by their “hired” opponents.
We too had our share of “hired” athletes. Some delegates from the Philippines have no Filipino blood in them. But the way other countries exploited the eligibility rules was way beyond comprehension. In local parlance, we call it “garapal” or “garapalan.”
Hence, while the Philippine delegation to the SEA Games number among them “foreigners,” these foreigners underwent the rigid process of being naturalized unlike other nations where their “foreigners” were conferred citizenship in a jiffy.
With the eligibility rules followed in the SEA Games abused to the limit, the games, therefore, lost its essence. The victory earned no longer counts.
The SEA Games is supposed to be a tournament among local talents – a stage where national athletes are given the chance to demonstrate their capability in the face of a fair yet equal competition.
Instead, it turned out to be a showcase of imports. The spirit of sportsmanship was sold down the drain to the highest bidder.