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In sports, it takes just one quick moment to ruin a player or team’s reputation, but even a lot more time to rebuild it.
This was something that new Sarangani Marlins head coach John Kallos made clear from the start of his tenure with the squad, ahead of their Chooks-to-Go MPBL Invitational powered by TM stint.
“Inspiration ko kasi noong kinuha ako dito sa Sarangani is, the worst ‘yung nangyari sa team ko last season. As I promised my bosses and my players, this will be a competitive team. This will fight until the last buzzer,” Kallos said.
Of course, the then SOCCSKSARGEN Marlins was involved in one of the biggest Philippine sports controversies in recent memory during the 2019 MPBL Lakan Season.
No less than the league headed by Commissioner Kenneth Duremdes filed criminal complaints against 10 players and other figures for multiple counts of betting, game-fixing, and points shaving.
The Marlins finished with a league-worst 1-29 record in that season — a chapter that the Marlins franchise want to close and let go of.
And Kallos is making sure rebuilding the reputation of the club as a team that plays fair and does not involve itself in such illegal acts is a top priority.
“Dinala ko lang ‘yung culture (dito) na hindi tayo nagpapatalo. ‘Yung image ng Sarangani (siguro) is pangit (dahil sa nangyari) for the last season, so ‘yun talaga ‘yung inspirasyon namin na hindi ka man manalo, ‘yung lumalaban ka. Mas importante ‘yun,” he added. “Sabi lang ni boss Manny Pacquiao, bawal ang sugal dito sa team so ‘yun lang ang ininstill ko dito sa team.”
Among the new players for the Marlins are long-time PBA veteran Gabby Espinas, who hopes to bring both his leadership and consummate professionalism to the younger guys on the roster.
“Ang role ko dito, hindi lang teammate, parang tito na rin eh. Nire-remind ko rin sila na huwag na huwag silang papatol sa mga offer na ganoon,” Espinas said.
“Mahirap ipakain sa pamilya mo na galing sa ganoon. Karma kasi ‘yung iintindihin mo doon, hindi ‘yung kung kaya mo ulit gawin next game. ‘Yun ang pinakauna kong sinabi sa kanila. Useless na pera ‘yan.”
And in just three games, the Marlins are liking what they are seeing in the invitational tournament. The team tallied its first victory on Wednesday, December 15 to the tune of a 75-66 beating of the Muntinlupa Cagers.
The 6-foot-5 bruiser himself has already committed to the squad for the much longer full-blown regular season next year, citing his love for the game.
“Hangga’t kaya ko tumakbo, basta walang masakit, lalaro ako. Mahirap magpahinga kasi hindi na tayo mga bata. Hangga’t nakakadepensa nang maayos, laban pa rin,” Espinas said. “Ito ang buhay natin, dito tayo nakilala. Ito ang unang minahal natin kay mag-stay lang tayo hangga’t makakaya.”
With the core of the lineup comprising pretty much the roster for the regular season next year, it is clear Espinas, Kallos, and the entire Sarangani team are adamant when it comes to not just the overhaul of the roster — but also making sure what happened before will not happen again.
Photos from Chooks-to-Go MPBL
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