Football: Gov’t clearance needed for foreign players tapped by PFL clubs

Manolo Pedralvez

Posted at Jul 11 2021 12:10 AM

Games and Amusements Board chairman Abraham Mitra on Friday said his office is reviewing the health and safety protocols submitted by the Philippines Football League, so it can begin club training in preparation for the league’s opening tentatively set for August 21.

But Mitra said there was an apparent snag involving the foreign players hired by some clubs that need to be cleared with other government agencies, such as the Department of Foreign Affairs, Bureau of Immigration, and Malacañang. 

Among the PFL clubs that have foreign players are United City, Kaya-Iloilo and Stallion-Laguna.

“Our job is really not that easy. Some might ask why lobby in allowing these foreign players here who will bring money out of the country when we don’t even allow overseas tourists and investors to come over here yet,” Mitra said in an online press conference yesterday. 

“Under our present local conditions, foreigners are not allowed to enter the country unless they are deemed essential.”

Jun Bautista, head of GAB’s professional basketball and other professional games division, said Malacañang requires clubs to submit the contracts of their foreign players before it can give an exemption allowing them to stay and play in the country.

As the government agency overseeing professional sports, the GAB falls directly under the Office of the President.

The GAB chairman said it is working on these issues together with commissioners Ed Trinidad and Mario Masanguid. 

“Commissioner Ed and Mar have good working relations with the DFA and BI, respectively, so all of us are working together to thresh out these issues before we can give the go-signal for the PFL to resume club training,” Mitra said.

He noted that like all foreigners entering the Philippines, overseas players will have to undergo the government-mandated quarantine for 14 days and swab tests before they can move around the country.

Asked if foreign players could have a shorter quarantine period if they can show proof that they are completely vaccinated against COVID-19, Mitra said this matter would have to be taken up with the Inter-Agency Task Force overseeing the pandemic.

As a football enthusiast, Mitra said he understood the sufficient period needed for players to build up their fitness and conditioning before they can compete in the league. 

“This requires months so they can be match-fit. They just cannot just play right away because they might get injured if they are rushed into the field,” the GAB chairman noted. 

But unless this and other issues are resolved, he added, “we cannot give a definite timetable when the actual club training can resume. Despite being a staunch supporter of football, I am sorry we cannot give a definite date when that will happen.”

He said the GAB board would act on the PFL request for club training as soon as the GAB division headed by Bautista has submitted its recommendation.

“We cannot just rush into things without the proper study and evaluation, especially during this pandemic,” Mitra said. 

“But sana matuloy (ang PFL traning) at magawaan natin ng paraan. (Hopefully the PFL training can push through and we can find a way to do it.)”

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