Friday, November 18, 2011

Fair Play: A tale of three athletes

WHEN Matt Hartmann was named team captain of the Under 23 football team for the Southeast Asian Games, one comment that remained on my mind was of how “hard-working this guy is.”

I guess, that’s what the coaching staff saw when they decided to give him the captain’s armband. And it’s pretty much like what I see in Niño Surban and Cecil Mamiit--these guys just don’t know the meaning of the word “quit.”

But, of the three athletes, one already has a bronze medal, one is fighting for a medal, and the other?

He’s got a medal of shame.

I first heard of Hartmann’s untimely departure three days before it hit the news, and though I was shocked, I didn’t write about it because I couldn’t confirm it with another source and it was impossible to know why.

And when it finally hit the news, the initial reaction was, “Did he quit?” but that episode was drowned by the heroics of one Joshua Beloya, who scored two late goals in the Philippines’ ecstatic win against Laos, which would turn out to be the team’s only win.

Reports say Hartmann’s departure was a result of a disagreement between the team captain and coach Weiss, a conflict that Dan Palami said stemmed from the the clash of cultures between the two.

What is worse, Dan said, is it could have been settled had Hartmann waited for him, which is just the nicer way of saying he was too impatient.

But one question remains, though—did the captain quit or was he forced to quit?  The hardworking man is Captain Quitter?

Which is a pity since at 20, he could have played in another SEA Games.

But will he still play? That will all boil down to him.

Perhaps, it’s best that the guy now known as Captain Quitter emulates Mr. Determination and Captain Courageous--Niño and Cecil.

These guys, like the many unknown faces in the national teams, had to beat all sort of odds just to be able to put on the country’s colors in an international stint like the SEAG. And these guys don’t throw it away.

Because of a conflict in his association--what else is new?--Niño was left off the SEA Games squad but did that deter him? Last month, in a mountainbike event in Malaysia, the guy “who wasn’t good enough” for the PH team beat the PHL team riders.

So his backer, Oscar Rodriguez, scrambled to get a spot for him in the SEAG, and when he finally did, the Cebuano had to face another hurdle when the POC said he couldn’t be allowed to go because his credentials came late.

But of course! He only got the spot months after the team was selected because he beat the national team members! His credential should be late!

That didn’t deter Niño and the guy was able to join the SEA Games and fished a bronze medal. Now that’s determination.

As to Captain Courageous? This guy doesn’t know the meaning of the word “quit.”  When the going gets tough, Cecil, simply stares at the face of adversity and fights on, even if his 35-year-old body wasn’t willing.

In that Davis Cup tie against Japan, Cecil fought off fatigue, nausea and the heat to turn things around yet failed—but it was in how he doggedly fought on that he earned the admiration of the foes.

The victors didn’t gather around their winning singles player, they gathered around Cecil and tossed Captain Courageous in the air in a victory salute.  In the SEA Games, Cecil just made the men’s semifinals after beating Thailand’s Kittiphong Wachira, 3-6, 6-3, 6-3. He’s in the hunt, too, for the doubles gold with Treat Huey.

Fortunately, there are a lot of Cecil Mamiits and Niño Surbans in the national teams, and not too many Matt Hartmans, because frankly, from what Captain Quitter showed, I don’t think he deserves to wear the country’s colors.

There are skills and there are skills.

Matt clearly lacks them. But if he wants to change, he can.

He can start by learning how the other Pinoy athletes deal with adversity.


Anonymous said...

Mr. Lumpag,

As with many of us, we all have questions as to what really made Matthew Hartmann quit. You are very aware of the inside story of the heroics of the other athletes in the SEAGames, and I am sure there are a lot more. But you probably have no clue on Matthew. As you wrote, you also have a few questions. But why destroy the reputation of a very talented Filipino athlete when that's all you've got? Unanswered questions?
Why call names? You've quoted Dan Palami saying it could have been resolved. Then one would assume it was for a reason. If there is anybody who should quit, it's that coach. He has been experimenting on our boys and dividing the team. I truly think he should be sacked.

Mike said...

I destroyed Matt Hartmann's reputation by calling him a quitter?


Azkaholic Anonymous said...

dude's got a point, mike. not with the Mr quitter thing but with the way things went bet weiss and harmann. A good coach will never let things like these get out of hand. It's when things get out of hand that coaches are relied on by the players to ungoat gag the situation. Clearly in the SNAFU event, weiss was acting as somebody else other than a coach. Clash of cultures? So not only that weiss can't handle 23-yr olds, he also can't manage 23-yr olds with cultures other than his?

A lot of coaches can drive many players crazy, specially players who feel very competitive. As a coach that is your rightful place because you are supposed to make them realize their max potentials. But a strong coach no matter how brutal and no matter how far they would take players over the edge, will always, always pull the players back away fm the edge after the point had been driven.

Weiss could've have handled things differently. What about the rest of the training staff? Who does damage control in the house? Nobody. That says a lot about Weiss' weak leadership and poor management skills.

Hartmann is just a kid, what does he know? The way I see it, Weiss quit on this kid.

And that's a shame.

Mike said...


Yep, this thing could have been handled differently as Dan himself admitted.

But as to another point, the reason I brought Cecil Mamiit game is because of what Cecil had to go through before he suited up for the team.

In the late 90s, one tennis official blasted Cecil for being greedy, saying the tennis player asked for $50,000 before he'd play for the country--(Cecil has since denied that).

But ever since the tennis official said that, Cecil had that reputation, he overturned that in 2005, when he showed his passion for the country.

Does Matt deserve a second chance? Absolutely. I've always believed in second chances as I am in my third chance in the media after making some stupid mistakes in my youth (I was in my late teens then).

But I think whether he made the mistake or not, if Matt wants to return to the national team, he has to make the first move--kid or not.

Now back to the team--I'll be waiting for news if Dan has picked up a coach and if the U21 will be joining the Bolkiah Cup in Brunei i February (we joined this back in 2007). Bolkiah cup is U21 competition held a year before SEAG

Azkaholic Anonymous said...

Dan threw a bone out to the fans and advocates when he picked Weiss for the U23 campaign. Very unDan-like, the whole deal. I don't know, I can sit here and yap about this and that and the other but that's about the depth of, shall I say, my "involvement" -- just another fan. It doesn't really help that PFF doesn't really say much about anything at all. Who or what outside outfit checks on the PFF, Mike? What's the plan, do you know? Can you write about these things?

Mike said...

The PFF, being an NSA, only has the AFF, AFC and Fifa to answer to. The POC and PSC doesn't have a say on an NSA, they can put the pressure but an NSA can fight back and cry foul to their world bodies, as is evident by the numerous infighting in our NSAs when stubborn leaders cling to their post.

I've always been an outsider when it comes to matter involving the PFF, though I had pretty good sources in Romualdez's and Martinez's time and now, too.

In the previous admins, they only started "talking" to the football community when their leaderships were threatened, otherwise, it was business as usual.

I attended Nonong Martinez's first BOG meeting last January and the three plans that I remember in that meeting that were implemented were 1.) the coaches development (Ares Caslib's project) and 2.) appointment of a godfather for the U19 (Cojuangco)and 3.) revival of national tournaments.

By the way it was during that meeting when Smart announced its P80 million package. The reception from PFF was great, but, a few months later, somebody told me "Smart didn't know what it got into"

That's why from a Smart club championships this year, it's going to be a Smart Cup in 2012.

I may have overlooked some.