The Mariana Islands Basketball Federation is determined to contest the questionable eligibility rules approved for next month’s Micronesian Games in Yap.
MIBF official and CNMI men’s and women’s national teams coach Elias Rangamar said their group will directly send a letter to the Micronesian Games Council to appeal the latter’s decision to change the eligibility rules in basketball alone and may still take legal actions if push comes to shove.
The contested new rules, suggested by FIBA Oceania and okayed by the Micronesian Games Council, state that for a basketball player to compete in the Micro Games, he or she must be a citizen and passport holder of the country he or she is representing. In the CNMI’s case, a player should be a U.S. citizen and must be born here or a U.S. citizen and at least has a grandparent born here. In the old eligibility rules, non-U.S. citizens were allowed to compete for the CNMI provided they meet the seven-year residency, while a three-year residency was implemented for Micronesian athletes living here.
“We will fight for this until the end,” said Rangamar in a telephone interview with Saipan Tribune last night, adding that their protest could gain ground after he found out Chuuk and Kosrae were also hit by the controversial eligibility rules.
“We will coordinate with Chuuk and Kosrae and see what we can do to raise our concerns with the Council,” the veteran coach added.
Rangamar found out Chuuk’s same predicament through the Facebook post of coach Marz Akapito.
“As we take basketball prep to the last days in Chuuk before leaving for Yap, host State of the 2018 Micronesian Games, we are facing an issue that has been put on us by the Micro Games Council and those in charge of coordinating the competition. Years before, as in 2006, 2010, and 2014, players did not have to worry about this issue that we are facing in 2018,” stated in Akapito’s post.
“Even worse, players with FSM passports but were born in the US, who did not get their passport by age 16 can not play in the Micro Games per FIBA rules. Again, years before, this rule did not govern our Micronesian Games. It’s like the MGC has allowed FIBA to turn the Micronesian Games against Micronesian. I mean, there are many players who are born and raised in US, probably also have not seen ‘home’ but they still consider themselves Chuukese or Micronesians. Deep within, they have the pride for and the longing to represent their home at the Micronesian Games,” he added.
Akapito’s post was flooded with comments and all of them questioned the Micronesian Games Council decision.
“I hope we have enough Micronesians lining up to urge the Council to reverse the decision and go back to previous procedures where all Micronesians have the freedom to play for home, if chosen, regardless of what passport they hold. This way, the many hundreds already disenfranchised by the current decision can secure the privilege to represent ‘home’ no matter what part of the globe they were born,” the former administrative supervisor at FSM public information office said.
Saipan Tribune sent a message to Akapito, asking for more comments about the issue, but he has yet to respond at press time. Saipan Tribune has also reached out to Micronesian Games Council, through president Bill Keldermans, but has yet to get answers from the group.
Meanwhile, pending the final decision on the eligibility rules, MIBF has added Kelvin Fitial and Thomas Kautz to the men’s team’s depleted roster. The squad is down to nine players with the withdrawal of Jack Lizama and Dan Barcinas, and Douglas Schmidt and N-Nes Siech, who are the two players affected by the new eligibility rules.
Rangamar, in an email to Northern Marianas Sports Association president Michael White, has requested that Kautz and Fitial be added on the accreditation list for Team Marianas. However, White said that can’t be done, as the accreditation deadline (June 15) as already past. Still, Rangamar is hopeful that the accreditation and organizing committees may reconsider their appeal, especially after the new eligibility rules were only announced less than two months before the Micro Games kicks off and after the CNMI has already selected members of its teams.