Grandmaster Joey Antonio and top officials of the National Chess Federation of the Philippines traded barbs Tuesday following the NCFP’s decision to drop the 48-year-old veteran from the national team.
“I think there’s politics behind this. I feel like I am being singled out,” said Antonio during the PSA Forum at Shakey’s UN Avenue where he was backed by placard-bearing supports seeking his reinstatement to the RP team.
Antonio came under fire from top NCFP leaders, including president Prospero Pichay, for choosing to play in two tournaments in the United States, and skip the bigger ones lined up by the NCFP in Manila.
Pichay said as a veteran member of the RP team, Antonio could have skipped the Pichay Cup last Aug. 19 top 26, but not the first Florencio Campomanes Cup that was held Aug. 28 to Sept. 3.
Antonio said he tried to book a flight to Manila on Aug. 25 and 26 to catch the Campomanes Cup. But he failed to get a seat and managed to come home only last Saturday.
The NCFP allowed Antonio to compete in the tournaments in California and Michigan, which he both won, and even endorsed his trip the Philippine Sports Commission which shouldered his airfare and allowances.
“I passed through the proper channels for my US trip. It was Mr. Pichay himself who signed the recommendation to the PSC. Now, why am I being banned for missing the tournaments here,” said Antonio.
He cited the other members of the national team, who have gone out of the country and competed in international tournaments this year, and fellow GM Mark Paragua who’s been in the US for six months now.
“This is the first time I competed abroad this year. And I get banned for it while Mark has been in the US for six months now, and he’s not being forced to join the tournaments here. It’s just me they’re after,” said Antonio.
The veteran of many Chess Olympiads said all he wanted was to use the tournaments in the US as part of his preparations for this month’s Chess Olympiad in Russia, and the Asian Games in Guangzhou in November.
“It’s my way of preparing for this two big tournaments. But now I am banned by the NCFP. This could mean the end of my career. And how am I going to feed my family if I can no longer play chess,” he said.
Pichay also graced the forum along with NCFP executive director Willie Abalos and said that while he allowed Antonio to join the US tournaments, he made it known to him that he should play in the Campomanes Cup.
“We cannot consider his request for reinstatement. Joey was shying away from major tournaments because he doesn’t want his ELO rating to drop. He has always been a problem to the team.
“We need cohesiveness in the team, and not someone who acts like a prima dona. This decision to drop him from the team is for the good of the entire team,” added Pichay, a former congressman.
“We have removed him from the RP team, and maybe we can remove him from the roster of the PSC (where elite athletes like Antonio get a monthly allowance of P20,000). He is no longer playing for the country.”
Antonio was joined in the forum by his legal counsel, Sammy Estimo, former secretary-general of the NCFP.
“Joey came home to defend himself when he learned that he was banned. He could have opted to stay in the US but he came home. But the NCFP has already closed the door on him,,” said Estimo.
The former team captain of the RP team to the Chess Olympiad said Antonio was denied due process, as needed to be followed, when the NCFP leveled the ban without hearing his side. – RCJ, GMANews.TV