EJ Obiena to remain Filipino amid PATAFA row: ‘I want to win for Philippines’

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, November 30) — Filipino pole vault sensation EJ Obiena has “no desire to change nations” despite lucrative offers from other countries.

James Michael Lafferty, Obiena's mentor, earlier admitted that some countries have lined up at the door of the 26-year-old pole vaulter to don their flags in competitions. He added that there were already offers even before the rift between Obiena and the Philippine Athletics Track and Field Association happened.

But Obiena still believes that “loyalty matters.”

“I will never abandon my nation because of money. That’s not loyalty. At least not how I define it,” he said in statement on late Monday.

“Even now, in this current crisis, I have no desire to change nations. I see these statements on social media and active encouragement to switch allegiances. But this is not who I am and why I do this. I want to win for Philippines and show the world what we can do. I want to win for us.”

PATAFA earlier accused Obiena of embezzling funds after he allegedly failed to pay over ₱4.8 million in coaching fees of Ukrainian mentor Vitaly Petrov. Obiena admitted that he made late payments to the coach but only due to his commitments as an athlete.

The pole vault star, who has criticized the federation for not remitting payments directly to his coach, earlier threatened to break away from the national team due to what he called harassment by the PATAFA.

“Speaking of loyalty, this is the foundation of my strong defense of these allegations. When one values loyalty, one cannot comprehend how my own “mother organization” turned on me, never consulted with me, never asked me any questions, never gave me the benefit of the doubt. That’s not loyalty. Again, at least not how I define it,” the multi-medaled athlete added.

Some Filipino standouts who decided to switch nationalities include chess grandmaster Wesley So, golfer Yuka Saso, and pool player Alex Pagulayan.