SPORTING CHANCEJoaquin M. Henson (The Philippine Star) – October 23, 2020 – 12:00am

Two PBA referees are coming to reinforce the officiating pool in the Clark bubble but even as they’re not expected to arrive until next week, commissioner Willie Marcial is confident of holding the fort with seven arbiters up to Sunday. The reinforcements are Jerry Narandan and Joseph (Bing) Oliva. They’re now undergoing mandatory home quarantine after their swab tests. Once the results are negative, Oliva should be in Clark by Monday and Narandan within next week. Narandan, 39, joined the PBA in 2015 and was in the rotation for the Philippine Cup finals last season. Oliva is on his eighth year as a PBA referee.

The PBA enlisted 16 referees for the bubble. Sherwin Pineda was the first casualty so the pool went down to 15. Pineda worked the Rain or Shine-NorthPort game last Sunday and called a highly debatable foul with three seconds left to decide the outcome. Marcial later summoned Pineda to discuss what happened. “Si Sherwin isa sa mga recommended for high rating kanya hindi pwede sa akin yung tawag na ‘di ‘clear and obvious,’ with three seconds to go at tied ang laro,” said Marcial. “Tinanong ko, kung siya ang commissioner, anong desisyon mo? Naintindihan naman niya.” Pineda is now awaiting a ride back to Manila from the bubble.

Last Monday, swab testing was done on 28 individuals in the bubble and a PBA referee came out positive. The other 27 were negative. The referee was extracted from the bubble last Wednesday morning and brought to the Clark Athletes Village for isolation. He underwent an antigen test that day and was negative. The referee tested negative twice before entering the bubble and tested negative once more upon entering Clark. Because of his testing history, the referee was classified as a “suspect” positive. His roommate in the Quest Hotel tested negative. He took another swab test last Wednesday and the result was to be known last night or this morning at the latest.

Marcial took up the referee’s case in a video conference call with Bases Conversion and Development Authority CEO/president and chief testing czar of the National Task Force Against COVID-19 secretary Vince Dizon, Clark Development Corp. (CDC) president Noel Manankil, Dr. Jose Raul (George) Canlas and CDC Health and Sanitation Division head Dr. Clemencita Dobles last Wednesday. PBA deputy commissioner Eric Castro also joined the video call. Marcial said tracing was done to identify four persons as first layer contacts and three as second layer contacts. The seven contacts, all referees, are now in quarantine and will be swab tested tomorrow. With Pineda out, the “suspect” positive in isolation and seven in quarantine, only seven are left to work the games until the reinforcements arrive and those in quarantine are reactivated. Castro said the remaining referees are in condition to work the games every day. “Kakayanin,” he assured.

Marcial gathered the referees to a meeting the other day and rallied the troops. “Hindi ako susuko,” he said. “Itong ginagawa natin ay hindi lang para sa ating pamilya, hindi lang para sa liga kundi para sa PBA fans. Malaking pagsubok sa atin ito. Laban tayong lahat.” The referees applauded to show support and unity for Marcial.

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