THE Philippine Sports Commission believes rugby is among the team sports that can land the country a podium finish in next year’s Asian Games in South Korea.
The PSC is so confident that the country’s sports policy-making, coordinating, and funding body has been allotting a bigger budget for the Volcanoes than some of the team sports ahead of the quadrennial continental showpiece competition in September 2014.
“We are investing in rugby, (because) when you look at team sports, rugby is a sport where we are at least sure of a medal,” PSC commissioner Jolly Gomez said on Wednesday when he graced the press launch of the Volcanoes’ Rugby World Cup Sevens campaign in Russia next week.
Rugby sevens is played in the Asian Games and the Philippines didn’t field a squad in the 2010 edition, where Japan and Hong Kong finished with a gold and silver medal. South Korea, the bronze medalist, is a squad the Volcanoes have beaten last year in the qualifiers for the World Cup Sevens.
Gomez said the PSC has an annual budget of P7 million for rugby.
“It is actually more than what we give softball and baseball. It’s even more than we give SBP (Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas) for basketball," said Gomez. “That’s how much the PSC knows there’s a lot of potential in rugby."
Volcanoes coach Al Caravelli, however, said funds from current sponsors are still not enough for the team to get the desired international exposure. On average, the Volcanoes play in only four tournaments a year whereas Samoa plays a minimum of 12, according to Caravelli.
Samoa, ranked fourth in the world in sevens, is among the Volcanoes’ opponents in the World Cup Sevens group stage that kicks off on June 28 in Moscow.
“We need more resources so that we could play in more tournaments. Samoa plays a minimum of 12 tournaments a year,” Caravelli said. “Their (Samoa’s) player with the least amount of sevens caps has more than all of our guys’ put together.”
Now the third-ranked sevens squad in Asia, the Volcanoes are out to prove their worth in the World Cup, which features the 24 best teams in the world. Aside from Samoa, the Filipinos will have to contend with Kenya and Zimbabwe in Pool C.
Gomez is hoping the development of the Volcanoes would be similar to that of the national football team. He revealed that the head of a top international sneaker brand told him that sales of football shoes “increased by 7,000 times” in the country, thanks largely to the Azkals phenomenon.
“That’s phenomenal. It’s never happened before,” the commissioner said, adding that most of the shoes that are getting out of stock are children’s shoes.
“There are many people now playing because of the success of the Azkals. And I know with the success of the Volcanoes, there are going to be more kids that will start playing rugby.”