Jan 09, 2022

COVID-19 surge dampens PBA momentum

THE spike in COVID-19 cases proved to be another dampener in the PBA 46th season.

The league was forced to postpone games of the Governors' Cup as cases of the Omicron variant mount within the metropolis after the holiday season.

Unfortunately, it couldn't have come at a time when the season-ending meet is beginning to gain momentum.

Just a week after the opener, the league began to bring back fans live in the games at the Smart Araneta Coliseum, eventually reaching a peak of close to a crowd of 5,000 who watched the Christmas Day doubleheader which had the Magnolia-Barangay Ginebra showdown as its main game.

Two weeks after, games had to be shut down again as COVID-19 active cases in the country reached alarming rates, including a record single-day high of 26,458 registered last Jan. 8.

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"Sayang nandun na yung momentum, e. Dire-diretso na sana tayo," said Commissioner Willie Marcial in his guest appearance in the weekly sports show The Chasedown.

But consistent with his belief, the PBA chief said he can't compromise the safety of everyone, from players to the fans.

"Hindi ako manghihinayang kung makakaligtas naman ang lahat. Para sa atin naman ito," added Marcial.

Nonetheless, the commissioner is begging for the understanding of PBA fans and team owners as well that another possible long break in the conference had to be taken as a precautionary measure.

"Hindi ko isusugal yung safety ng mga tao para lang makalaro. Kaya humingi ako ng pasensiya sa team owners at sa governors na sana maintindihin nila," said Marcial.

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The same scenario faced the league during the Philippine Cup.

After initially playing the first two weeks at the Ynares Sports Arena in Pasig, action in the all-Filipino conference had to take the backseat after COVID-19 cases in the National Capital Region (NCR) began to spike up again.

After a month-long break, the tournament resumed in Bacolor, Pampanga under a bubble setup.

Marcial said the Board haven't decided yet to take the same path, although under Alert Level 3 all professional leagues have the go-signal to play provided they will be done inside a bubble.

At most, the league is looking at the country's health condition by February to see what the next course of action it will take. (RG)