Column #306 Jojo Barellano

July 7, 2007
Column 306
Jojo Barellano

I suppose the news that Rizal “JoJo” Barellano will be representing his country, in the first appearance ever by a Filipino, in this year’s Professional Darts Corporation’s (PDC) world championship was greeted with a yawn by most fans of the sport. Undoubtedly when news breaks that another player from the region, again a first, has been invited will be met with a similar lack of enthusiasm.

My reaction is exactly the opposite.

Unknown Wynand Havenga’s dash to last year’s final sixteen added excitement to the tournament, cash to some lucky punter’s wallets and brought momentum to the sport in South Africa. Whether this year’s newcomers match Havenga’s unlikely accomplishment or not, they will, simply by appearing, energize the sport in far away places.

Barellano is from Davao City on Mindanao, the southernmost island group in the Philippines, an area internationally recognized as the hotbed of terrorist activity among the 7,107-island archipelago.

Berellano’s flight to Heathrow will take sixteen hours, a long-haul by any reasonable measure, represents a relatively short trip compared to the day-and-a-half that it took him to travel from his home, by “fast boat” to the qualifying venue in Manila.

But he’ll be at Alexandra Palace “proudly wearing my Pinoy colors!” It will only be the second time that the 42-year-old has set foot outside of his homeland. The first was in 2006 when as a member of the Philippine National Team he made it to the top eight in the Asia Pacific Cup in Malaysia.

Remarkably, Barellano did not even own a personal set of darts at the time – he was gifted a set by Dartware’s Steve Dorotheo after the tournament.

By trade Barellano is a taxi driver – but recently he sold his taxi. It was what he had to do to pay tournament entry fees and afford the airfare to send his wife Estrella to Dubai, to work. Barellano also has a young son so it is fortunate, as he humbly puts it, that “God has given me the gift of life and talent” to win darts tournaments and feed his family.

They are starkly different worlds – Davao City and London…

Those who discount the participation of a player like Barellano because “he’s not quality” or because his inclusion is “unfair to others who are ranked” may have valid points. But the same comments were made of Havenga…

Ask Peter Manley what he thinks about that. If he’s honest he will admit that sometimes what is just plain good for the global development of the sport is more important than allowing entry to only those who don’t live at the far corners of the planet and can scrape together the cash to compete for ranking points.

Although Barellano, more or less, burst onto the scene in recent years he’s not unaware of the wider world of darts. Indeed, via Solar Sports, top-level darts, including the PDC’s world championship, have been televised in the Philippines for some time.

So Barellano knows what’s going on, knows the tall odds he faces – yet remains motivated by his quiet self-confidence, supreme national pride and just plain the honor to be following in the footsteps of Freddie Deen. “I look up to Dennis Priestley,” he told me, and “to be successful I must focus like him.”

I’m sure Barellano will and I am also sure that Priestley, one of the real class acts in the game, will take the time to seek out this Filipino and wish him all the best.

From the Field,

Dartoid

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Dartoid
Author of the column that since 1995 has been featured by Bull’s Eye News, the American Darts Organization’s (ADO) Double Eagle and numerous other darts publications and websites around the globe.

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