philippine football and the challenges of trying to do the right thingPosted: July 14, 2011
Hayaan mo. That’s how press people are.
Hayaan mo na yan. He’s an a**hole.
PASAY CITY – The comments above were what I received when I asked some friends to find a way for me to sit down and meet with Recah Trinidad to talk about the issues that were raised in his Bare Eye column today in the Inquirer. The article in the column was actually lifted from the Uppercut column of a Danny Simon of the tabloid, Policefiles.
I know and the people who matter know that the article of Mr. Simon is riddled with factual inaccuracies and other misleading information. The tone of the article does make your blood boil to the point where you’d want to lash out and start thinking about rationalizing everything as “crab-mentality”.
To attribute it to “crab-mentality” and move on would be an easy way out. To do so, however, would be to yield the high ground without even the whimper of a feeble protest. To do so would be to lend credence to unanswered untruths which will only serve to embolden these “journalists” to continue to tarnish the work of many who have sought neither publicity nor reward for the silent work that they did.
To do so would make people like Mr. Simon get away with what he has written.
So I choose not to remain silent. I will answer with the facts.
(Items in bold are from Mr. Simon’s article, italicized items are my rejoinders).
“Ever hungry for victories, the Pinoy embraced the Azkals who rode mainly on the highly paid half-Filipino players.” Most of the foreign-based players that the Men’s National Team has on its roster play on club teams which pay them for their talent. I would not exactly call them highly paid – except maybe for a couple. The players of the Men’s National Teams do not get allowances. They get bonuses from the Philippine Football Federation and the National Team Management after certain milestones (e.g. advancing to the 2nd round of the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil Qualifiers). These bonuses are earned – truly a performance-based system.
“Meanwhile, it cannot be denied that success has also gone into the head of many people involved in football, mostly officials of the Philippine Football Federation.” In what sense? We have never sought credit for what we believe was a well-run event and the preparations that went along with it. We were unstinting in giving credit where credit was due – De La Salle University for the pitch, the Philippine Sports Commission for their support and cooperation, our sponsors for their financial commitments, the City of Manila and Mayor Lim for facilitating local government coordination and the fans – for their being there. It would have been self-serving and in poor taste for the PFF to tout its part in the preparations though as an organization it was nice to receive some pats on the back.
“In fact, in the last match of the Azkals against Sri Lanka at the Rizal Memorial Stadium, organizers of the event went overboard as though it was the world championship proper they were hosting.They priced tickets beyond the reach of the masses, with the lowest priced seat going for at least P1,000”. The lowest-priced ticket was P206.
“The bigger name of the game during the Philippines-Sri Lanka match was arrogance. While the masa was practically turned away by the expensive tickets, the media that had helped organizers tremendously were either given a runaround or totally discriminated upon. The vicinity of the stadium along Adriatico Street and Vito Cruz was closed. Next, men in black acting as PFF events marshalls sealed all the gates of the Rizal Memorial Sports Complex. The regular security guards were also stripped of their rights and functions. This, of course, was outright insult to the Philippine Sports Commission, whose officials were reduced to mere spectators.” If the totality of our actions was perceived as arrogance, then we sincerely regret this impression. This was not what we intended to convey. If there were media people who were discriminated against, our sincere apologies. We, as well as FIFA, consider media a vital part of football. We have listened to comments, suggestions and criticism from all quarters, including media, as part of our feedback mechanism for improvement. The security personnel who were engaged for the event were not there to be a nuisance but to facilitate an orderly and peaceful undertaking. It is not easy having 15,000 or so people in one place. We would rather have had the marshals do what they did rather than let chaos and disorder prevail. Of course, we have noted complaints and will work to address these to make sure we do better next time. Does the comment “outright insult to the Philippine Sports Commission” reflect the sentiments of the PSC personnel or is this the writer’s own understanding? The PFF has nothing but praise for the PSC leadership and its personnel. They worked alongside the PFF to ensure the holding of a successful event as true partners. Chairman Richie Garcia, Commissioner Jolly Gomez and Commissioner Chito Loyzaga were quite instrumental in the preparations. To say they were insulted is the actual insult. I wonder if he has even talked to the PSC.
“The saddest part came after national athletes were removed from their quarters, for one day and night, to prevent from either straying or peeping into the big game.” The national team athletes were all accorded complimentary tickets to the game. Some of them, however, chose not to watch the game.
“Message to the Azkals and PFF: You have a long way to go. A main threat awaits you in your next assignment where, if you fail, you will predictably again go begging for the attention of Juan. Just wait and see.” We, more than anyone, know we have a long way to go. The road to the World Cup is not a sprint but a marathon which requires patience and doggedness. We are grateful for the attention of the Filipino nation but are also mindful not to take this for granted. We continue to work to earn the support of the fans rather than feel entitled to it. We, more than anyone, know how it feels to be in the wilderness of Philippine sports. Our feet remain grounded unless, of course, our team scores and we celebrate the beauty of the game and enjoy the moment, even for just that moment..
If Mr. Simon and his ilk think we will stand idly by while he sticks a knife in our backs then he has another thing coming. We do not aim to be combative because we are being defensive, we will be combative because we will respond to irresponsible attacks as we have nothing to hide and we have no agenda other than to advance the development of the beautiful game in our country.
We also take moments like these as an opportunity to educate people about our progress and to disabuse them of the notion that we are in this for ourselves. We will stake our actions and the results that we produced against anyone else’s given the few weeks we were given to put together this event. We tried to do everything the right way. Our partner-contractors completed their tasks ahead of schedule and under budget. We tried to solicit competing bids for supply contracts to get the best outcome possible. Early on, the PFF recognized its weaknesses and decided to seek private sector support in areas where they could do a better job. We brought on private sector individuals to participate in the organizational effort, eventually ending up with 8 CEOs in the Local Organizing Committee. We did not settle for “puwede na” when we knew that things could be made to work (e.g. working toilets, better shower facilities in the dressing rooms, wider seating areas in the bleacher section, etc.). Ticket sales were entrusted to TicketWorld, who, despite minor kinks were able to do a significantly better job than the PFF could have ever done.
Yes – we acknowledge that there are things that we could improve on. The stairwells and pathways were clogged in certain areas. This we will address with better deployment of our security personnel and ushers. The egress of people after the game can be improved with the opening of more exits. Certain items that were publicized as prohibited items made it past our screeners. We need to do a better job of educating our ushers about the seat locations and emphasizing courteous behavior. These are all valid and helpful feedback that we can and will address.
It is not easy to put together an event this size and of this magnitude. In certain cases, our actions were guided by the strict rules and procedures that the Asian Football Confederation and FIFA require. There are sanctions that can be imposed on the PFF for failure to adhere to these protocols. It was not as if we could get away with certain things given the presence of a FIFA-appointed Match Commissioner from Bangladesh who went over the preparations with the Local Organizing Committee from his arrival on July 1st and observed the conduct of the game itself. The one comment he had, ironically, was that we gave the media too many liberties.
I am not sure why Mr. Simon chose to write what he wrote and why Mr. Trinidad yielded his space for the article. It is difficult to pin journalistic integrity on both gentlemen as a friend from the media said that columnists appear to enjoy certain allowances not enjoyed by pure journalists. Having said that, I am sure that many would agree that it would not be too much to ask of columnists to verify their facts before publishing their pieces. Of course, stirring up controversy (factual or not) does appeal more to human emotion than a bland story of how things were done right.
I, on the other hand, would rather be known as a builder who may make mistakes but learns from them and does better the next time than someone who tears down that building and have nothing to show for it when all is said and done.