Ball now in Eala’s hands

Tough task awaits Noli Eala when he formally assumes the leadership of the Philippine Sports Commission.

A former broadcaster, the 59-year-old Eala was formally appointed as chairperson of the government sports agency through a memorandum signed by Executive Secretary Atty. Vic Rodriguez.

His appointment paper was transmitted to the PSC main office at the Rizal Memorial Sports Complex on Wednesday that formally makes him as the 11th chairman of the PSC replacing William “Butch” Ramirez.

He is expected to report to his new office at 9 a.m. on Thursday.

Eala is the second member of the PSC board of commissioners to be appointed following bowling great Olivia “Bong” Coo.

Daily Tribune tried, but Eala refused to issue a statement.

He said he will settle down first before calling for a news briefing, where he will lay down his plans and programs for Philippine sports.

He, however, made a social media post, saying that he is excited to buckle down to work and serve as the top government sports official under the administration of President Ferdinand Marcos Jr.
“Blessed. Honored. Grateful. Excited. Time to serve. Let’s get to work,” Eala, an outspoken supporter of the Chief Executive, said in a Twitter post shortly after his appointment.

But leading the PSC will be easier said than done.

Eala, a former basketball executive, is facing a different ballgame as he has to sustain the momentum that the country gained from its success in major international tournaments, especially in the Tokyo Olympics last year.

Under Ramirez, Philippine sports enjoyed its golden era.

Hidilyn Diaz ended the country’s 97-year wait for an Olympic gold medal when she ruled the weightlifting competition of the Tokyo Olympics while boxers Nesthy Petecio, Carlo Paalam and Eumir Marcial also submitted impressive performances.

The future also looks bright for other athletes like gymnast Carlos Yulo and pole vaulter EJ Obiena as well as Kiyomi Watanabe of judo, Bianca Pagdanganan of golf, Rubilen Amit of billiards and Filipino-Canadian Kayla Sanchez of swimming.

Even Eala’s niece — Alex — is also tipped to emerge as one of the country’s next important athletes after winning a pair of bronze medals in the previous Southeast Asian Games.

With that, Eala is facing the massive challenge of helping these athletes maintain their lofty status using government funds and resources.

Aside from that, the country will also compete in major international events like the SEA Games in Cambodia and the Asian Games in China next year as well as the 2024 Paris Olympics, where expectations on the national athletes will definitely be high.

It is also hosting the 2023 FIBA Basketball World Cup and the government is tipped to play an active role in making it a success.

But Eala is expected to overcome these challenges now that the ball is already in his hand.

Aside from being an Ateneo de Manila University-educated lawyer, Eala is also known as an innovator during his stints as commissioner of the Philippine Basketball Association and executive director of the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas.

Under him, the PBA enjoyed tremendous success as he reduced the ticket cost and provided a fiesta-like atmosphere with different marketing gimmicks that led to sold-out games from 2002 to 2007.

He also altered the league schedule, paving the way for the participation of PBA stars in major international tournaments.

As founding SBP executive director, he made the gutsy move of bringing in Serbian mentor Rajko Toroman to craft a program for Smart Gilas, the predecessor of Gilas Pilipinas, that is similar to the Northern Consolidated Cement team by late Ambassador Eduardo Cojuangco.

With Toroman as program director, the federation tapped the country’s brightest young cagers like JV Casio, Chris Tiu, Mark Barroca, JR Cawaling, Japeth Aguilar and Greg Slaughter and reinforced them with a foreign player who will serve as candidate for naturalization.

The system worked and was set to yield fruits, but the federation suddenly trekked a different direction and let go of Eala and Toroman to revert to hiring of PBA players during the 2013 FIBA Asia Men’s Championship under Chot Reyes.

Eala left SBP to serve as sports director of San Miguel Corporation before being transferred to its infrastructure arm in 2013.

He serves as senior vice president for corporate affairs of JoyRide, a motorcycle ride-hailing mobile app, before being called up for a more important, bigger battle — the PSC.

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