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Santiago faces tough road to Olympics

It’s not easy.

Bea Micaller



Jaja Santiago’s road to the Olympics comes with a price.

According to a long-time volleyball observer, changing citizenship is easier said than done since Santiago also has to switch her federation of origin that would bar her from seeing action as a local player in domestic leagues like the Premier Volleyball League (PVL) and the Philippine Superliga (PSL).

The source said Santiago has to be very firm with her decision as the International Volleyball Federation (FIVB) allows the switch of federation only once.

Santiago, the 6-foot-5 opposite spiker from Cavite, was reportedly given a mouthwatering offer to become a naturalized Japanese citizen last week after leading Ageo Medics to the title of the Japan V.League.

She said no less than the Medics’ Brazilian coach Antonio Marcos Lerbach who reached out to her, laying down a very tempting offer to undergo naturalization process that would enable her to play as a local player in Japan and realize her dream of seeing action in the 2024 Olympics in Paris.

But the source said Santiago has to be very careful since changing nationality is a major decision.

“Once she changes her nationality, she also has to switch federation from the Philippine National Volleyball Federation to the Japan Volleyball Association,” the source said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

“So once she changes the origin of her federation to Japan, she will be considered as an import if ever she decides to go back here and play in local leagues like the PVL or the PSL.”

The source said Santiago’s naturalization makes a lot of sense for Ageo Medics.

With Santiago playing as a local player, the club would be able to tap another import, giving the Medics a more solid rotation featuring three reinforcements.

But it doesn’t mean that the former National University star can suit up for the Japanese national team right away.

The insider emphasized that once the change of citizenship and switch of nationality have been completed and the applicable administrative fee had been paid to the FIVB, Santiago has to wait for two more years before she can don the Japanese jersey in the international arena, including the Olympics.

She also has to undergo a rigid selection process, knowing that Japan has a massive pipeline of talents with players starting to train as early as seven years old.

“It’s not easy,” said the insider, who is familiar with the dynamics of FIVB process.

“Once she changes her citizenship and the FIVB formally accepted her change of federation, she has to wait for two more years before she becomes eligible to play for the Japanese team.”

“But before that, she also has to undergo tryouts because, as we know, Japan has a lot of talents with young players all dreaming to become part of the national team.”

The source clarified that it was Ageo Medics, not the JVA, which made an offer.

“Actually, it was Ageo that made the offer,” the source added.

“If it was JVA, it should have reached out to our national federation. Then, the federation would talk to Jaja about the possibility of changing her citizenship.”

Still, everything is up in the air as Santiago has yet to come up with a decision.

The source said whatever her decision would be, it’s already a victory to Filipino volleyball players, whose talents are now being recognized by officials from a powerhouse country like Japan.

“To be honest, there’s no decision yet,” the source said.

“It was just an offer that she shared, but there’s no definite answer yet. Anyway, whatever it is, let us support her all the way because what she would be doing is not just for herself, but for the country as well.”