Friday, December 02, 2011

Fair Play: A year after Hanoi Miracle, it's Beckham

(This is my Fair Play column for Sun.Star Cebu on Dec. 3)
IT’S quite unbelievable, isn’t it? Almost a year ago, not too many fans were aware that we had a football team playing in the Suzuki Cup in Vietnam.

Now, 364 days after that historic 2-0 win against Vietnam, the Philippine national team will be hosting David Beckham and the LA Galaxy in a friendly match in Manila.

If somebody said we would be playing the Galaxy last year, I would have thought he’d be sent off to the loony bin. That’s how unexpected this development is.

I’m not in Manila by the way and just like most of the fans, I’d be watching the game through the TV.

It’s not because of the expensive tickets; when they announced the ticket prices, Dan Palami assured me of getting one. I could have also gotten a media accreditation for this historic event but I decided not to.

Why? Let just say, I think the Azkal friendlies are like Apple products, the first one look really amazing but wait till they announce the next big thing.

So I’m skipping the iPhone for the iPad.

You know, give the organizers a chance to iron out bugs and all.

By the way, a lot of folks have been complaining about the prices for the match, but in events like these, when a promoter brings in a foreign club—or a foreign artist for that matter—fans can only hope that sponsors shoulder some of the tab to lower the ticket.

And fans are lucky that the UFL stepped in and are giving everybody a 35 percent discount on the P2,000 tickets, slashing P700 of the value.

I hope today’s game will feature a packed crowd because I think some organizers, or prospective sponsors, will be influenced to try to shoot for the stars and bring other teams as well.

I know one guy, who talked to another Dutch guy who said he could bring Edwin van der Sar and a couple of other Dutch A listers. I know there’s a former Bayern Munich keeper who’s got a furniture business in Cebu. Or, who knows, somebody, somewhere may be planning to bring in Lionel Messi.

Far-fetched? Too expensive?

Yes, they may be, but the thing is, most folks—even football fans—said the same things when, in 2008, it was floated that the Galaxy would make the Philippines as one of their stops in their Asian Tour.

Now, we’re watching them live on local TV.

By the way, today’s game will finally give Chris Greatwich the chance to play in home soil, a year after helping the Azkals reach the semifinals of the Suzuki Cup.

I’ve always like Chris because like Chad Gould, Ali Borromeo and Chieffy Caligdong, he started playing for the team in the time when nobody really cared.

I hope, too, that Chris, who is a coach in the US, gets to play for the Philippines more and even gets to establish his coaching career, here.

It would be a fitting move if the guy who helped bring in the Filipino-Foreigners could help in discovering the next Caligdong or Borromeo, right?

Two other guys who I know are in high heavens are goalkeepers Edward Sacapano and Paolo Pascual, the team’s No. 1 and No. 2.

Both are unassuming guys who epitomize humility and I’m happy that Sacapano gets to start. Being a substitute keeper is a thankless job and
Ed has worked as hard as anybody since 2004, first as backup to Michael Casas, then to Neil Etheridge. And because he was the No. 2, he knew the only time he’d see action when the two were on the pitch was if they got injured--which didn’t happen in the SEA Games, in the AFC Challenge Cup qualifiers and the Suzuki Cup qualifiers and main draw.

Though Ed got to play in Mongolia, getting to start in this historic match is a nice reward for this hardworking guy.

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