Why The Lion is out of the Guinness Tour

MANILA, Philippines -- There's always a thrill in seeing Alex "The Lion" Pagulayan sizzle and roar in big international pool tournaments.

But there will be no Pagulayan to do his wild thing, at least in the next leg of the Guinness Tour.

He has been scratched out after the Singapore leg.

There were conflicting reports on why Pagulayan, the 2004 World 9-ball champion and the 2005 US Open 9-ball titlist, has been withdrawn.

Actually, Pagulayan protested and claimed he had already purchased a round-trip ticket to Shanghai in anticipation of his entry in the China leg by virtue of his semifinal finish in the Singapore leg recently.

Pagulayan blasted the Billiards and Snooker Congress of the Philippines (BCSP) and claimed his ouster would definitely affect his game in the ongoing Cebu Open where he is one of the favorites.

BCSP president Ernesto Fajardo stated that the decision to replace Pagulayan was a prerogative of the BCSP executive committee.

The BCSP also e-mailed a statement to this reporter to clarify why Pagulayan has been withdrawn from the four-man RP team competing in the Guinness 9-ball tour set in China Aug. 3-5.

Last Thursday, July 26, the Billiards and Snooker Congress of the Philippines, through its Executive Committee and Board of Directors, decided to withdraw the name of Alex Pagulayan as Filipino participant from the Shanghai Leg of the Guinness Pool Tour on Aug. 3-5.

That decision was made after a review of Pagulayan's conduct during his semifinal match with Malaysia's Ibrahim Amir in the Singapore Leg last July 13-15. We found his actuations during the match unworthy and unacceptable for a representative of a country that is regarded today as "the epicenter of international pool." His antics amounted to "sharking" -- the pool term for acts to disrupt and disarm one's opponent in order to win. So gross were his actions that in the end, Ibrahim repaid him in kind. To many, including not a few Filipinos, it seemed only just that the Malaysian won the match.

The BSCP believes that Pagulayan's behavior demanded at the very least that he no longer be sent to the tournament that he had disrespected. His presence in Shanghai would only serve to remind our Asian neighbors of his behavior. Hence, the decision to replace him with Jeffrey de Luna, a Filipino player much prized by the tour organizers.

Playing in the Guinness Tour is a privilege, not a right. It is our sports body's policy to choose players who can do honor for our country and our sport, and allocate slots as fairly as possible. Two times out of four legs, Pagulayan was accorded the privilege; both times he failed. And it is doubly unfortunate that he did not play and lose with grace.

With respect to the wild statements that Pagulayan has made to the media following his recall, we have this to say:

1. His claim that he was being replaced as Philippine representative in the Guinness Tour because he refused to play in a TV program is false. The supposed meeting he alludes to -- and the supposed invitation made to him -- never took place. There was an attempt to arrange a meeting with him, but he said he could not talk until he came back from Cebu on July 28. So he does not know what we wanted to discuss with him (his Singapore behavior and our billiards program, among others), and we did not hear any of his mercenary demands.

2. His claim that he sacrificed a place in the International Pool Tour (IPT) in 2005 for the sake of playing for the Philippines in the Southeast Asian Games is a lie. He was not invited to the IPT then. He only became an IPT member in 2006. When he became an IPT member, he promptly told the BSCP that he would not play for the country in the Asian Games in Doha in 2006. Later, he dangled the possibility of playing if he would be given money. The money request was turned down.

3. His statement about being used by BSCP in order to make money off him is bewildering. In the two BSCP national championship events he participated in, neither the sports body nor the promoter made any money. We do our utmost to find sponsors and benefactors to sustain major events in the country, but so far income has not been enough to cover costs. So this charge of exploitation is both absurd and incredibly ungrateful for someone who has earned over a million pesos from our billiards program.

That program continues with the 2007 and 2008 World Pool Championship, the San Miguel Asia-Pacific Pool Tour, the 2008 WPA World 10-Ball Championship, the Philippine Pool Tour, and Pool Showdown, a reality TV show. In all these, the format is always competitive pool. The BSCP and the promoters will not offer money guarantees to any player, no matter how inflated his ego. It would be unfortunate, given Pagulayan's mercenary demands, if he will miss these major pool events in the international pool calendar.