The national squad expressed shock and disbelief over EJ Obiena’s decision to rip the Philippine Athletics Track and Field Association (Patafa) in a news briefing over the weekend.
National coach Jojo Posadas yesterday said they couldn’t believe that Obiena will hit the federation hard, especially if the matter could be settled in private with maturity and respect.
Obiena, one of the world’s best vaulters, appeared in a hastily-called press conference last Sunday to deliver a strongly-worded statement aimed at the federation that took good care of him and even sent him to a world-class training facility in Italy.
He said he is ready to retire and go back to school after Patafa “accused” him of falsifying his liquidation report and failing to pay his coach Vitaly Petrov of his monthly salary amounting to 2,000 euros from 2018 to 2021.
He added that Patafa tarnished his reputation and assassinated his character as an athlete and even demanded those accusing him to withdraw the investigation and issue a public apology.
The 26-year-old vaulter also claimed that he already filed cases before the World Athletics, International Olympic Committee (IOC) and the Philippine Olympic Committee against Patafa.
“The only resolution to this is a full and public withdrawal of the investigation and a full public apology from the authorities involved in this,” Obiena said in a press briefing that caught everybody, even his coaches and teammates, by surprise.
“If this does not happen, I will consider my other options, being immediate retirement from the sport that I love in the Philippines, and probably return to school.”
But multiple sources told Daily Tribune that the federation wasn’t accusing him.
In fact, in its memo to Obiena, Patafa never mentioned the words “embezzlement” and “theft,” but demanded the return of 85,000 euros (around P4.8 million) of financial assistance extended to him to pay for the salary of his coach.
The federation, which claimed to have no hand in the publication of news report that accuses him of “embezzlement” and “theft,” also added that it would freeze further financial support pending the reimbursement of the amount.
Posadas said they couldn’t believe that the misunderstanding between the federation and their star athlete would get out of hand.
“We were all shocked. All of us here coaches and athletes here in Baguio couldn’t believe it when the press conference happened,” said Posadas, one of the country’s most respected mentors and the husband of legendary jumper Elma Muros-Posadas.
Posadas, however, stressed that they can’t let the trouble between Obiena and the federation affect them.
After all, they are working doubly hard in training in preparation for the 31st Southeast Asian Games in May in Hanoi.
“We can’t let it affect us since we’re running out of time in training. We need to recover and we shouldn’t let ourselves get affected by it,” he said.
“Our bosses will be the one to answer that issue. For us, our only focus is our training because it has been 18 months since we last trained physically.”
The Philippine Sports Commission had already transmitted mediation submission agreement forms to Obiena and Patafa so they can settle their differences. If nothing has been resolved in 30 days, the chief mediator in PSC chief William “Butch” Ramirez will be forced to come up with an arbitration.