part one of my football story: stepping back from the abyss of azkal mania

My term as the Treasurer of the Philippine Football Federation (PFF) officially ended today. The past twelve months seem to have gone quite fast. It has been a year that has been equally exhilirating at times and frustrating at times. I tried to walk away a couple of times but the pull of the love for the game always brought me back. As I walk away from the Federation this one last time, I have allowed myself to think that a lot of good has been done. The PFF is in the best financial condition in its history with the ability to sustain established and new development programs. There remains a lot work to be done but there will be other equally qualified, if not, better people who will push the beautiful game forward. There are a lot of stories that can be told about this year and this is mine.

Working the World Cup Qualifier versus Kuwait with Assistant General Coordinator JP Demontano

December, 2010

December 7, 2010. My football story begins on the 69th anniversary of that day which will live in infamy.

Key executives of companies associated with Manuel V. Pangilinan (MVP) were gathered at the MERALCO boardroom for my presentation on a new company that their companies were going to be co-owners of. While waiting for MVP and several others to arrive, idle chit-chat turned into a semi-serious discussion about the Azkals and Philippine Football.

The discussion was brought about by a question from one of the executives about what the term “Azkals” meant.  This discussion eventually evolved into several of these high-powered corporate CEOs saying that this should be a sport which we (the MVP group) should be supporting.

The discussion continued when MVP came arrived for the meeting. Eventually as the repartee started to die down, I cut it short so I could do my presentation which was why these gentlemen who control over P1 trillion in assets were gathered in the first place.

I had to leave for the United States the day after the meeting to spend time with my family over the Christmas holidays. I didn’t really think much about the conversation over football that happened in that meeting. That is until one day I read in one of the online newspapers that MVP was putting in P1 million to support the Philippine Football Federation (PFF). In statements announcing the financial support, MVP also encouraged other companies to pledge assistance for Philippine football.

The pledge from MVP was eventually increased to P80 million which was to be spread over 10 years. In addition, Air 21 Express also pledged P21 million also to spread out over 10 years.

January, 2011

Upon coming back to the Philippines after holidays, I immediately asked my bosses at PLDT whether I could somehow volunteer my services to this initiative. This request to volunteer was driven by nothing more than the desire to help.

I am from Iloilo where football is what basketball is to most of the rest of the country. I started playing at the age of 5 when I was in kindergarten. All we really did was chase and kick a ball around a field. It eventually gravitated into a more structured manner brought about by the sport being a staple among our PE classes.

I played varsity high school football for three years. During those years, I played against some of the best teams that the country produced – Central Philippine University (CPU), Barotac Nuevo National Comprehensive High School, St. Paul’s School of Barotac Nuevo and Santa Barbara National Comprehensive High School. The CPU team that we played in the Coke Go for Goal Tournament in 1989 went on to claim the National Championship.

I continued to play during my college years primarily in an intra-university tournament called the Latagaw Cup in UP – Diliman. Eventually as I entered professional life, my involvement with football tapered off. I would continue to play the odd tournament here and there. In 1999, I was one of two Filipinos selected to play in the Asian selection to the Paribas Global Championship held in Zurich, Switzerland.

I left for the United States to go to business school in 2000. I didn’t get to play much during my 10 years in the US other than the odd pick-up game here and there. Appearances to the contrary, football or soccer as they call it, is big in the US. This is particularly true at the youth level primarily through the American Youth Soccer Organization or AYSO. AYSO programs reach across every nook and cranny of the United States producing players that eventually play for US National Teams.

I eventually came back to the Philippines in September, 2009. I didn’t really pay much attention to the goings-on in Philippine football except to watch and eventually play games for my current club – the Manila Football Club (MFC). Having been away for so long, I wasn’t really aware nor really felt the need to keep track of what was happening with the game in the Philippines.

I did know about the Younghusband brothers after the hope that they brought to the sport in the country with their participation in the 2005 Southeast Asian Games. As many of us know, their relative success didn’t really sustain itself given the problems that even now continue to cast a dark cloud over the development of the game in the country.

Then the Azkals burst into the scene in a big way with their success in the Suzuki Cup and the Challenge Cup. Like most in the country, I was again drawn to pay more attention to Philippine football with the publicity generated by our national team.

To cut a long story short, my bosses at PLDT allowed me to approach the PFF to volunteer in my personal capacity. This was premised on spending one day of my work week with the PFF and more important – not taking any monetary benefit from the Federation. Volunteer work lang talaga.

Newly-appointed PFF President Mariano V. Araneta, Jr. or Nonong just happened to be a former student of my mom’s at the UP Visayas High School. My mom is like a phone directory of UP Visayas alumni. If she didn’t have anyone’s phone number with her she could always certainly get it in no time. In short, I got Nonong’s number from my mom.

February, 2011

Nonong and I finally met over lunch in early February of this year. At that time, I really had no position in mind. All I wanted to do was find out how I could help. It just so happened that the PFF was needing a Treaurer. The previous one was booted out of the Federation after alleged improprieties governing the financial transactions of the PFF were discovered. Nonong asked me if I was interested. Having worked in financial services for close to 20 years, this was right along my alley. I signified my interest pending a further appreciation on my part of the issues facing the PFF. I did not want to take the position blind – so to speak. Moreover, I also wanted to first make paalam from MVP to make sure there would be no prospective conflicts of interest.

(To be continued)…


5 Comments on “part one of my football story: stepping back from the abyss of azkal mania”

  1. cjeagle says:

    Bonnie, You are doing such a great job as treasurer. Why do you have to leave? During your time, you have managed to put the PFF’s financial books in order and leave a solid foundation for your predecessors to build upon. We need more officials like you who have a genuine love for Philippine football along with the expertise to help it move forward. Thanks again for all your contributions and good luck.

    • criticaleye2 says:

      Sir, thank you very much for your comments. I have never been one to look at a position just for the sake of having one. Rather, as was the case with my being Treasurer at PFF, I asked Mr. Araneta where I could help. The most pressing need commensurate to my competence at that time was the state of the PFF’s finances. The goals were to generate funds to sustain the PFF’s programs, put in policies and procedures to ensure that the funds could be accounted for and to mentor full time PFF Finance personnel not so much with the technical details of Finance (they’re already competent in that area) but more in the area of corporate governance. These have been accomplished and despite the challenges we have at least attained some measure of trust and confidence from our stakeholders. I leave as Treasurer confident that these will remain. My official involvement with the PFF also opened my eyes to many other things in our game which need to be addressed. I remain peripherally involved with the PFF in areas such as the drafting of the 7-year grassroots development plan, the development of private sector linkages to build up the PFF’s long-term resource generation capacity and with whatever other areas which Mr. Araneta would ask for my assistance. In the meantime, I have also volunteered to assist the UFL in areas such as the strengthening of their player status, eligibility and transfer rules. On the club level, I am part of Diliman FC where we are trying to build an end to end football club with its own grassroots infrastructure and first division team. Finally, I continue to play (when time allows) with my club team – Manila FC. I am not really going to be away from the football world but for now, I will focus on other areas where I can be of help as well. Again, thank you for your kind words.

  2. cjeagle says:

    Ah, It is good to hear that you will still be involved in other capacities with Philippine football especially at the professional league level, which is important if we seek to have a strong pool players for the national team. I did want to suggest though that you might want to look into helping the UFL, as a member of the PFF, get accredited as a national league with FIFA and the AFC. This is in regards to the interest expressed by the UFL in joining the club tournaments of the AFC particularly at our level, the AFC President’s Cup. I wrote in several forums as well as on the facebook page of the UFL, that the deadline for submission of documents to the AFC for joining the 2012 President’s Cup, was on Oct. 14 as indicated by this article on Mongolia joining that tournament:

    Apparently the UFL did not take notice of this and let the deadline pass. The AFC has announced the entrants for the 2012 version of the AFC President’s Cup and it did not include the Philippines. In light of this, if the UFL have any intention of joining the 2013 President’s Cup with their 2012 UFL League champion participating, they need to have the PFF register them as a national league with the AFC and FIFA, send the required documents and fullfill all the criteria set by the AFC, including venues, officiating, media availability, etc.

    Joining AFC club tournaments is very important as it provides another opportunity for our players to gain experience internationally and help gauge where our league stands vis a vis other nations.

  3. cjeagle says:

    BTW, another reason why the UFL should participate in AFC club tournaments is that the AFC also helps their members develop and professionalize their leagues and as their leagues mature allow them to participate in stronger tournaments like the AFC Cup or the AFC Champion’s Cup. Of course, in the long term, if we ever reach the Champion’s Cup level and win it, the goal is to join the FIFA Club Word Cup which is held every year to determine the best football club in the world.

  4. cjeagle says:

    Sorry, I meant successor, not predecessor in my first comment.

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