Arch-rivals Ateneo, La Salle forge unlikely alliance in fight over Cani, Mbala eligibility
Ateneo's Hubert Cani and Ben Mbala of La Salle were both ruled ineligible in a vote that saw the longtime rivals go up against the rest of the UAAP board. 

ARCH-RIVALS on the court, Ateneo and De La Salle ironically found unlikely allies in each other in two major issues concerning the eligibility of their players during the last UAAP board meeting on Monday.

Sources told the rival schools voted in favor of one another on issues that concerned Ateneo recruit Hubert Cani and red-shirting La Salle center Ben Mbala, whose eligibility came under question during the meeting hosted by host University of the Philippines.

It was so unlike in the past when the two schools clashed over every single topic, the most recent of which came in 2013 when then-Blue Eagles athletic director Ricky Palou questioned the qualifications of officials Edwin Reyes and Henry Atayde to be members of the league board.

The Cani eligibility was first tackled during the meeting and sources said La Salle, represented by Reyes and athletic director Emmanuel Calanog, voted for the former National University standout to play for Ateneo this season.

[See Cayetano slams 'arrogant, immature' UAAP board after Cani declared ineligible]

However, the numbers didn’t go the way of the Katipunan-based institution as Far Eastern University, the first school to vote on the Cani issue, chose against allowing Cani to suit up this season despite a bill outlawing residency rules set to become a low.

FEU's move was later sustained by University of Santo Tomas, University of the East, National University, and Adamson.

Sources said the league decided that the Student-Athletes Protection Bill should not be imposed retroactively and therefore should not apply in the case of Cani, who moved from NU to Ateneo last season. 

[See UAAP board bars Mbala from playing for La Salle this season due to 'ligang labas' violation]

The Mbala eligibility came next and Ateneo, represented by Palou and athletic director Em Fernandez was quick to vote in favor of the Cameroonian center suiting up for the Green Archers in the coming Season 78 of the UAAP amid claims the import played in a tournament in General Santos City last year organized by boxing legend Manny Pacquiao.

Like Ateneo, the numbers also didn’t go La Salle’s way with UST, UE, NU, and Adamson voting to rule Mbala ineligible to play for this season due to a violation of its residency rules.

FEU, the last school to vote on the Mbala case, decided to abstain although by then its vote was already immaterial to the outcome of the balloting, sources said.


Follow the writer on Twitter: @reubensports