Solon seeks to ban foreign players in collegiate sports leagues

By Filane Mikee Cervantes

September 30, 2019, 6:23 pm

<p>Deputy Speaker and 1-Pacman party-list Rep. Mikee Romero</p>

Deputy Speaker and 1-Pacman party-list Rep. Mikee Romero

MANILA -- A party-list lawmaker at the House of Representatives filed on Monday a resolution seeking to prohibit all collegiate and university leagues from recruiting foreign players.

In filing House Resolution 388, Deputy Speaker and 1-Pacman party-list Rep. Mikee Romero said recruiting non-Filipino citizens and foreign import players stops the growth and development of “homegrown Filipino players” and shortchanges the development of various sports programs in the country.

“This practice of bringing in non-Filipino and foreign import recruits does not help the development of any sport in the country, in fact, it is counter-productive as it stunts the growth and development of homegrown athletes,” Romero said in the resolution.

“Philippine colleges and universities who are in practice of recruiting and using non-Filipino and foreign import players are so engrossed in winning a championship for their schools that they do not anymore recruit players locally and instead go to African and American countries to find imported players,” he added.

Romero noted that recruiting foreign players gives “undue advantage” to their collegiate teams, and the audience is merely watching a league dominated by foreign imports.

The lawmaker cited the last-place finish of Gilas Pilipinas in the 2019 FIBA Basketball World Cup as an example showing the lack of homegrown talents in the country.

“It is imperative that the legislature enact the necessary measures that would stop and prohibit all collegiate and university leagues from recruiting, acquiring, and using non-Filipino citizens and foreign imports and players,” Romero said.

It all started with Sam

Major collegiate leagues like the National Collegiate Athletic Association, the University Athletic Association of the Philippines, and the Cebu School Athletic Foundation Inc. are allowing their member schools to parade foreign student-athletes for all the sports they are to play in their season.

However, the said practice became well-publicized in 2006 when San Beda brought in a six-foot-eight Nigerian freshman named Sam Ekwe to its men's basketball team.

The move sparked the Red Lions' current dominance, winning 11 of the last 13 NCAA titles with Sudan Daniel, Ola Adeogun, Donald Tankoua, and Arnaud Noah also recruited.

Other NCAA teams like Arellano and Lyceum followed suit, and the recruitment of foreign student-athletes greatly helped their cause of making the NCAA Finals as well and, in the case of Lyceum's Mike Nzeusseu, even getting the national collegiate title in the Philippine Collegiate Champions League.

Eventually, the basketball teams in the UAAP, CESAFI, and even in mid-major leagues like the National Athletic Association of Schools, Colleges, and Universities and the Universities and Colleges Basketball League joined the fray.

However, another major repercussion that took place during the influx of foreign players in college basketball was that the foreign players have since dominated the individual awards.

One major example was in the 2016 NCAA season, when four foreign players led by eventual Most Valuable Player Allwell Oraeme made the Mythical Five.

Only Arellano's Jio Jalalon was the lone local in the Mythical Team.

The trend, as expected, also spilled to the UAAP when Bright Akhuetie, who was also a Mythical Five member in the said NCAA season, went on to become the MVP in last year's UAAP season in only his first season after transferring to the University of the Philippines, helping the team make its first finals appearance since 1986.

The Rookie of the Year during the 2018 UAAP season turned out to be a foreign student-athlete as well in Ateneo's Ange Kouame.

Kouame, Akhuetie, Chabi Yo in Top 3 of UAAP MVP race

As it turns out, Akhuetie has a shot at keeping the MVP plum, albeit it would be tougher than last year.

Akhuetie is currently third in the MVP race after the first round of the eliminations with 69 average statistical points.

However, he may need an eye-popping domination in the second round to retain the top individual prize as he is way behind Kouame and another foreign baller in Soulemane Chabi Yo.

Chabi Yo, University of Santo Tomas' dominant big man, leads the MVP race with 82.71 SP's, while Kouame is second with 81.43.

The top local in the MVP race is Akhuetie's fellow Fighting Maroon Kobe Paras, who is fourth with 65.2 despite missing the first two games of their season.

NCAA going all-Filipino next year

The foreign domination of the 2016 NCAA season's Mythical Selection prompted the league to take action to prevent a repeat of it.

The major resolution agreed upon was for the NCAA not to have foreign players by next year, essentially meaning that the league will become all-Filipino by the next season.

This also assured that the ongoing season will be the last time everyone will see foreign players like Nzeusseu, Tankoua, and Noah play in the NCAA.

Meanwhile, the UAAP did not resolve to bar the foreign student-athletes, but it set a limit for the member schools to have an "import", which is one.

However, the said resolution, once approved, will force the other collegiate leagues to bar foreign athletes from playing as well.

"A limited ban on foreign players in the schools' athletics programs may be deemed urgently necessary," Romero continued. ""This call is directed at all the schools because they have the duty and responsibility to develop homegrown sports talents. There are more than enough obstacles in the path of Filipino athletes, so let us not worsen the problem by blocking the dreams of young athletes, especially in the provinces and among the urban poor." (with reports from Ivan Saldajeno/PNA)