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2021 in Review: The other globetrotting Pinoy imports


It was not too long ago when athletes from the Philippines were recruited to play as imports abroad were an uncommon occurrence. There seemed to be a belief that our athletes could compete domestically, but were not good enough to merit serious consideration from international scouts.

All that changed in a big way in 2021.

The floodgates suddenly opened which enabled Filipino and Filipina athletes to a mass exodus to a foreign land. In the bigger stages of professional leagues abroad, they were able to display their skills and showcase what athletes from the Philippines were truly capable of.

The first part of this two-part series focused on the Filipinos who have found a home in the basketball, volleyball, and football professional leagues in Japan. The second portion of this series will feature the other Filipinos who play in professional leagues in other parts of the globe.

Matthew Aquino was not the only Filipino who played in a foreign league as a local.

2021-nz-nbl-wellington-saints-ken-tuffin 2021 in Review: The other globetrotting Pinoy imports Bandwagon Wire Basketball Football Volleyball  - philippine sports news

Photo from Wellington Saints

Former FEU Tamaraw Ken Tuffin, who began playing in 2020 in the New Zealand National Basketball League for the Taranaki Mountainairs, emerged as one of the top shooters of the NBL in 2021 as he shot 49-percent from three for his new squad, the Wellington Saints. The Gilas-eligible Tuffin averaged 8.6 points per game for the Saints who went on to claim this year’s NBL championship.2021-22-T1-Season-Jason-Brickman-x-Jordan-Heading-x-Caelan-Tiongson 2021 in Review: The other globetrotting Pinoy imports Bandwagon Wire Basketball Football Volleyball  - philippine sports news

After the Japan B. League went on a Pinoy signing spree, the T1 League of Taiwan followed suit. Three former players of the Alab Pilipinas in the ASEAN Basketball League (ABL) inked contracts to see action in Taiwan’s new professional basketball league. These were Caelan Tiongson of the Taoyuan Leopard, Jason Brickman of the Kaohsiung Aquas, and Gilas Pilipinas sharpshooter Jordan Heading of the Taichung Wagor Suns.

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For Tiongson and Heading, playing in Taiwan was a homecoming of sorts. Tiongson played for the Chong Son Kung Fu in the 2017-18 season of the ABL. Heading, on the other hand, lived in Taichung for 11 years when his family moved to Taiwan when he was four years old.

Two other basketball stars who just might be the Philippines’ best hopes of finally seeing a Filipino in the NBA and WNBA took their talents outside of the Asian continent.

Kai Sotto moved Down Under to join the Adelaide 36ers in the Australian National Basketball League, while Jack Animan made history as the first Philippine-born player to be lined up by a professional league in Europe.

2021-22-NBL-Season-Adelaide-36ers-Kai-Sotto 2021 in Review: The other globetrotting Pinoy imports Bandwagon Wire Basketball Football Volleyball  - philippine sports news

Photo from Adelaide 36ers

Sotto has so far seen action in just a game after not being fully healthy at the beginning of the season which forced him to miss some games. The 36ers have postponed some of their games due to health protocols which once again delayed Sotto’s chances to play significant minutes in the NBL.2021-22-PLZS-Crvena-Zvezda-def-Radnicki-Jack-Animam 2021 in Review: The other globetrotting Pinoy imports Bandwagon Wire Basketball Football Volleyball  - philippine sports news

Animam was at one point the most dominant player in the Serbian 1st Women’s Basketball League before an injury eventually cut short her campaign. Serbia is largely considered a superpower in basketball and finished fourth in women’s basketball in the Tokyo Olympics. That Animam was able to stamp her class against competition that was as big as her and in some instances even bigger, was a testament to her growth and development as a player. Starting at center for the Radnicki Kragujevac, Animam normed impressive numbers of 20 points, 14.14 rebounds, 2.8 assists, 1.7 steals, and 1.8 blocks in seven games played.

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Gabi Bade is also playing in Europe, currently playing for Cyprian club ENAD WBC.

Basketball was not the only sport where members of the country’s national teams secured playing opportunities overseas.2022-VTL-Diamond-Food-def-Nakhon-Ratchasima-Mylene-Paat 2021 in Review: The other globetrotting Pinoy imports Bandwagon Wire Basketball Football Volleyball  - philippine sports news

Mylene Paat’s solid play with Team Choco Mucho in the 2021 AVC Asian Women’s Club Volleyball Championship led to an engagement with four-time Thailand League champion Nakhon Ratchasima. Paat has shown thus far that she is the real deal, scoring 26 points in her team’s big win over Nakornnont on Wednesday, December 29. Paat also scored 22 points and 28 points in her team’s first two outings which unfortunately ended in defeats.2021-PNVF-CL-F2-Logistics-vs-Chery-Tiggo-Mau-F2 2021 in Review: The other globetrotting Pinoy imports Bandwagon Wire Basketball Football Volleyball  - philippine sports news

Kalei Mau, who finally was granted eligibility by the Fédération Internationale de Volleyball to play for the Philippine national team, played briefly for the Changos de Naranjito in Puerto Rico’s 2021 Liga de Voleibol Superior Femenino.

Three members of the Philippine Women’s National Football team continued playing for European clubs in 2021.Philippine-womens-national-football-team-Jessica-Miclat-vs-Jordan-1 2021 in Review: The other globetrotting Pinoy imports Bandwagon Wire Basketball Football Volleyball  - philippine sports news

Midfielder Jessica Miclat spent the early part of the year in the Danish top division with the AaB Kvinder before transferring to Aris Limassol, a club in Cyprus’s top division for women’s football.Philippine-Womens-Naftional-Football-Team-PWNFT-Graversen 2021 in Review: The other globetrotting Pinoy imports Bandwagon Wire Basketball Football Volleyball  - philippine sports news

Joining Miclat in Cyprus is defender Cathrine Graversen who was signed by the Nea Salamis, another top division club. The 23-year-old Graversen played early in 2021 for the ASD Calcio Pomigliano in Italy’s Serie B.Philippine-womens-national-football-team-PWNFT-Madarang 2021 in Review: The other globetrotting Pinoy imports Bandwagon Wire Basketball Football Volleyball  - philippine sports news

National team striker Eva Madarang also played in Italy’s Serie B early this year for Roma Calcio Femminile. She then moved to Club Deportivo Pozoalbense, a second division club in the Spanish Reto Iberdrola.

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Of course, there are many more Filipinos playing overseas, especially in men’s football.

All these players helped put the Philippines on the sports map and opened the eyes of the international arena to the abundance in talent that the country has to offer. It is not unlikely that more opportunities eventually will open abroad for Filipino athletes which could only spell good things for Philippine sports.

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