June Mar Fajardo is aware of his current status in the eyes of the Filipino nation.
While there are some who understand his predicament, a great majority have aired their anger and frustrations after the 6-foot-10 Cebuano center begged off from the FIBA Asia Cup for the second time in a row due to injury.
While injuries are part and parcel of the life of a basketball player, what made Fajardo’s case questionable according to some fans is the timing.
In 2015, the San Miguel Beermen captured the Governors’ Cup title via 4-0 sweep of the Alaska Aces. Fajardo was named Finals MVP and Season MVP as well. There were no indications that he was suffering from any form of ailment.
Armed with an exceptional performance throughout the season, Fajardo easily made it to the 24-man Gilas Pilipinas pool for the 2015 FIBA Asia Championship which was scheduled for September 30 to October 3, 2015.
The Beermen won the title on July 17, 2015. On July 21, Fajardo came out with the announcement that we was suffering from plantar fasciitis on both feet. This development effectively took Fajardo out of the equation for the Final 12.
The Philippines eventually finished in 2nd place behind host China.
For the 2017 edition of the same tournament, Fajardo was again named to the 24-man pool of Gilas. He eventually made it to the Final 12 but on the eve of the team’s departure for Lebanon, SMB officials announced that he was injured.
Fajardo apparently suffered a strained calf muscle in the closing minutes of their game against TNT. SMB’s premier center came up with 27 points, 6 rebounds and 5 blocks for the night. He was named as Best Player of the Game.
The fact that the Beermen are on course for a rare Grand Slam feat also didn’t escape the fans.
If Fajardo played and suffered an injury during the FIBA Asia Cup, it would be a devastating blow to the campaign of the league’s winningest franchise. After all, ‘The Kraken’ has been the most dominant player in recent times, racking up three straight Most Valuable Player awards. If nothing untoward happens, he is well on his way to becoming the most decorated PBA player ever.
Fajardo acknowledged during an interview that he was aware of the fans’ sentiments regarding his recent injury.
“Sobrang init ng mga tao sa akin, pero anong magagawa ko? Wala, talagang na-injured e,” he said. “Di naman natin kagustuhan yun e. Sino ba naman ang ayaw maglaro. Pag naglalaro naman ako binibigay naman natin yung lahat.”
Still, the gentle giant out of Cebu is hoping that fans will eventually understand his situation and give him the benefit of the doubt for a change. – Alvin Borromeo