of football players, football writers and missing the point: the stephan schröck controversy

Pasay City – Sometime in 2012, the Philippine Football Federation (PFF) was finalizing the launch of its nationwide grassroots program called Kasibulan. One of the main proponents of that initiative was Coach Aris Caslib who was then and continues to be the PFF’s Technical Director. We were having a discussion on the framing of this program in the context of the development of football in the Philippines. We were talking about performance indicators that we would need to be able to judge the sucess (or failure) of the PFF’s various player development programs. We were thinking big and we discussed being able to qualify for the World Cup in 20 years or so as a goal. One of the indicators of program success that he said and that has stuck to me was that – “we have to reach a point where we dominate football in Southeast Asia” or words to that effect.

Four years in, we are still not where we could say we are dominating Southeast Asian football. Thailand still holds that distinction. Having said that, we have certainly become more competitive having reached the semifinals of all the Suzuki Cup competitions – the unofficial Southeast Asian championship – since that conversation with Coach Aris took place.

It is also worth noting that domestically-based players are gradually starting to become more competitive in fighting for slots in the Men’s National Team. Our youth teams are also becoming more competitive – an indicator of some success at the grassroots level. Yet, we are far from where we want to be.

One of the more informed and astute football writers/analysts that we have, Ryan Fenix, came out last week with an article on interaksyon.com (http://www.interaksyon.com/interaktv/rampaging-fullback-azkals-beat-odds-to-take-down-north-korea-give-nice-ending-to-world-cup-qualifying-campaign) that has caused more than a minor stir in the football community. With the article titled, “After strong North Korea performance, where does it leave Schrock and the Azkals?”, it was bound to cause some controversy.

The title aside, Ryan’s piece if properly read asks some good and insightful questions. The big question that has raised all the fuss is whether the Azkals play better without Schrock. It is a question raised by an astute observer of the game and not a malicious shot meant to create discord.

Stephan Schrock is the best all around player we have. If you look at the best lineup that the Azkals can trot out, Schrocky is probably head and shoulders, talent-wise, above our fourth or fifth best player. This being the case, it is unavoidable that there will be times when players get caught ball-watching rather than moving into space where Schrocky can find them. This is not a unique phenomenon. The Michael Jordan Bulls had many moments like this. When one player is recognized by far as the best on a team, he needs the other players to become even more effective thus making the team that more devastating.

This phenomenon is not Schrocky’s fault nor anyone elses at this point. It is a challenge for the coaching staff to make the adjustments to take advantage of the individual talents on the team. We have a depth of talent, other than with central defenders, that we have not had before. It is therefore not unfair for Ryan to ask a question (probably rhetorical) which when taken in the proper context does not question whether Schrocky deserves to be on the team. Of course, the Azkals are better with Schrock. The point is that we need to be conscious of finding ways to maximize his prodigious skill combining it with the talent that he is now surrounded by.

The future of the Azkals remains bright. Other than the holes we need to fill in central defense, we are stocked elsewhere with the next generation getting some experience now.

Kudos to Ryan for asking questions that should be asked. That is what we need so as not to be complacent.

I do hope that Thomas Dooley is retained up until the next World Cup cycle. He has the Azkals playing beautiful football. He has not been afraid to experiment and more important, he has not been afraid to throw the young players out there. While befuddling (and maybe maddening) to some, this is necessary to help our team grow and find out how we can be successful in matches that count.

2012-03-24 Kasibulan GDO Workshop 054We have a long way to go. There will be bumps along the way. Having said that, the seeds for long-term success are there and some of them are starting to bear fruit. I just hope the PFF continues to build and maintain focus on the grassroots program. More than the National Team program, it is what happens in the often forlorn pitches in Iligan, San Carlos City, Davao, Barotac Nuevo, Tacloban, Los Banos and countless others that will determine whether we will dominate Southeast Asia on our road to the World Cup and sustain such dominance.

Keep on writing Ryan!


building a philippine national football league

MAKATI – About a couple of months ago I received a call from Philippine Football Federation (PFF) President Mariano “Nonong” Araneta, Jr. He was calling to ask me to be part of a PFF Task Force which was going to be formed with the mandate of establishing a professional football league in the country. This league is envisioned to be national in scope. The task force would be supported by the Asian Football Confederation with funding coming from FIFA.

It is hard to turn Nonong down. After a discussion of my role as well as relaying to him my limitations primarily the ability to commit time to this project, I accepted the challenge.

On Tuesday this coming week, a roundtable discussion will be held at the Center for Research and Communication (CRC)/UA & P precisely to discuss the formation of this national league. I presume that this will kick off the work of the task force though I have not received notice from the PFF of my appointment nor do I know the rest of the members of the task force. I have heard that a couple of members of the PFF Board of Governors will be on it as well as representative from ABS-CBN (the broadcast partner of the PFF), Gelix Mercader of Football Philippines magazine, PFF Competitions Department head, Cyril Dofitas and UFL President Randy Roxas. The task force will apparently be chaired by former CRC – UA & P President Dr. Bernardo Villegas. i don’t know whether there are others.

credits to owners

credits to owners

I obviously have a vested interest in the task force being successful with my “rumored” membership in it and I would hope that the rest of the Philippine football community would give this group support or at least the benefit of the doubt. Having said that, it seems the composition of the task force is “top-heavy” which leads me to believe (and hope) that most of the work will likely be done by a secretariat or technical working group.

Most people know my heart is in having football take root and grow in the Philippines. Most people know also know that I have no patience for posturing, politics and narrow thinking. While I was (and remain) honored and excited to be invited to be part of this effort, the excitement has now been tempered by the enormity of the task that lies ahead.

In business, the success of any initiative requires buy-in and agreement on the end that is to be achieved. This begins with senior management and the project team. Team members need to trust that all of them have no other agenda other than what is meant to be achieved. It is incumbent upon senior management to ensure this and make sure that the team will mesh and be able to work with each other. So, I am anxious to see whether this task force will be able to come together.

Senior management needs to trust the project team to do its job and leave it alone. The team members need to trust each other so as to allow open and honest dialogue. It is not necessary that each of the team members be of one mind. In fact, it is necessary for success that serious discussions which may include arguments, heated debates and bruised feelings happen. This is healthy but it will only work if team members don’t take things personally and trust that each remains committed to only advancing the end in mind with no consideration for selfish interests. Task force members should understand that their work is bigger than any of them or the task force itself so they can sublimate egos and personal agendas.

After agreeing on the objective, the project team needs to identify the critical tasks that need to be done to achieve the objective. Equally important, they need to determine the resources (financial or otherwise) needed to successfully complete the project. Finally, it is vital that clear and firm timeline from start to finish be set.

The next step would be to actually begin the work. Team members need to always bear in mind that the end product should be complete and comprehensive. Developing, launching and sustaining a national football league is not child’s play. It needs to have serious people who believe in its role in Philippine football working on it.

Should the task force see fit to divide up tasks, each member should remember the complete and comprehensive intent. They should also commit and actually deliver the result of their assigned tasks within the timeline agreed to. It is their obligation to inform the rest of the team of any unforeseen variables which may affect the timeline so that corrective action or adjustments can be made right away.

It is my understanding that this prospective national league should be in place by 2018. This targeted start date will, to a large degree, be determined by how well the League Task Force understands their mandate and how their own timeline will affect the prospective launch date.

Philippine football has been given many chances to take root and develop. It has squandered many of those opportunities. I hope that this does not become another lost opportunity.

club or country? how about club and country?

Image courtesy of zapiro.com

MAKATI, Philippines – Much has been made of the conflict between serving one’s country and fulfilling one’s commercial contractual obligations. To serve one’s country is one of, if not, the highest honor(s) that an athlete can receive. No ifs, no buts.

Playing for your country, however, does not necessarily and in fact, shouldn’t come in conflict with an athlete’s commitment to a team or club from which he derives his livelihood. This is particularly true in football where FIFA’s rules consider the interests of both club and country. This is a concession to the realization that for football to be successful it needs both national teams and they international competitions that they compete in and clubs and club competitions to be successful.

FIFA’s rules governing national team call-ups are quite comprehensive and detailed. To shed some light on this, print verbatim Annexe 1 (Release of players to association teams) of the FIFA Regulations on the Status and Transfer of Players.

1 Principles

1. Clubs are obliged to release their registered players to the representative teams of the country for which the player is eligible to play on the basis of his nationality if they are called up by the association concerned. Any agreement between a player and a club to the contrary is prohibited.

2. The release of players under the terms of paragraph 1 of this article is mandatory for matches on dates listed in the coordinated international match calendar and for all matches for which a duty to release players exists on the basis of a special decision by the FIFA Executive Committee.

3. It is not compulsory to release players for matches scheduled on dates not listed in the coordinated international match calendar.

4. Players must also be released for the period of preparation before the match, which is laid down as follows:

a) friendly matches: 48 hours;

b) qualifying matches for an international tournament:

– four days (including the day of the match). The release period shall be extended to fi ve days if the match concerned is held in a different confederation to the one in which the player’s club is registered;

– prior to double-dates (Friday – Tuesday) listed in the coordinated international match calendar, the release period shall in any case be five days prior to the beginning of the time span fixed by the calendar (including the relevant Friday);

c) qualifying matches for an international tournament that are staged on a date reserved for friendly matches: 48 hours;

d) friendly matches that are staged on a date reserved for qualifying matches for an international tournament: 48 hours;

e) the final competition of an international tournament: 14 days before the first match in the competition.

Players shall join the association team no later than 48 hours before kick-off.

5. The players of associations that have automatically qualified for the final competition of the FIFA World Cup™ or for continental championships for national “A” teams shall be released for friendly matches on dates reserved for official qualifying matches in accordance with the directives that would apply for official matches staged on those dates.

6. The clubs and associations concerned may agree a longer period of release.

7. Players complying with a call-up from their association under the terms of this article shall resume duty with their clubs no later than 24 hours after the end of the match for which they were called up. This period shall be extended to 48 hours if the match concerned took place in a different confederation to the one in which the player’s club is registered. Clubs shall be informed in writing of a player’s outbound and return schedule ten days before the match. Associations shall ensure that players are able to return to their clubs on time after the match.

8. If a player does not resume duty with his club by the deadline stipulated in this article, the next time the player is called up by his association, the period of release shall be shortened as follows:

a) friendly matches: 24 hours;

b) qualifying matches: three days;

c) the final competition of an international tournament: ten days.

9. Should an association repeatedly breach these provisions, the FIFA Players’ Status Committee may impose appropriate sanctions, including but not limited to:

a) fines;

b) a reduction of the period of release;

c) a ban on calling up a player(s) for subsequent match(es).

2 Financial provisions and insurance

1. Clubs releasing a player in accordance with the provisions of this annexe are not entitled to financial compensation.

2. The association calling up a player shall bear the costs of travel incurred by the player as a result of the call-up.

3. The club with which the player concerned is registered shall be responsible for his insurance cover against illness and accident during the entire period of his release. This cover must also extend to any injuries sustained by the player during the international match(es) for which he was released.

3 Calling up players

1. As a general rule, every player registered with a club is obliged to respond affirmatively when called up by the association he is eligible to represent on the basis of his nationality to play for one of its representative teams.

2. Associations wishing to call up a player who is playing abroad must notify the player in writing at least 15 days before the day of the match for which he is required. Associations wishing to call up a player for the final competition of an international tournament must notify the player in writing at least 15 days before the beginning of the 14-day preparation period (cf. Annexe 1 article 1 paragraph 4 e)). The player’s club shall also be informed in writing at the same time. The club must confirm the release of the player within the following six days.

3. Associations that request FIFA’s help to obtain the release of a player playing abroad may only do so under the following two conditions:

a) The association at which the player is registered has been asked to intervene without success.

b) The case is submitted to FIFA at least five days before the day of the match for which the player is needed.

4 Injured players

A player who due to injury or illness is unable to comply with a call-up from the association that he is eligible to represent on the basis of his nationality shall, if the association so requires, agree to undergo a medical examination by a doctor of that association’s choice. If the player so wishes, such medical examination shall take place on the territory of the association at which he is registered.

5 Restrictions on playing

A player who has been called up by his association for one of its representative teams is, unless otherwise agreed by the relevant association, not entitled to play for the club with which he is registered during the period for which he has been released or should have been released pursuant to the provisions of this annexe. This restriction on playing for the club shall, moreover, be prolonged by five days in the event that the player, for whatsoever reason, did not wish to or was unable to comply with the call-up.

6 Disciplinary measures

1. Violations of any of the provisions set forth in this annexe shall result in the imposition of disciplinary measures.

2. If a club refuses to release a player or neglects to do so despite the provisions of this annexe, the FIFA Players’ Status Committee shall furthermore request the association to which the club belongs to declare any match(es) in which the player took part to have been lost by the club concerned. Any points thus gained by the club in question shall be forfeited. Any match contested according to the cup system shall be regarded as having been won by the opposing team, irrespective of the score.

3. If a player reports late for duty with his club more than once after being called up by an association, the FIFA Players’ Status Committee may, at the request of the player’s club, impose additional sanctions on the player and/or his association.”

As I said the rules are quite comprehensive and detailed. It does, however, leave some room for the association or federation and the clubs to agree to deviate from these upon mutual consent. So there.

sunday shorts: of politics and sports

courtesy: davidlicke.com

Iloilo City – Flying into Iloilo City yesterday, it became obvious that election season is upon us. On our plane were UNA heavyweights Vice President Jojo Binay, Rep. JV Ejercito and Former Senators Ernie Maceda and Dick Gordon. They were on their way to Iloilo for the opposition group’s proclamation rally of their anointed candidates for the local races.

By coincidence, Mayor Jed Mabilog was also on the plane.

I was on my way to a meeting where my company was going to complete its entry into a joint venture company to build a new hospital in Iloilo City. The chit-chat prior to the meeting was also about politics. As former Speaker (of the US House of Representatives) Tip O’neill once quipped – “all politics is local”. Thus, this discussion of Iloilo politics was indeed very interesting.

It is also quite interesting, as the start of the Philippine election season happens to coincide with the tail-end of the US elections. It makes for a stark comparison of the relative maturity level of the two countries’ political discourse. The ideological divide which has made for some very nasty exchanges in certain US races is relatively absent in the Philippines. The ease by which politicians change from one party to another, if not create a totally new party altogether, speaks to the lack of a substantive mooring based on personal convictions and beliefs.

This also begets flawed candidates and eventually elected officials who would otherwise never even be allowed at the starting gate. The manner by which the Filipino electorate easily gets swayed and awed by personality-based politics and shallow works of “public service” does not raise the level of scrutiny where the morally bankrupt and those with questionable character through plain gumption and the lack of personal kahihiyan present themselves as viable candidates. The problem is that we let them get away with it dahil mukha naman siyang mabait, guwapo at kung anu-ano pang kadahilanan  by which we delude ourselves into condoning mediocrity.

The race for mayor in Iloilo is a race between someone who has done things for the city but whose manner of doing so may have rubbed people the wrong way and someone who has done things for the sake of doing it to “establish” his credentials as a man for the people. The former has alienated some people because they have felt their old way of doing things being threatened. They have felt threatened because they fear the culture of accountability and are loath to give up their sense of entitlement.

The latter, on the other hand, is a man of contradictions. He swooped in after a long absence from the city throwing money around. He goes around in flashy cars with bodyguards. On the other hand, he has established free “soup kitchens” for the poor. He has bought up newspapers, ran for and won the presidency of the local press club. He wails out at what he terms the “culture of corruption” at City Hall with hardly a shred of evidence. Yet, at the same time he faces a tax evasion case alleging a tax deficiency of P85 million.

He calls for transparency in City Hall transactions. His plans include putting up a digital billboard in front of City Hall to show the city’s balance sheet, full media coverage of public biddings and a “government-sponsored” TV channel to show all transactions between the city and its suppliers. I’m sorry – WHAT?

Even as he says all this, his own source of wealth remains a mystery. He claims some of it comes from a shipping and export/import business which the Bureau of Customs has never heard of. He has implied some business relationship with Russian President Vladimir Putin and claims that relationship enabled him to get rich in the minerals business. Hay…

In all likelihood, the incumbent mayor will win the election. He has the support of the business community who have seen a sea change for the better in the way business has been conducted in the city.

Our democracy allows the ability to change for the better by guaranteeing the freedom of speech to keep government honest (that’s the intent anyway). Yet when one of the organs of this freedom – the Fourth Estate – is hijacked by someone of dubious origins and character and worse, the political opposition anoints the hijacker as its chosen one – well, there is something really, really wrong with that picture.


The historic victory of the Philippine Men’s National Football team, the Azkals, in the Philippine Peace Cup was noteworthy for the significant contributions of players who were either new or finally broke out. Denis Wolf, Patrick Reichelt, Matthew Uy, Jeffrey Christiaens, OJ Porteria, Anto Gonzales and my man – Ed Sacapano. It was also notable for the long spells of beautiful football played by the team marked by gorgeous interplay while on the attack.

For many in the know, however, this was a Cup that was ours to lose. The Philippines (#150 in latest FIFA/Coca-Cola World Rankings) has surpassed Chinese-Taipei (#176), Guam (#185) and Macau (#200) as a better team. Of course, actually winning still takes hard work and being stronger on paper does not make one automatic champions. The pocket tournament also allowed our team critical match time to jell and break in the new players which is very important.

The Suzuki Cup will be much tougher. It was just our luck to have been drawn into the Group of Death which currently includes host Thailand (#131) and Vietnam (#146). Another team will join this group from a qualifying stage which starts this coming week with the favorites being Myanmar (#183) and Cambodia (#188). The other group, on the other hand, includes host Malaysia (#156), Indonesia (#161) and Singapore (#168).

We have lost to Thailand 12 straight times although we have not played them since 2007. Our last victory against them came in 1972 when I was in my diapers. Having said that, things are different now and the morale-boosting victories we have had in the last month or so should hopefully give the team a fighting chance.

The Philippines has played Vietnam 7 times. Our record has been 1 win, 5 losses and 1 draw. The lone win, however, came in the historic Suzuki Cup match in 2010 in our last match against them. The Vietnamese are probably still smarting from that defeat on their home turf and our match with them in this edition of the Suzuki Cup should be a dog-fight.

Whichever team joins this group from the qualifiers, the Azkals definitely have their work cut out for them. To duplicate their semi-final finish the last time out they will have to beat the qualifier and either of Vietnam or Thailand to advance. I just hope that the PFF and the Younghusbands resolve their differences to give us a better chance of doing so. Hey – who doesn’t want a happy ending? The Suzuki Cup will be no Peace Cup, this will be war and we need all the help we can get.

football’s judicial process – a totally different animal

MAKATI – The decision of the PFF Disciplinary Committee in COMPLAINT OF CRISTINA RAMOS Against Lexton Moy and Angel Guirado has certainly raised quite a ruckus. There has been a lot of angst displayed and a lot of what I see and read points to a lack of appreciation for and understanding of how football’s judicial process works. I hope to shed a little light on this with this article.

FIFA has three judicial bodies – the Disciplinary Committee, the Ethics Committee and the Appeals Committee. All organizations (confederations, national federations or associations, etc.) under FIFA usually have similar committees which mirror FIFA’s judicial bodies.

These judicial bodies function to regulate the game by determining and passing judgment on violations of FIFA’s rules which are contained in four main documents namely the Laws of the Game, FIFA Statutes, FIFA Disciplinary Code and the FIFA Code of Ethics. Regional and national organizations usually also have their own rules in addition to FIFA rules which they may ask their respective judicial bodies to adjudicate over as well. These additional rules may not contravene FIFA’s rules and usually contain rules which are appropriate in a specific jurisdiction (e.g. organizational rules such as incorporation with the SEC, etc.).

One major difference with your typical judicial entity is that football’s judicial bodies may act with or without a complaint. While not expressly stated as such, the FIFA Disciplinary Code is replete with provisions which imply such. As an example, Article 77 (Specific jurisdiction), subsection (a) states that “The Disciplinary Committee is responsible for serious infringements which have escaped the match officials’ attention;…”.

So a disciplinary process can begin regardless of whether a complaint has been filed before it. It usually starts when parties to this process are asked to submit sworn statements to answer and/or comment on the subject of the judicial process. There is a time limit within which a party can answer this notice and submit his/her statement and this is usually within a period of 72 hours.

Parties to the case can present evidence to support their cases. Due process is observed with parties being allowed to present their arguments “…in fact and in law”, requesting proof, assisting in the production of proof and obtaining a “reasoned decision”.

Proof can be submitted by the parties involved but the Disciplinary Committee through its Secretariat also gathers proof ex-officio or on its own. Parties may have legal representation. The judicial body has absolute discretion regarding the appreciation of proof.

Parties are allowed to reply to sworn statements of other parties.

There are generally no oral statements. A party may, however, request for oral statements to be heard. All parties to the proceedings will be summoned to attend such.

Decisions, in many cases, are solely based on the proceeding files which would include the complaint, the sworn statements and other proof submitted to the committee. Committee members decide based on their appreciation of the documents it has in its possession in forming their personal convictions. The Committee may communicate to the parties only the terms of the decision. In these cases, parties have 10 days from receipt to make a written request to the Committee for the grounds of the decision. Failure to request such will result in the decision becoming final and immediately binding. The notice of the decision also includes the channels for appealing the decision.

Any party who wishes to appeal the decision of the Disciplinary Committee may do so and seek relief from the Appeals Committee. This is done with a written notice to the Appeals Committee within 3 days from receipt of the decision. This party then has another 7 days to communicate to the Appeals Committee the reasons for the appeal.

The filing of an appeal does not suspend the implementation of sanctions.

Section 121 of the FIFA Disciplinary Code specifies the grounds for appeal as follows:

“The appellant may object to inaccurate representation of the facts and/or wrong application of the law”.

There are, however, decisions by the Disciplinary Committee which cannot be appealed. This includes decisions where the sanctions imposed involve a warning, a reprimand, a suspension of less than 3 matches or of up to two months or decisions involving a failure to respect (judicial body) decisions.

The Appeals Committee functions as the court of last instance. Under the Philippine context, the most plausible next step should there be a dispute with regard to its decisions is an appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport. FIFA expressly prohibits “recourse to ordinary courts of law” (Article 88 paragraph 2, FIFA Statutes, July 2012 edition).

The PFF Disciplinary and Appeals Committees, as is mandated by FIFA, are independent of the Philippine Football Federation (PFF) itself.

In the context of its decision with regard to  COMPLAINT OF CRISTINA RAMOS Against Lexton Moy and Angel Guirado, I hope this article provides a template for understanding the judicial process of football, in general, and of the PFF Disciplinary Committee, in general. These judicial bodies cannot be held to standards that we are more familiar with in terms of a typical judicial system because they operate under a different system. In certain ways, it has wider latitude – in others, not.

Whether I agree or disagree with the decision to impose penalties on players and officials who were not the subject of the complaint is beside the point. The football judicial system allows the Disciplinary Committee the authority to do just that.

FIFA specifically and expressly prohibits sexual harassment. The FIFA Code of Ethics, 2012 edition species in Article 24, paragraph the following:

“Sexual harassment is forbidden. Sexual harassment is defined as unwelcome sexual advances that are not solicited or invited. The assessment is based on whether a reasonable person would regard the conduct as undesirable or offensive. Threats, the promise of advantages and coercion are particularly prohibited.”

In this case, the PFF Disciplinary Committee apparently felt that the acts committed during the incident did not rise to the level of sexual harassment. The FIFA definition is certainly more liberal in its definition of sexual harassment than R.A. 7877 under Philippine jurisprudence. R.A. 7877 sadly limits sexual harassment to acts committed by a person in authority over a subordinate. Unfortunately for Ms. Ramos, this also limits her ability to seek recourse from Philippine courts given that she was the person in authority during the incident. Of course, doing so would be in direct defiance of FIFA statutes expressly prohibiting this. That would indeed be opening a whole new can of worms.

IN RE: COMPLAINT OF CRISTINA RAMOS Against Lexton Moy and Angel Guirado

Pursuant to the instructions of the Chairperson of the PFF Disciplinary Committee you are hereby directed to submit, within 72 hours from your receipt hereof, your sworn statements stating what you personally observed during the Philippine Team check conducted by Match Officials (Cristina Ramos & [name withheld]) and LOC Liaison Officer [name withheld] at the Philippine team dug-out, and immediately thereafter.

Lady Justice

Lady Justice (Photo credit: Scott*)

MAKATI – This was the first paragraph of the NOTICE/ORDER I received late on March 9th earlier this year in RE: COMPLAINT OF CRISTINA RAMOS Against Lexton Moy and Angel Guirado.

This is my personal reflection over the allegations of sexual harassment levied by Cristy Ramos. Before I continue on, I would like to make clear the following:

  • This does not reflect any official position by the Philippine Football Federation nor of its management;
  • This is not meant to minimize nor deflect the seriousness of the allegations of Ms. Ramos as well as her right to seek redress for her grievances; and,
  • This is based solely on the information that I know and documents I have properly and legally received as a party to the case (Note: FIFA Disciplinary Code 2011 Art. 88 Sec. 2: Only contents of those decisions already notified to the addressees may be made public).

It is indeed a sad state of affairs that we find ourselves in with this set of circumstances. While sad, I also feel a sense of anger and dismay at how this reflects on the game that we love.

Ms. Ramos was the match commissioner for the Philippines – Malaysia International “A” Friendly Match. She was originally appointed by the PFF to be the General Coordinator of the match but when the original match commissioner begged off, Ms. Ramos volunteered to be match commissioner. As the match commissioner is the official representative of the AFC and FIFA, her appointment had to be cleared with both AFC and the Football Association of Malaysia. Match commissioners are typically from a neutral country but for friendly matches, the assignment of a match commissioner from the host country can be requested.

I first found out about this incident when Ms. Ramos verbally related to me her observations which she subsequently detailed in her letter of complaint addressed to the Asian Football Confederation. This conversation happened at the match commissioner’s room after the Philippines vs. Malaysia match. I have to admit, at this point, that I may not fully appreciated the substance of her grievance. As other people present in the room can attest, this was partly because her verbal narration of the incident focused on the lack of discipline and respect by members of the National Men’s Team during the pre-match inspection that she conducted. There was never any mention of the phrase – “sexual harassment” which Ms. Ramos subsequently includes in her formal complaint. Nevertheless, focusing on what I knew was proper protocol, I asked her to document her allegations in her match commissioner’s report and provide the PFF with a complaint so that it could be acted on.

On March 1st, the day after the match, PFF President Nonong Araneta was approached by Ms. Ramos at the PFF-UFL Fellowship and Unity night event at the Turf @ BGC. Ms. Ramos reiterated her complaint which now took on a more ominous color because it had now been elevated to one of sexual harassment relative to the prior characterization of the incident as one of the lack of discipline and respect.

On March 2nd at around 10 am, I was cc’d on an email from Ms. Ramos addressed to the AFC which contained her formal complaint alleging sexual harassment. I was also informed that PFF General Secretary Atty. Roland Tulay had arranged for a meeting that afternoon between Ms. Ramos, Mr. Araneta, National Team Manager Dan Palami and himself. The purpose was to hear out Ms. Ramos and inform her of the steps that the PFF was doing to investigate and address her complaint.

At the meeting, Ms. Ramos was informed that even without guidance from AFC (to which she formally addressed her complaint to), the PFF would proactively forward her complaint to the head of the PFF Disciplinary Committee. She was repeatedly assured that there would be no “whitewash” (her words) in the conduct of the investigation.

For Ms. Ramos’ part, she said she wanted a public apology from the players who were the subject of her complaint. She also asked that she again be appointed as match commissioner for the next men’s national team match in the country so she could “discipline” the players herself. She also mentioned at the meeting that she had already brought to the attention of the media, specifically Bandera and DZSR, her allegations.

On March 4th, the PFF Disciplinary Committee, which is a body independent of the PFF, assumed jurisdiction over the complaint based on the grounds that …”(a) the incident involved Philippine personalities; and, (b) the incident happened in the Philippines…”.

On March 5th, the PFF Disciplinary Committee sent out notices/orders to 7 individuals to shed light on the event in the form of sworn statements. The list of individuals included players, team management members and match officials.

On March 9th, the Committee further sent notices/orders to 4 more individuals including team and match officials. These sworn statements were received by the Committee between March 8th and 23rd.

On April 18th, the Committee finally received the official complaint of Ms. Ramos which was dated March 11th. Two days later, Ms. Ramos was furnished copies of the sworn statements of 9 of the 11 individuals who had responded to the notice/order by the Committee. Ms. Ramos was directed to submit her consolidated reply on April 27th or a week after she was furnished the responses to her complaint.

On April 27th, Ms. Ramos sent a written request to the Disciplinary Committee asking for more time to submit her consolidated reply. She asked that she be given until May 5th to submit this, a request that was granted. Ms. Ramos never sent her reply.

On May 14th, the Disciplinary Committee served notice that given the failure of Ms. Ramos to submit her reply, the case was deemed submitted for resolution.

I learned of the decision last night. Press reports quote Ms. Ramos as saying that she is “disgusted” by the decision. Comments also attributed to Ms. Ramos say that the length of time it took for the decision to come out worked against her favor. Of course, as with many things, this is all relative. It could be taken as a damned if you do, damned if you don’t situation. A quick resolution opens you up to charges of “railroading”. Taking a while to decide opens you to allegations that something is being covered up. Compared to how the Philippine judicial system works, this decision took a nanosecond. Ms. Ramos probably didn’t help move things along by delaying the submission of her formal complaint over a month and a half after the incident which is the object of her complaint. She did ask for an extension for the submission of her reply to the counter-affidavits, which is well within her rights and which she was granted. A reply which the Committee waited for in vain.

Contrary to what Ms. Ramos stated, there is an Appeals Committee from which she can ask for a review of  of the case. To those who have been paying attention, the Committee is headed by former Comelec Commissioner Atty. Gregorio “Goyo” Larrazabal. This Committee has been active this year having disposed of the Hartmann case and the Springdale (Cebu) case.

I do hope that Ms. Ramos, who talks about following protocol all the time, walks the talk and files an appeal in the proper forum which is this Committee so that her serious allegations are given their due course one way or another. There will probably never be a sense of finality for all of the participants for this sad episode but the court of public opinion is probably not the proper forum for this case.

pff, deped moa signing