LVPI to fight for SEA Games spot

The participation of volleyball in the 29th Southeast Asian Games is in great danger after the SEA Games Task Force came up with a very strict criteria for athletes wanting to see action in the biennial meet in Kuala Lumpur next year.

Philippine Sports Commission (PSC) chairman William “Butch” Ramirez said the country’s volleyball teams are not eligible to compete as they failed to win a medal in the previous staging of the SEA Games.

Based on the criteria plotted by the SEA Games Task Force headed by Philippine Olympic Committee (POC) chairman Tom Carrasco, those who want to participate in the prestigious regional meet must have won at least a bronze medal in the Singapore SEA Games.

They must have also come up with significant achievement in other major international tournaments like the Olympics.

Since the Philippine men’s and women’s teams are just starting to make their presence felt in the international arena, they have yet to come up with a solid achievement.

They, in fact, failed to win a medal in the Singapore SEA Games as they saw action for the first time following more than a decade of absence.

Ramirez said before volleyball and other developmental team sports like football, netball and bowling can be given the green light to join, the Larong Volleyball sa Pilipinas, Inc. (LVPI) must sit down with them to fight and justify their inclusion.

The deadline for the submission of numbers to the SEA Games organizers is set on Friday. LVPI, however, has yet to comply.

[quote]They have to justify and fight for their inclusion. Since we want to have a small delegation capable of improving our standing in the SEA Games, team sports like volleyball, football and netball have to convince us that they really deserve to be part of our team to the Southeast Asian Games. They have to sit down with us and discuss this matter.[/quote]

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Starting to crawl

Despite the presence of two semi-professional leagues, the country’s national volleyball program is just starting to wiggle its way back to the international stage.

The last time the women’s team won a gold medal in the SEA Games was in 1993. Then, it won a bronze medal when the country hosted the prestigious conclave in 2005.

It went downhill from there as bickering among officials and lack of a true national program hampered the development of the sport.

Last year, the four major leagues in the country in the V-League, Philippine Superliga, University Athletic Association of the Philippines and National Collegiate Athletic Association banded together to form a brand-new federation following the Philippine Olympic Committee’s expulsion of the Philippine Volleyball Federation (PVF).

The superbody was named LVPI with POC first vice-president Joey Romasanta as chief.

The Philippines finally made its return back to the SEA Games after a 10-year absence and successfully competed in other major tournaments like the AVC Asian Women’s Club Championship, AVC Asian Men’s Club Championship, AVC Asian U23 Women’s Championship and the AVC Asian Seniors Women’s Championship.

This year, it hosted a pair of blockbuster events: The AVC Asian Women’s Club Championship and the FIVB Women’s Club World Championship with no less than FIVB honorary president Wei Jizhong serving as guest of honor.

SEA Games task force David Carter said LVPI could use those developments in fighting for its teams’ inclusion.

[quote]If they can explain it properly, why not? They have to convince us that volleyball is on the rise and they deserve a spot in the national team.[/quote]

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Plans ahead

In previous conversation, LVPI president Joey Romasanta said they already have a solid plan for the SEA Games.

They, in fact, would call a meeting in January to formally appoint the head coach and tackle the training program, which would kick off in February until the first few days of August.

Sources from within the federation also floated a shortlist that includes Sammy Acaylar, Francis Vicente, Kungfu Reyes and George Pascua. Among them, Acaylar was the first to present a solid program, which is highlighted by massive tryouts in Manila, Cebu and Davao and training camps in South Korea and Japan.

Romasanta said LVPI’s acting president Pete Cayco will be in charge of the formation of the team.

Cayco is still abroad as of posting time. But a highly placed LVPI insider revealed that the federation would do its part and send a team to the biennial meet.

[quote]It just so happened that everybody’s very busy with the holidays; but we would definitely comply. We’ll send a team to the SEA Games. Everything will be in full blast around January of next year. [/quote]

Ramirez, however, maintained that the LVPI must come up with a sound and logical explanation on why it deserves to be part of the national team.

[quote]It’s the people’s money we will be spending. If this team fizzles out, it’s not the NSA (national sports association) which would be embarrassed, it’s us because we are the funding agency. We have to make sure that only the deserving athletes would get to represent the country.[/quote]

Yes, the road to the SEA Games would definitely be rocky. And LVPI must start taking the first few steps because the country’s pride and honor are on the line.