MANNY Pacquiao’s new league, the MPBL, courted controversy when it announced that it was limiting its teams to one Fil-foreigner each who musn’t be more than 6’4” tall. Predictably, some of the Fil-Ams and the Pinoys who were raised abroad blasted that rule, which I believe the league enacted to ensure some parity in the league.
You have to remember that in the late 90s, when the MBA came along and paraded some Fil-Ams, the PBA also loosened its requirements for some Fil-Ams, resulting in some Fil-Shams getting to play as Filipinos.
However, this is no longer the late 90s. It’s quite difficult to pass off as a Fil-Am or Fil-Foreigner if you aren’t one, so should the league adopt this rule? Perhaps, the league can adopt a different kind of rule.
It’s quite understandable why there’s a furor over the rule since the definition of Fil-Ams or Filipino-foreigners isn’t even fixed. Is a Pinoy who grew up to both Filipino parents abroad considered a half and half or a full Filipino? Besides, if you go by Fiba standards, there are only two kinds of basketball players, the local and the naturalized player.
They are either Filipinos by birth or they are not.
Another aspect of the rule that has been met with disdain is that it is sort of ironic. Fil-Foreigners are the sons of our OFWs who left the country and have settled in wherever work has gotten them. Despite living abroad, they’ve kept in touch with their roots and have made sure their sons grew up with knowing Pinoy culture. Their sons return home, try their luck in the local basketball league and will be met by this rule.
The MPBL has rekindled the love for community basketball and fans have trooped by the droves to venues whenever their home team hosts another squad. Perhaps, a rule that supports that sentiment will be more received than one that limits Fil-Foreigners? As talks of limiting Fil-Ams spread, there have been talks to of seeing homegrown talents flourish in the league, and seeing them play in the league also boosts the pride the of the community. So, how about the league ensures that each team will have at least one homegrown player in the lineup, it could be more but that may put basketball-manic cities like Cebu at an advantage over teams like Basilan.
I believe a rule pushing for homegrown talent, instead of one that limits Fil-foreigners, would be a boost for the league.