The 32nd rendition of the Southeast Asian (SEA) Games resides in the heart of Phnom Penh, as the host nation towers over its competition with 101 medals four days after its commencement. Although Cambodia poses a surging threat in the region’s podium contention, their appearance at the top of the food chain may turn heads given previous eighth-tenth place finishes in the past decade.
Now, it isn’t a question regarding the capability of Cambodian natives to breed exceptionally gifted athletes but more of the vast amount of naturalized firepower acquired to supplement their ongoing successful SEA Games bid.
Cambodia’s Minister of Tourism of the Royal Government Thong Khon waves the SEA Games federation flag at the SEA Games 31 closing ceremony from ABS-CBN News
Questioning eligibility, the maiden hosts of the tournament saw the opportunity of sourcing the assistance of foreign help, proving lenience by the tournament’s governing body. The SEA Games Federation merits the host country the capacity to alter events suitable to the nation’s liking, as the mandatory Olympic sports—aquatics, athletics, badminton, basketball, boxing, cycling, football, shooting, table tennis, tennis, volleyball, and weightlifting are non-negotiable to the roster.
Utilized as a means of playing to one’s strengths, slated across the various sporting events are a multitude of half-blooded athletes, yet the basketball scene remains to be a point of contention. Cambodia’s 3×3 tournament was riddled with controversy, procuring an import-driven lineup with three out of four cagers for the men’s and all four for the women’s to be of international roots.
Posed for questioning
Cambodia hoists the trophy at the 32nd SEA Games’ 3×3 Basketball Event from Spin.ph
Succumbing to the Vietnamese prowess beyond the arc, the Philippine-Women’s 3×3 settled for a runner-up finish, yet their campaign was far from satisfactory. Gilas Women’s Cager and Former-NU Bulldogs Captain Jack Animam questioned the utilization of solely foreign players.
“Why are we doing this SEA Games if we’re not fielding our own homegrown talent? If there’s going to be imports like these, I don’t think the essence of SEA Games is there,” she tells Rappler.
Similarly, Cambodian native Joshua Bo Noung raised concerns about the country seeking outside help to secure the victory. Dedicating his Western background to developing the next generation of locally-bred talents, he dwells on his disappointment with the program in not capitalizing on what’s proudly theirs.
“The fact that I’m watching players that have no heritage or as much pride for my Cambodian people like many like myself is disheartening and disappointing,” he mentions in a recently deleted post.
With budget cuts limiting national capabilities and tournament regulations embossed in loopholes, it may be time to cry wolf to the game’s federation regarding the freedom exercised and rules of eligibility—championing local talent as a witness to the hard work and determination expelled by homegrown athletes.