THE only positive thing that we can take in that loss against Timor Leste was that the U23 squad looked good in blue. And Ebong, too. The Blue-Haired fanatic whose voice we all heard on TV was fantastic.
The team? The result? To be perfectly blunt it was a scrappy game from a scrappy team that seemed to treat the SEAG as a vacation, or a chance to gain more Twitter followers. (Yey, I can tweet the team apology first!)
Going into the match, almost every fan who paid attention knew that we needed to win. Unfortunately, it seemed the players were operating on a different mindset.
I think it was only in the final 20 minutes that it dawned to the players that we had to win, coming up with a level of football unseen in the previous 70 minutes and in that 90 minutes against Vietnam.
And even that is damning.
We played better when starters like Matt and Mark Hartmann were off the field? Why are they even starting in the first place? You rarely see a captain getting subbed and for me, Matt getting replaced shows the coaching staff has no idea what they’re doing or who they should be fielding.
Is Coach Michael Weiss paying attention to our lapses? Does the rest of the coaching staff even voice out to coach Weiss what we need to adjust?
Whatever happens in the next few games, the Timor Leste match has showed that this U23 experiment is a big failure.
We can’t have a ragtag team train for less than two months and expect them to beat the opposition just because we have guys who’ve played in England, Germany, US or what-have-you.
And why was the training of the U-23 team ignored? Because the PFF and the management team were too busy with the Azkals and preparing for
pa-pogi friendly games against Nepal and Victoria Beckham’s husband that they forgot we had a U-23 team?
And don’t tell me the team’s training wasn’t ignored. Dan Palami, Coach Michael Weiss and the rest of the coaching staff know they were under-prepared. And why do we have the same coaching staff for the U23 and the Azkals? These guys aren't supermen and can't be in two training sessions at the same time.
Haven’t they learned the lesson of 2005? When the management of that team, which started training in May of that SEAG year, longed for more time to train?
They answered that with a two-month training period?
I hope, too, the PFF learns the lesson of the Timor Leste fiasco, a loss the team so deserve.
Some writers call it an upset, but it wasn’t. It was far from one.
East Timor’s win is a product of a good grassroots program, while our SEAG stint, is beginning to look like a product of an NSA trying to bank on good-looking players.
While some were quick to dismiss East Timor as an easy team, I didn’t join that because while the Philippines, since 2010, has been looking for outside strength to power the squad, East Timor has been looking inside.
That’s strengthening the grassroots Dear PFF in case you’re paying attention.
In 2007, our senior squad beat East Timor by seven goals, but in the AFC U16 qualfiers in 2009—call it the Pre-Azkals time if you will—our Philippine team conceded 26 goals in five losses in Group E against Japan, Indonesia, Bangladesh and Chinese Taipei.
East Timor? That lowly team? Its U16 squad scored 22 goals while conceding none in Group F against China, Hong Kong, Singapore, Guam and Macau. East Timor finished second to China in the group to become just one of three Southeast Asian teams to make the final stages.
As for us?
We went home with our tails between our legs.
And we will in the future because despite the success of the Azkals and the popularity of football we have zero grassroots development, thanks to the guys at the PFF.
The PFF hasn’t taken one single concrete step to developing a grassroots program and it is such a disappointing turn from an administration who took over a previous failure.
"Way klaro ang PFF ron," a former national player said. And citing a former head coach of the national team, he said. "Way program PFF. Puro man pa-pogi ila."
I told a Philippine Management team official (not Dan Palami) back in July, “Bay, The PFF is not doing anything! There’s no grassroots program! We can’t rely on the Fil-foreigners forever. We have to develop our talents. But the PFF is not developing talents!”
He agreed to a few of what I said but I told him, “I won’t write that down, yet. I’m giving you guys a one-year honeymoon. After all the negative that has been written the past few years, Philippine football deserves a break. But we need a real grassroots program.”
And Timor Leste? That former minnows in Southeast Asian football? The guys—not minding if they channeled their inner Cristiano Ronaldo—showed how an honest-to-goodness-program will fair vis-a-visa rag-tag team.
Sure, the team did their best, sure they deserve our support.
But we are long past that moment when “at least they did their best” is enough.
Because it isn’t.
And this Under 23 team—and coaching staff--deserve to be told: You guys are not doing enough.
It’s as simple as that.