2022 was a wild and fruitful year for the Philippine sports scene. From physical tournaments to historic wins, here are the New Year’s resolutions that can continue the vibe for 2023.
Basketball (UAAP) – Fresher rivalries
Here’s a hot take: Ateneo v La Salle rivalry is no more. Not when the Green Archers only managed to eke out one win in the last five years. A team clad in maroon is the greatest adversary to the Blue Eagles’ dominance in this decade.
JD Cagulangan proved that gods do bleed when he catapulted UP to its first UAAP title in 36 years via a near-buzzer beater. While the fairytale win didn’t last as Ateneo got their revenge with a title run in the same year, both clubs push themselves to the limit with each meeting.
The Battle of Katipunan is the UAAP’s most thrilling rivalry today, something that even Ateneo coach Tab Baldwin hopes will last.
Basketball (NCAA) – Embrace the physicality
2022 saw a miracle in collegiate hoops: people paid attention to the NCAA again. Of course, the John Amores scuffle and the physical Letran v Benilde Finals painted The Grand Old League as the “less classy” counterpart to the “prestigious” UAAP, but bad publicity is still publicity.
Underneath the controversies, the league found an audience itching for a grittier brand of basketball, reminiscent of the 80s and 90s when Robert Jaworski and Alvin Patrimonio walked the hardcourt.
The fouls hit harder, the trash talk more so, but the games were undeniably exciting and intense. After all, the league was home to many former and current greats, like Ginebra’s Scottie Thompson and the Beermen’s CJ Perez.
The NCAA is not for everyone—it won’t win converts from self-described “upper” crowds. But basketball is entertainment, where rivalries and feuds make for nail-biting storylines. Ironing out a few “extracurriculars,” the league can flourish with its identity.
Basketball (PBA) – Bring back guest teams
The Bay Area Dragons’ debut in the 22-23 Commissioner’s Cup marked the first time in 18 years that a foreign team played in the PBA and 11 for the guest team format. And boy, was it exciting as hell.
#PinoyPride is a drug to us Filipinos, so seeing an international club compete—and get beat—on our home turf is euphoric. Bay Area’s dominant romp to the Finals (temporarily) addressed one of the league’s constant accusations: winning has been monopolized by a few teams owned by select owners.
In its showdown with Ginebra for the championship, not only did our local talents get to flex their skills, but it also gave audiences the variation they’ve been looking for. It’s no surprise that the seven game series saw record crowds for any PBA game.
Football – #GirlBoss AKA put some respecc on the women’s team
The Philippine football women’s team made history by being the country’s first team to qualify for the FIFA World Cup, following a victory over Chinese Taipei at the 2022 AFC Women’s Cup.
Still, the historic team flew under most radars. A shame since the club is promising: their average age is 23 years old, the oldest being 32-year-old team captain Tahnai Harris, who has played in the UEFA Women’s Champions League. Coach Alen Stajcic is renowned internationally and once led Australia to No.5 in the FIFA World Rankings.
The team would win more firsts: a medal finish (bronze) at the Southeast Asian games and the 2022 AFF Women’s Championship, the first title for the Philippines. So buckle up your seats, gents, because these women are hungry for history.
Tennis, weightlifting, and others not-named basketball – Give them some love
As a die-hard basketball fan who cried when Kobe died, it astounds me how much persistence we have for basketball when we clearly excel in other fields.
2022 proved as much. At 17, Alex Eala became the first Filipino to claim a Grand Slam title, dominating the US Open. Then, Hidilyn Diaz won gold at the World Weightlifting Championship, completing a title run that includes the Southeast Asian, Asian, and Olympic Games.
Pole vaulter EJ Obiena, martial artists Junna Tsukii, Meggie Ochoa, and pool player Rubilen Amit also made headlines last year as champs.
There is substantial proof that Filipinos excel in individual fields, where height plays little. With enough acknowledgment and support, Philippine sports will soon be the home of more world titles.