The Games and Amusements Board (GAB) admitted it remains difficult to estimate when the Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) can officially play due to the current COVID-19 pandemic.
And the same applies to the other professional sports leagues in the country. All of them are raring to get back into action — not just to give entertainment to the fans, but, more importantly, to provide livelihood amidst the rough times.
So far, only the PBA and the Philippines Football League (PFL) have received permission from the Inter-Agency Task Force to conduct full practices in GCQ and MGCQ areas. The others, meanwhile, still await the approval of their requests.
“Hindi pa tayo maka-bigay ng saradong statement on when it will resume,” GAB Chairman Baham Mitra said. “Let’s continue to train, let’s continue to be fit so that when we are finally allowed to resume, we are healthy and fit to play.”
Asia’s pioneering pro league has its fingers crossed that it can open its 2021 season in June. It plans to operate through a closed-circuit concept, where everyone involved will strictly follow the home-venue-home routine.
Besides the PBA, the PFL and the National Basketball League-Pilipinas (NBL-PH) are also planning the same set-up.
Those leagues are veering away from the bubble model, which they went through last year. The PFL played in Carmona, Cavite; meanwhile, the PBA and the NBL both went to Pampanga to finish their respective seasons.
The Premier Volleyball League (PVL), on the other hand, is sticking to its plan of playing in a bubble — either in Subic, Zambales or at the Inspire Sports Academy in Calamba, Laguna. The PVL hasn’t played since last year.
For GAB, the bubble set-up remains as the best option for pro leagues, for security reasons. But Mitra himself acknowledges the challenges of confinement in such an environment for a long period of time.
He cited the PBA as an example. The league stayed at the Clark Freeport for over two months just to finish the Philippine Cup.
“Can you imagine, you were away from your family for two months. Ako, fourteen days quarantine, nasa hotel room ako, merong mental effect sa akin,” said the former lawmaker, who tested positive for COVID-19 last March.
“Parang meron kasing mga nagsasabi na approved na yan, nag-work na ‘yung bubble, bakit binabago niyo pa. Intindihin po natin ‘yung mga media na kasama doon sa bubble; yung mga taga-GAB na kasama sa bubble, yung mga players.
“It’s not easy to be away from the comforts of home. Ako, two weeks, hirap na hirap na,” added the 51-year-old politician.
The PBA already admitted that it could not afford to hold another bubble anymore, mainly because of its cost. The league had to shell out an amount close to P 65 million just to stage the Clark bubble.
For now, Mitra said that all they can do is to pray that the situation eases up soon so that they can see a clearer view for local pro sports this year.
“We just need to continue to pray that the situation normalizes,” he said. “Ano kami eh, anak lang kami ng IATF. Ayaw namin silang unahan, sinusunod namin sila. But we’d like to assure everybody that we are fighting for the leagues.
“We’re grateful that they are there. They have turned professional because they want to play, [since] the IATF ruling says only professionals are allowed to play. Na-upgrade na ang status nila … and we’re doing our very best.”