Sunday, July 08, 2012

Fair Play: An interesting Suzuki Cup campaign

(This is the draft of my Fair Play column for Sun.Star Cebu on July 9)
WHILE ABS CBN wasn't looking, Aksyon TV, that upstart station that is slowly gaining grounds on the big two, scored a major deal,  getting the TV rights for the Philippines for the 2012 Suzuki Cup later this year.

"The leaders were asleep at the wheel," GMA's Jessica Soho told Cebu reporters in 2004 in explaining how 24 Oras did what then seemed impossible, catch up with TV Patrol in the ratings war. "That's why nahabol namin."

Now, ABS-CBN, thanks to its four-year, P300 million worth of airtime deal with the PFF, is the leader in anything Azkals, having aired the matches exclusively for the past two years. ABS-CBN, too, was the first to recognize the value of airing matches on Philippine TV, as it decided, in less than two days, to air the final group match against Myanmar in the Suzuki Cup, and the two semifinal legs.

Of course, I'm not saying that ABS was "asleep on the wheel," as I think, for putting its money on the Azkals, it deserves its position as the leader in anything related to the men's team.

But as a fan of Philippine football, I like Aksyon TV and I love the fact that they got the Suzuki Cup rights.  It's not an exclusive deal, though, as ESPN also airs the Suzuki Cup matches and has done it since the Tiger Cup days, and ABS-CBN, because of its deal with the PFF, is expected to air it.

So for Pinoy fans who have cable TV, there's a big possibility that you'd get three options to watch an Azkal match in this year's Suzuki Cup.

And who wouldn't want that?  

I'm sure the competition to get the Pinoy audience will lead both ABS-CBN and Aksyon TV to come up with something new for the fans.

And it couldn't come at a much better time, as this year's Suzuki Cup will be a crucial campaign.

The Azkals are no longer an unknown team and the rest of Southeast Asia, have taken notice.  Heck, even this Wednesday's draw for the 

Suzuki Cup is eagerly awaited as fans are excited who we will meet in the group stage, while others want to know whether to book their flights to Thailand or Malaysia--this year's hosts.

I'm excited too but I don't hold much hopes in the draw, as in the past, a Dan Palami team hasn't has much luck in the draw, as was the case for the UFL Cup, the AFC Challenge Cup, and the AFC U22 qualifiers but they did quite well in two events.

It would be great, too, if we get to avoid powerhouse Thailand and Malaysia in the group stage but I remember back in 2010, the team aimed to top the qualifiers so it could avoid Vietnam and Singapore and look what happened?

One other person who’s eager for a strong campaign in the Suzuki Cup is coach Hans Michael Weiss, who’s two-year deal as head coach of the men’s team will expire after the Suzuki Cup.

A few months ago, after a stint in Dubai that had critics questioning his player rotation, coach Weiss told me that sometimes, he gets frustrated that some of the things he does for Philippine football are overlooked.

It goes with the job, I told him and he gets it.

Coach Weiss said that because of his contacts, he got to arrange camps in Japan, Dubai and Germany for the team, for free, and he also managed to have a few German experts come over, too, to help local football.

He also said that, if he gets an extension, he can take the team further.

And I think whether he gets one or not, will all depend on the Suzuki Cup campaign later this year because like all coaching gigs, it’s now what you did last year that determines your fate, it’s what you did in the last tournament.

So, like I said, this is one interesting tournament, and I’m glad that if ABS CBN will miss a tidbit, AKTV will be there to air it (the same, I hope, would be true the other way around.)

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