MANILA - Naturalized Filipino Andray Blatche may not be able to suit up for Gilas Pilipinas in the 2014 Asian Games in Incheon, South Korea after the Olympic Council of Asia (OCA) reportedly questioned his eligibility.
Philippine Sports Commission (PSC) Chairman Richie Garcia said the OCA has pointed out that Blatche, who became a naturalized Filipino only last June, has to serve a 3-year residency before he can represent the Philippines in the XVII Asiad.
“There's a big possibility na hindi nila papayagan lumaro,” said Garcia in a Spin.ph report. “They cited a rule of OCA that a player who is naturalized will need a three-year residency.”
Garcia said he has reasoned out that the 3-year residency rule only covers players who have represented another country in international tournaments.
“Ang contention natin ay that applies to athletes na naglaro in any international event representing another country,” he said. “Si Blatche did not represent the US and he opted to become a Filipino.”
But Garcia admitted that the information he got was not an official communication with the OCA.
“So, SBP (Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas) should be the one to follow this up,” said the PSC chief.
In a previous interview, Gilas coach Chot Reyes said the same thing.
“We checked it, it doesn't apply to us. We checked it out, we took a look at the rule book, we checked it out with the organizing committee, we're fine,” the coach said.
Garcia, meanwhile, said he will go to South Korea to check if there is an official verdict regarding Blatche’s eligibility.
“I'd like to see [first] in black and white, kaya ako pupunta sa Korea on September 10 to discuss the accreditation of all our athletes,” he said.
He said the OCA also put Gabe Norwood’s eligibility into question. But Garcia said the Rain or Shine player can easily hurdle the 3-year eligibility rule since Norwood has long been playing in the Philippine Basketball Association (PBA).
Gilas is counting on Blatche’s addition to the team in its campaign to win gold in the Asian Games.
The last time the Philippines won a gold medal in the Asiad was in 1962. Its most recent medal finish was a bronze in the 1998 Asian Games.