FORMER Perlas Pilipinas team manager Cynthia Tiu blamed politics for the national side's failure to land a medal in women's basketball in the 28th Southeast Asian Games.
Tiu said the decision of the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas (SBP) to transfer the reins of the national women's team to the group led by businessman Dioceldo Sy just months before the SEA Games was the beginning of the end for the country's gold-medal bid.
“What they did was really a gamble. Ayaw ko naman maging mayabang na sabihin na kami kaya naming mag-gold, pero we’ve been a team for seven years against their team na three months binuo,” said Tiu.
The Discovery Suites group of Tiu has backed the women’s team since 2007, winning silver medals in back-to-back SEA Games in 2011 and 2013 with a lineup handled by longtime national coach Heidi Ong.
That changed when the SBP tapped the Sy group to form the SEA Games-bound team - a move Tiu decries to this day.
“I kept asking them (SBP), what was the urgency of changing our team midstream?” said Tiu. “Nalulungkot ako sa nangyari. Sana man lang kasi nagkaroon ng magandang transition."
“Willing naman kami ipasa sa iba yung leadership ng women’s basketball eh. Kaso ang sabi ko nga, patapusin na muna sana ang SEA Games sa Singapore kasi we’ve been preparing for it since January 2014,” she added.
Tiu said the coaching staff and players from the Discovery Perlas Pilipinas team were "unrightfully relieved" of their positions.
“I don’t even consider it (decision of SBP) as being bypassed. Mali ang approach dun. Parang kudeta yan eh. Kasi binigay na sa amin ang endorsement tapos biglang a few months to go, may pinalit silang bago,” she said.
“Masama talaga ang loob ko sa kanila.”
The outspoken sports patron also questioned the approach of the Sy group, which was coming off a successful UAAP campaign with the National University Lady Bulldogs.
“Maybe they’re banking on their UAAP championships; they have ex-players and UAAP MVPs. Maybe they felt that that was enough. But international competition is way different eh,” said Tiu.
“They were kinda eager to take it to the gold, kasi silver na nga naman kami. One step up na lang. But this I tell them, 'It’s never easy,'” said Tiu.
Tiu said she would have agreed to a smooth transition.
“Kung ako siya (DIoceldo Sy) and he knew that we were already endorsed to the SEA Games a year ago, I would have done a gentleman’s thing to say na, ‘Teka, patapusin na muna natin sila. Kasi na-endorse na sila,'” she said.
“Kasi the Fiba (women’s basketball tournament) is in August eh. Bakit hindi pa nila hinintay na matapos yung campaign namin sa SEA Games, we prepared for it since January last year. Afterwards, ibibigay naman namin sa kanila yung baton eh,” said Tiu.
"I was seeking a compromise. We could have mixed our teams to form one strong squad (for the SEA Games), kaso ayaw nila eh. They always blame our Thailand loss. But at the end of the day, we still won the silver,” Tiu said.
And what does she feel about the national team's performance in Singapore.
“Marami nga nagsasabi nyan (we’re vindicated). I feel more sad than vindicated, kasi yung pinaghirapan namin for the past many years, pero sana man lang you (SBP leadership) lent me your ears. At the end of the day, it’s politics. It was unnecessary,” Tiu declared.
“Akala nila kasi if you have a well-funded team, the chances of winning mas maganda, but that’s not the case there (with Ever Bilena),” she said.
Here's a podcast of interview with Cynthia Tiu: