WHILE virtually no one was watching, Philippine badminton history was made at the heritage-rich Rizal Memorial Coliseum last Wednesday night.
Among those privileged to watch it happen was Philippine Badminton Association president Albee Benitez, who witnessed the national men’s team score a stirring 3-2 comeback victory over fancied Singapore in Group C of the Badminton Asia Team Manila Championships.
“This win has a huge impact for Philippine badminton. Because, hey, (it shows that) nanalo na tayo against these world-ranked Asian competitors,” Benitez, who took over as PBA president from former Vice President Jojo Binay in 2017, stressed. “It is a signal that our sport is progressing at the competitive level.
“It is a big win for us to show that we have enough talent to beat other Asian countries, considering that all world champions are coming from this region. Unlike in the past, pag-sampa pa lang natin dati sinasabi ‘ah, talo na.’ Hopefully, we can generate more patronage and excitement from Filipinos with this win.”
The former lawmaker was also pleased to note “this (victory was in) a team event. This shows that ang bench natin dumadami na, gumagaling na. Iba to what we accomplished before. These are our former junior players na nag-advance na. They’ve advanced and improved to this kind of level.”
The victory boosted the Philippines to the brink of its maiden quarterfinal appearance in the prestigious Asian team competition, and it could happen assuming Chinese-Taipei beats Singapore in their match last night.
With Olympic ranking points at stake in the event, the Taiwanese, who beat the Filipinos 5-0 last Tuesday, were expected to prevail over the Singaporeans and seal their spot in the quarterfinals, towing the hosts in the process.
Encouraged by the huge win, Benitez said his mission is to produce a Filipino world badminton within the next few years.
“We’re seeing improvements and developments, pero malayo pa tayo,” he admitted. “It (the win) shows signs that we are getting there. Those are the things we’re trying to confront.”
With the support of the MVP Sports Foundation, the Philippine Sports Commission and other patrons, Benitez said he wants more tournaments and overseas training for the national badminton players.
“Kapag dito sila-sila lang, para may transfer of technology,” he said.
While for some having a Filipino world badminton champion might be a pipedream, the badminton chief was bullish about the prospect occurring under his watch, saying: “We will not rush it. We will do our best in trying to succeed.
“Tayo naman, tuloy-tuloy lang. And one of these days, the world champion for sure. We will continue until we get there.”