Monday, October 01, 2012

Let there be peace, please, after Peace Cup?

IT SEEMS there's a brewing conflict between the Philippine men's team management and the UFL clubs, and perhaps, even the league.

You can read it based on team owners tweets, or, you can even read it from Loyola Meralco Sparks Al Panilio's statement to Inquirer columnist Beth Celis, "I'm not happy with the way they are running the national team."

Why isn't he happy?

Panilio told Celis, "The PFF does not respect the commitments of the club players. We have met with coach Weiss too, in making sure we align skeds, but to no avail.  We asked them to sit down with us, so we can plot a compromise."

Before you take sides in this issue, you have to understand where both sides stand--as head coach, Coach Michael Weiss's priority is one thing, national team success. And since he has Philippine football’s most pressure-packed job (quick, name two UFL head coaches you know), he’s doing all he can to make sure he succeeds.  And based on the Peace Cup success, you could say his methods are working.

But on one side, as stakeholders in the league, club owners want to protect their players, and of course, their league, which runs for three months and games, and training sessions, clash with that of the national team’s.  To gain new fans, the UFL clubs needs its domestic football’s most famous players, who happen to be with the national squad.

And you could say it's a conflict waiting to happen.

I think the bone of contention here is training with the national team, as, in the past UFL clubs, have released their players for Fifa-designated (and sometimes non-designated) matches.  The thing is, being in the national squad isn’t only about playing during these matches, it’s also about training for these matches.

And by insisting that players train under him, does that mean coach Weiss isn't satisfied with how the national team members are faring when training with their UFL clubs? If you remember, he cited their lack of fitness during that chat with Phil and James Younghusband, and I think that is an indirect indictment of how Loyola Meralco Sparks is handling their training.

But how about those players from Europe who still make the team even if they all miss these training camps?  That's one of the questions some of the UFL clubs have raised and the national team response is this, can we really compare a UFL player's training to that of players from Europe? Is a player who skipped camp for his UFL stint on the same level with say, Stephen Schrock or Dennis Cagara who missed camp because of their club duties?

It's a simple question with a very complicated answer.

When the Younghusband issue broke out, the PFF cited "economic and non-economic" demands, while some of their critics blame politics.  

Now, if you are to believe what the Meralco Sparks president say, that this is about a realigning of schedule, then you have to wonder why all these grown men can't seem to find a schedule that benefits both?

Politics?  Personal issues?  

And this is where the PFF, I think, must step in. It is, after all, the Philippine Football Federation, not the Philippine men's national team federation.  The PFF is where it is now because of the Azkals and the UFL and it will be disadvantageous to the group if this conflict won't be resolved.

If this won't be resolved now, this issue will crop up anew in 2013, 2014, 2015 or as long as we have a national team that is busy with stints abroad and we have a local league that is trying to grow.  It will happen no matter who is handling the national squad or who is running the league. 

It is an issue that WOULDN'T have happened if we were back in 2009, when everybody's idea of an askal was the one who takes a shit  every where and everybody would think the UFL is just a typographical error of a ketchup brand.

Philippine football needs the Azkals and the UFL—none is greater than the other--and I believe this can be resolved by an honest-to-goodness meeting of the minds.

Impossible?  Heck, an international title for the Philippines seemed impossible, too, all those years ago.

Let’s just hope it won’t take 99 years.


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