Friday, January 13, 2012

Fair Play: Rift between Azkals and UFL? Say it ain't so!

(This is the draft of my Fair Play column for Sun.Star Cebu on Jan. 14)
THIS year will be quite a busy year for the Azkals as well as for the UFL, which will have a 18-week season.

And with two friendlies in the first three weeks of the month alone, sandwiching the opening of the UFL, along with it comes an inevitable conflict of schedules.

And it’s not just the competition for Rizal Memorial Stadium, I’m talking about practices and even appearances with club and country activities.

But I hope the UFL, the Philippine Football Federation and the Philippine national team management can mesh out a solution to this problem.

The UFL and the Azkals have a unique relationship, for now, one cannot survive without the other, but in the future, if it improves, the UFL must learn to stand on its own feet so it doesn’t have to ride on the popularity of the Azkals.

The Azkals, too, need the UFL. Its players can’t live on endorsements alone and will need the steady job in a club team to essentially support their being members of the national team.

Aside from the two friendlies, there’s the camp in the Middle East, the U21 tournament in Brunei, and of course, the Challenge Cup—all of which will have UFL players leaving their clubs to see action for the country.

Will the UFL take a break or will they push through with their schedule? Will clubs like Kaya, Global and Loyola have the depth to make up for the absence of its key players for what is essentially one-fourth of the season?

I hope when the time comes, the conflict won’t go the way of basketball, when last year, two NCAA teams (or was it UAAP?) refused to release its players, and the league refused to reschedule its finals, to give way for an Asian-level competition. (Curiously, Cebu’s Sacred Heart School Jesuits-Ateneo de Cebu, released its star player while in the middle of a five-game championship series it eventually lost.)

Am I being an alarmist? You could say that but when I was informed that there’s a “brewing rift between UFL and PFF men’s team after ___ and ____ refuse to release players for Azkals practice” well, this thing has to be out in the open, shouldn’t it?

Like I said, the UFL and the Azkals have a unique relationship, one cannot survive without the other and I hope when the time comes, one will learn to give way for the other.

There will be times when clubs will insist that players stay with their team, and I think this is one of it as the UFL is about to start and naturally, team owners want to see the faces of the players whom they pay so handsomely.

And there will be times, too, that the national team will be justified in asking that the players be with the squad and the buildup for the Challenge Cup will be one of those.

So what happens next month? I hope instead of viewing it as a club vs. country conflict, the UFL sees it as a chance to show the league is not just about Loyola, Global or Kaya. I’m pretty sure there are a lot of second-division teams—or even first division clubs--who would want their chance to play in Rizal and be seen on TV.  I hope, too, when the time comes, the Azkal management wouldn’t insist that national team members join their practice if the next tournament is, say, two months away? Besides, when the UFL players skip practice, they don’t do so because they’re off malling, they’re practicing, too.

I hope, too, in the old-boys-network of Philippine football, where everybody knows everybody, matters such as this will be cut in the bud before it gets out of hand because I’ve seen clubs torn apart by such small a matter such as who gets to play.

And it would be unfortunate —and ironic—if the Azkals campaign would be impeded by the UFL, just as it would if the clubs fail in the UFL because of the Azkals.

In the days before the 2010 Suzuki Cup, football barely survived because of the indifference of the country and it was only because of the faith guys like the Football Alliance group of Santi Araneta and the national team management of Dan Palami that the sport got to where it is now.

And, to go further, we need the UFL and the Azkals to work together.

They have to realize they need each other and must recognize the role one plays in the success of the other.

This rift I hope would go pfft!


Anonymous said...

Solution is quite simple really, but making it reality isn't.

The PFF needs to create a league which is under their control. They would then have final say if certain should be postponed or if the league should go on hiatus when the national team is on duty. The PFF controlling the league is also necessary if they want to be eligible for AFC club competitions.

Jao Romero said...

the clubs have the right to hold the players. if the national team wants to get that right, they should pay the players a retainer fee /debate

iMadrid said...

All this conflicts could be ironed if both sides PFF and UFL simply looked at a calender.

There is an International FIFA calendar of events for Friendlies and Internationals. AFC and AFF Calendar events. These schedules are published a year in advance and anyone can go the their website and download a PDF file.

I could understand the UFL still at its early stage and I am confused on how they organize their calendar.

For organizers I think its more simple to schedule the Cup competition first and League second to avoid confusion. But it hasn't have to be that way.

A good example to follow is how European clubs play 3 competitions in a season like UEFA, League and FA Cup. A full season last approximately 10 months. The League ends on Summer break for 2 months. 2 Weeks for Winter or Holiday Breaks.

I know the Philippines have unique challenges when it comes to our seasonal climate in drafting a League Calendar for an outdoor sport. When it rains it pours (floods the pitch) and in summer its really scorching. Do we break in Summer or in the Rainy season?

Well the UFL have to figure it out and then Breaks for Internationals the Azkals regularly compete in like the Challenge Cup, Suzuki Cup, Long Teng Cup, ASEAN games.

jonny said...

UFL take a break when AFC Challenge Cup , and will release players when Azkals are going on a training camp to Dubai. I dont think they will postpone matches during Azkals camp so some clubs have to play with weakened teams.
Im not sure what will happen when Brunei tournament ?

Full round next weekend with matches on Saturday and Sunday , I wonder what Azkals United team will face the South Koreans on Saturday 21 ?