Fernandez recalls rivalry with Co for 1979 MVP race

July 06, 2020

FOUR-TIME PBA MVP Ramon Fernandez may be away from basketball for more than two decades now, but he is still highly revered for his wisdom by both young and old players.

Fernandez, nicknamed “El Presidente” during his playing days in Asia’s first play-for-pay league  from 1975 to 1994, claimed PBA players today are more fortunate to be playing against tougher opponents in international competitions.

“Swerte ang mga players natin ngayon gaya nila June Mar (Fajardo) dahil nakakapaglaro sila sa mga international competitions bukod pa sa PBA at national team,” Fernandez told sportswriters during last Thursday’s TOPS’ “Usapang Sports on Air” via Zoom.

The 66-year-old Fernandez claimed the competition in international leagues is more challenging.

“I think the competition there is much higher than ours. In fact, one negative side in my  20-year playing career in the PBA was the time from 1975 to 1990. Kami-kami lang ang naglalaban-laban nun. Yun level ng competition was the same year in and year out. Iba talaga yung napapalaban ka sa interational competitions.”

He admitted he was in favor of talented  players, like Kai Sotto, Thirdy Ravena and Ken Tuffin deciding to play abroad.

Asked about  the 1979 PBA MVP controversy with fellow PBA legend Fortunato “Atoy” Co of Crispa, Fernandez said:

“Let’s research it to keep us busy during the quarantine. Study the history kung ano talaga ang nangyari. That’s a good learning. I don’t want to be biased. That’s past already.”

“Kami ni Atoy (Co) ang naglaban sa MVP nun 1979. For the whole year, leading ako sa statistical points,” recalled Fernandez in the two-hour conference sponsored by the Philippine Sports Commission and PAGCOR.

"Nag-champion ang Crispa sa All-Filipino, nag-champion din kami (Toyota) ng isang conference. Sa PBA, statistical points, boto ng mga coaches,  players at press. Natalo ako sa boto ng press.”

Fernandez was also asked about the players who made it difficult for him during his PBA days.

He pointed to Abet Gudaiben and Philip Cezar of grandslam champion Crispa Redmanizers as among his toughest opponents.

“Madami ding nag-pahirap sa akin. Let’s start with Abet Guidaben and Philip Cezar sa Crispa side. Even sina Jimmy Javier,  Bong de la Cruz, panay ang taga sa mukha ko ng mga yun. Pati sina Chito Loyzaga, Yoyoy Villamin  at Manny Victorino."

“I always consider all of them na magaling na dume-pensa sa akin. I have given them that respect. Hindi pwedeng magkumpiyansa, na isipin kaya ko ito. That’s the start of your downfall.You have to respect all your opponents the same way as anybody."

On the recent comments of Samahang Basketball ng Pilipinas program director Tab Baldwin on officiating in the PBA,  Fernandez  said the referees’ calls should not be a problem in basketball.

“Since the MICAA days in  the 60s, locally and internationally, officiating is always the bane of the players. You cannot be complaining about the referees’ call. The inconsistency of the referees calls is the only constant thing in a basketball game. There will always be inconsistent calls. As a player, you have to always adjust to the calls. Etong referee  na itong mahilig sa ganitong tawag, konting contact pipito na ito, so you  have to study that as a player.”

“You should not be in sports if you complain about the referees, kung ipapasa mo sa referees yun reason kaya kayo natalo."

As far as the PBA policy of having only import, Fernandez said he had no problem with that.

“It’s up to the PBA and the team owners kung ilan ang imports. In our time, dalawang imports kami tapos may mga handicapping. Yung top four, may limit ang height ng import. Tapos yun last four, mas matatangkad ang height."

On comparison with PBA MVP June Mar Fajardo of San Miguel Beer, Fernandez said: “I leave that up to the basketball followers. Pag sinabi ko na  pinakamagaling na player si June Mar, wala na tayong diskusyon. But kanya-kanyang favorite tayo, Iba-ibang generation.

There are points raised, pero kanya-kanya na yun.”

Fernandez refused to give the names of his top five players.

“Honestly, I really have to review the statistics. That’s the story of the career of the players. It’s really hard to  pinpont the top five players.” said Fernandez.