A strong Japanese squad that once competed against Ateneo de Manila University will be flying over to serve as the fourth team in the final round of the Belo Philippine Superliga (PSL) Invitational Conference starting Thursday (March 30) at the FilOil Flying V Centre in San Juan.
Kobe Shinwa Women’s University will be arriving on Tuesday (March 28) to grace a press launch before plunging into action against Foton, Cignal and unbeaten Petron in the final round of this club tourney bankrolled by Mikasa, Senoh, Asics and Mueller with TV5 as official broadcast partner.
A legitimate contender in the All-Japan Women’s University Tournament, the guest squad is tipped to march into battle with the signature speed, accuracy, skills and discipline of a Japanese team that would give local squads tough nights.
Kobe Shinwa, in fact, gave the Lady Eagles a ringside view of Asian brand of volleyball when it faced them in a friendly match in Osaka last January.
“This team is one of the best university teams in Japan,” said PSL president Ramon “Tats” Suzara, who enjoys good working relationship with his Japanese counterparts being a ranking member of the Asian Volleyball Confederation and the International Volleyball Federation (FIVB).
“As we know, Japanese volleyball players are not the tallest or the strongest, but they are the fastest and most disciplined. I hope we could absorb those traits and use them when we compete in the AVC Asian Senior Women’s Championship and the SEA Games this August.”
Suzara was also instrumental in bringing noted Japanese trainer Shun Takahashi and Hiroshima Oilers libero Yuri Fukuda to the country when they powered the PSL Manila squad in the prestigious FIVB Women’s Club World Championship last year.
Led by head coach Kiyokazu Yamamoto, Kobe Shinwa will parade middle blocker Yu Moriwaki as its tallest player at 5-foot-7 and libero Manaka Fukui as its shortest at 5-foot-2.
Still, this squad will surely be a force as it finished fifth place in the tough All-Japan University Women’s Volleyball Tournament; fifth in the Western Japan University Volleyball Tournament; and third in the Kansai Area University Volleyball League.
“We are pleased to participate in the final round of the Philippine Superliga by showing our best level of volleyball in celebration of our 130thanniversary,” said the team in a press statement.
“And as we play with both heart and harmony, we look forward to having more friends and fans from the Philippines to join our circle of “shinwa.”
But Suzara said winning over the Japanese is very possible.
“Last year, nobody thought that RC Cola-Army would win over our foreign guest team in Est Cola, which is the national juniors team of Thailand,” he said.
“I think nothing is impossible. Our coaches would surely take this as a challenge and prepare their respective teams to defend our homecourt.”
PHILIPPINE HOSTING ON THE VERGE
The country’s hosting of the 30th Southeast Asian Games in 2019 is on the verge of becoming the collateral damage in the raging rift between the Philippine Olympic Committee (POC) and Philippine Sports Commission (PSC).
A ranking POC official yesterday expressed fear that the country’s preparation for its fourth hosting of the biennial meet would be greatly affected as the country’s top sports officials — POC president Jose “Peping” Cojuangco and PSC chairman William “Butch” Ramirez — have been at odds the past few weeks.
Hosting the biennial meet was awarded to the Philippines during the SEA Games Federation meeting in Singapore in 2015.
With tiny Brunei backing out due to lack of adequate sports facilities, the federation decided to award the rights to the Philippines, which gamely accepted it and vowed to surpass its third and last hosting in 2005 when it emerged as the overall champion.
Ramirez also endorsed a government guarantee to President Duterte last year, signifying the government’s willingness to accept the hosting.
But a year after their agreement to host the Games, government has yet to formally assemble an organizing committee, which should get the ball rolling in the country’s preparation for its hosting.
The source said the POC is still waiting for government action, but with Cojuangco, Ramirez and sports commissioner Ramon Fernandez locking horns anew, the formation of the organizing committee now looks in peril.
He added that the general presentation and formal turnover of the hosting duties would be done during the closing ceremonies of this year’s biennial meet in Kuala Lumpur in August, and by that time the country’s preparation should already be in full swing.
“The formation of the organizing committee would come from the national government. But until now, the POC is still waiting,” said the source, speaking on condition of anonymity.
The source added that three countries are willing to host the Games if the Philippines backs out. They are Vietnam, Cambodia and Vietnam.
He said all the venues and facilities have already been laid down by Ho Chi Minh City as it would host the SEA Games in 2021 as well as Phnom Penh, which can stage the Games even on short notice as it is set to host it in 2023.
Jakarta, on the other hand, could also be a good alternative as it is set to host the Asian Games in 2018.
“A lot of countries are interested,” said the source, adding that Thailand would always be one of the choices. “However, our country would be greatly embarrassed if we will not fulfill our hosting duty.”
POC secretary-general Steve Hontiveros admitted that actual preparations for the SEA Games have yet been laid down, but he downplayed chances the country would decline the hosting.
“The SEA Games hosting has been awarded to the Philippines and there’s no reason for us to back out. I don’t see any point why the Philippines will not host it,” said Hontiveros, who is said to be the prime mover behind hosting bid.
“We’re just waiting for the President’s approval kung sino ang gagawing chairman ng organizing committee, so we can start our preparation. So far wala pa. But I’m optimistic na dadating din yan very soon.”
“Remember that the main purpose of the SEA Games is friendship and unity among Southeast Asian countries. That’s why it’s being held every two years, not every four years. I believe our sports leaders will realize it and unite for a common cause," Hontiveros said.
The Philippine Olympic Committee (POC) will bring together the warring factions in the Philippine Lawn Tennis Association (Philta) to help them untangle the deadlock in their election.
Charlie Ho, the netball president who was tasked by POC chief Jose “Peping” Cojuangco to stand as observer during the Philta polls, said he would meet Jean Henri Lhuiller and Salvador Andrada, together with their respective counsels next week to discuss how they will proceed with their election.
Ho noted that certain amendments in their by-laws and constitution have to be made before the Olympic council formally issues the green light to proceed with the election, which was initially set today until the POC said it will not honor its outcome unless flaws and loopholes in the federation’s constitution have been resolved.
“First, they have to expand their membership,” said Ho, a lawyer and medical doctor by profession and a member of the POC sports science team. “For the longest time, Philta is existing with only 12 voters in its 12-man board of trustees. It shouldn’t be the case. They should expand their membership and make the federation inclusive — not exclusive.”
Another glaring flaw that Ho pointed out was Andrada’s failure to stand by the agreement before the presence of International Tennis Federation (ITF) president David Haggerty and Cojuangco on September 26 and 27 last year, where he agreed to call for a general election last January 8 with all positions — including the presidency — vacant.
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