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Petron, two others take leave of absence as Petro Gazz enters as guest, says PSL

Philippine Superliga promises a very busy season following a year of inactivity due to the outbreak of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

League chairman Philip Ella Juico said they have already plotted a 2021 calendar that underscores their all-out support both to the national team and grassroots sports programs.

Three teams — Petron, Generika-Ayala, and Marinerang Pilipina — have mtaken a one-year pandemic-related leave of absence. Still, it will hardly affect the level of competition as Petro Gazz will see action as a guest team, joining a field composed of F2 Logistics, Cignal, Chery Tiggo, Sta. Lucia and PLDT Home Fibr.

Two more teams have also expressed their willingness to join, allowing the league to keep its original eight-squad field.

Juico said they will open their season with the PSL Beach Volleyball Challenge Cup in Subic Bay from February 25 to 27.

The league initially set the tourney from November 28 to 30, but called it off due to tropical storms that entered Central Luzon. The beach volleyball tournament will now use a bubble setup through the help of the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority.

After the beach volleyball tourney, the league will hold its PSL Fans Day in the first week of March. It will later roll out the All-Filipino Conference on March 13.

There will be a brief break to give way for the Lenten Season, but expect the elite players to remain active as they prepare for the AVC Asian Women’s Club Championship from April 11 to 18 in Taipei.

“We promise to be back with a bang,” said Juico, a former Philippine Sports Commission chairman and president of the national athletics federation.

“While we are looking to come up with a high level of club competition, we also know that sending a solid team to the international arena is our responsibility being an active member of the national federation – the Larong Volleyball sa Pilipinas, Inc. That’s why for next year, we want to have a balanced mix of club, international, and collegiate competitions.”

After the All-Filipino, the PSL will hold the Collegiate Grand Slam from July 10 to August 14.

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The first Collegiate Grand Slam was held in 2018, with University of the Philippines emerging victorious. Then, it was staged during the UniGames at the University of San Agustin in Iloilo City in 2019, with De La Salle University winning the crown.

“The Collegiate Grand Slam is our way of helping the federation in its talent identification program,” Juico said.

“In fact, the Collegiate Grand Slam served as an integral part of the University Games in Iloilo City last year.”

The league will also send players to the 21st AVC Asian Senior Women’s Championship from August 29 to September 6, either in China or Thailand. There is also the 31st Southeast Asian Games from November 21 to December 2 in Vietnam.

It will wrap up its season with the import-laden Grand Prix.

Juico said they would reach out to the government, including the Inter-Agency Task Force on the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF), to seek approval on the resumption of their season.

“We would strictly use ‘bubble’ concept and we are already scouting for possible venues in the NCR (National Capital Region) and various parts of Luzon,” Juico said.

“For us, aside from serious competition, the health and safety of our players, coaches, officials, league personnel and other stakeholders are our main priorities. We would coordinate with the IATF and the LGUs (local government units) to discuss how we can restart our 2021 season.”

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