GAB boss expects 2021 to be 'banner year' for pro sports

Camille B. Naredo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Dec 15 2020 06:10 PM

MANILA, Philippines -- After most professional sports competitions were held in a limited capacity in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the head of the Games and Amusements Board (GAB) expects pro sports to be back with a vengeance next year.

Because of the global health crisis, professional sporting events -- as did most sport competitions -- ground to a halt for most of the year. It was only in October that pro competitions began to return, primarily in bio-secure "bubbles" that did not allow for fans to be physically present.

Most prominent of these events was the PBA's bubble in Clark, Pampanga. The league held only one conference in a bid to salvage its 45th season, with Barangay Ginebra emerging as champions of the Philippine Cup.

"What happened in 2020 is very unfortunate for Philippine professional sports," acknowledged GAB chairman Baham Mitra during the Philippine Sportswriters Association (PSA) Forum on Tuesday morning.

"But we're looking at 2021 as a banner year. Merong gigil eh. Merong pagsasabik, so bulusok tayo sa 2021," he added.

Professional sporting events will start as early as January 2021, with chess to be played virtually. The PBA plans to open its new season in April, while professional volleyball will get underway with the Premier Volleyball League in the first or second quarter of 2021 as well.

Mitra further reported that there might be an international mixed martial event in the country by the second quarter of 2021, while a local promotion is planning a fight card in February.

"Baka sakali magkaroon tayo ng professional basketball league pa na mga bago, hindi pa natin ma-announce kung saan at kung kailan," he added. "We're looking at beach volleyball to turn pro. We're also looking at pingpong turning pro."

Women's sports will be at the forefront, especially with the Women's National Basketball League (WNBL) set to hold its first pro season next year as well.

"Marami tayong magagaling na basketball players na maha-highlight dahil magpo-professional na rin po ang babaeng basketball," said Mitra.

As excited as he is for pro sports to get back into the swing of things, Mitra also warned that Filipino athletes, coaches, and officials must continue to stay vigilant. This, even with the welcome news that a COVID-19 vaccine is already being distributed and administered in other countries.

Mitra said GAB will continue to remind its stakeholders to stay safe and follow the health and safety protocols imposed by the government.

"We must continue to stay safe. And we at GAB will make sure that we remind them," said Mitra.

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