Even as health experts are insisting that realistic estimates of getting a novel coronavirus vaccine put it well into 2021, that is not stopping professional sporting leagues all over the world from trying to restart their team practices if only to get a truncated season going before this year ends. The Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) is no exception, the country’s premier pro-basketball league having wheeled and dealt with the Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) and the Games and Amusement Board (GAB) to get their practice sessions resumed even as the COVID-19 pandemic drives confirmed cases way up. The date has been pushed to sometime next month.
The Manila Bulletin reports that the PBA is looking forward to receive the go-ahead for their practice sessions come August in the form of a letter jointly signed by the major agencies overseeing pro sports activities during the COVID-19 outbreak. Said letter has been expected by the league as early as last week in Wednesday, July 22, but it needs to be signed off by GAB chairman Baham Mitra, Secretary Francisco Duque III of the Department of Health (DOH), and chairman Butch Ramirez of the Philippine Sports Commission (PSC). The PBA hopes to get the letter this Monday, July 27.
League commissioner Willie Marcial is already grateful that the government was at least supportive of the initiative to give the PBA teams something to do other than twiddle their thumbs while the pandemic blows over. Of course, in return for this approval, the PBA and its franchise teams have to follow an expanded set of the COVID health and safety protocols with emphasis on physical distancing while doing drills. Players must carry and use their own water bottles for instance, and post-game collective showers are not allowed. Finally, swab tests are mandatory before practice sessions.
Word is that at best, the 12 PBA teams will only be able to muster up enough practice to do one conference in a usual three-conference league season. This at least is the viewpoint of NLEX Road Warriors head coach Yeng Guiao. He says, “Now we’re given that challenge, it’s now our responsibility to keep ourselves and our own team personnel safe.” This approach is similar to what the pro-volleyball Philippine Super Liga has ironed out also with the IATF, to resume practice ahead of their All-Filipino Conference in October. The difference is that the PBA has yet to finalize its own game dates yet.
What should have been the 2020 PBA season started and paused with a single game of the Philippine Cup last March 8, between the San Miguel Beermen and Magnolia Hotshots.
Image courtesy of Philippine Star