Lito Cinco

A first-time China trip for me

May 26, 2024 Lito Cinco 359 views

I HAVE travelled to a few countries in my life but it was the first time ever for me to step on mainland China, Xiamen to be exact in Fujian Province.

Together with Philippine Sports Commission( PSC) Commissioner Fritz Gaston, we were invited by the Fil-Chinese Amateur Athletic Federation( FCAAF), the biggest group of Fil-Chinese schools nation-wide for a 5 day trip to China , the first time since the pandemic.

The FCAAF delegation, headed by its Chairman and founding president Jimmy Tan and current President Natalie Sia, is looking at renewing ties with Chinese sports officials for the resumption of its previous program of sending young Fil-Chinese athletes to China for training , in 2007, FCAAF had a group there that included a young EJ Obiena and swimmer Xandi Chua.

Fritz, on the other hand, is looking at working in partnership with the FCAAF for a joint program that would cover possible training of national athletes in selected sports like badminton, table tennis, weightlifting, to mention a few, in China.

The group visited the sprawling Xiamen Sports School which also serves as a training center for China’s elite athletes, we saw 20 badminton courts all under one roof , its weightlifting and gymnastics gym, but did not have time to visit all the other facilities for other disciplines.

In a meeting held with the school officials, the response was positive even as the suggestiin was made to include coaches and a Chinese-speaking interpreter with the athletes and coaches to address communication problems.

For FCAAF, initial plans are to send 2 swimmers and 4 track and field, young athletes who have good potentials.

Xiamen University, with its sprawling campus in two branches, was also impressive with its two Olympic size pools.

The other places visited were Jin Jiang and Shi shi as the FCAAF also brought a selection of high school basketball players from 8 Fil-Chinese schools, Chiang Kai Shek, Hope Christian School,
Jubilee Christian School, St. Stephen’s High School, Philippine Cultural College, Paco Citizen Foundation Academy, MGC New Life Christian Academy, and St. Jude Catholic School , who played local teams in the area.

First game was against Jin Jiang 2nd High School, followed by a match with theShi Shi Overseas Chinese School, and the biggest one versus a ranked collegiate team from Xiamen University with Fritz pitching in as coach for the FCAAF selection as CKS coach Joel Yap , who handled the first two games had to leave earlier for a family trip to Japan.

Nothing new for Fritz though as he was a UAAP collegiate champion coach for Ateneo in 1988 and with the women’s SEABA team in 2005.

First game againt Jin Jiang was an easy one with the team’s trapping double team defense panicking the opposition to many errors en route to a 67-54 victory to open the friendship game series.

The second match with Shi Shi proved tougher as the local team was reinforced by some big alumni players, FCAAF dominated the game for most of the game but with over s8x minutes left and FCAAF up 68-54, the locals uncorked a closing 16-2 run that saw he game tied at 70 all with a minute left.

Only to reel back from three straight baskets by FCAAF to set the final score at 76-70 for win number 2, came the third game, I already knew we were overmatched as the Xiamen U team had some big players, and very good players at that , efficient at both ends of the court , add 10 triples and a dominance of the boards.

Final score was 103-70 as the gallant FCAAF players gave their best but then basketball proved anew that height is might. I learned after that it was a collegiate team we played, ranked in the top 3 in Fujian province.

It was not all sports though as we were briught to a Shaolin temple too where around 40 young students live and train, they even put up a show for the group highlighted by one trainee hutting his head with a steel rod with no visible effect at all.

Then there were the endless lauriat lunches and dinners in different restaurants and hotels mostly hosted by local folks, me, I ended up trying exotic dishes at the prodding of some members of the delegation, thanks to them I had a real gastronomic experience, as I tried worms, turtle soup, and donkey’s knuckles among others.

What I like about the people from the FCAAF who were with us, their love and passion for sports is real and I found out most of them were former athletes too in their younger years including Jimmy , a track runner, Natalie and Yolanda Co, who both played in the WNCAA, Jose Choa , a football player with the Lions in the late 50’s to mid 60’s, William Castro who says he tried out a lot of sports, and Joey Sy, who used to be with TATAP as sec-gen, and Charlie Lim, also in table tennis.

I also met there Mike Cheonglay of Peak Sports Philippines who arranged a visit by the group to Peak Sports headquarters but I will do a separate piece on that visit, it was an eye opener for me.

Overall actually, my first-time experience in China was a real eye opener , and gave me a better understanding of the Chinese culture sans politics.

My thanks to FCAAF.