Thursday, March 28, 2013

A cheers for the pioneers

RICK Olivares's article on the guys who covered Philippine football got me musing about those times.

I got into journalism by accident. As a sophomore BS ECE student at the University of San Carlos, I woke up late for enrollment (which isn't the smooth process as it is now) and as a result, had a grand total of four subjects (including lab) for the semester.

So I had lots of time to spare and I ended up writing for The Freeman at P50 a pop, a gig that ended after forgetting to show up for work in one busy week. In 2000, I joined Sun.Star Cebu, left a year later after another mistake that saw me wake up in the hospital with tubes down my throat.  

I returned in 2004 and haven't left.

In 1997, 2000 and 2004 until I got handed a desk in 2007, football was where I made my name and I had one distinct advantage over the other writers--I actually went to the games to cover them. It helps, too, that I love the game and I really looked forward to watching them. Those who played in Cebu in 2000-2001 and in 2004-2007 and saved clippings of those articles can tell the difference with the way I wrote.  I never spent a minute studying journalism, but I had the advantage the real world was my classroom.

The writers from the other papers actually told me that they got assigned to the football beat because I had so many stories that they had to catch up.

As for the national team or the national scene, my involvement was actually limited to when Cebuanos make the team or when there were some screws up. Which was often--there was that clerical error that led to our girls team being formed days after we missed the deadline in submitting an entry to the AFC U19.  The attempts to unseat Johnny Romualdez which led to instant P20,000 communication doleouts to each FA president's personal bank account. 

When I covered the 2006 AFF championship qualifiers, I thought, my life as a football writer has been completed. Though, I've since modified that after covering the World Cup qualifiers match in Rizal in 2011.  

People sometimes credit me for being there when nobody seemed around, but I think I was just in the right place at the right time, a victim of circumstances.  And what I did in Cebu--and what Jack Biantan did in Cebu before me--Cedelf Tupas was doing it for Bacolod football, and Rick and Cecile Quimlat for the Manila and national football scene.

Like them, I've always believed that if the rest of the country catches on, football will really take off and writing about the sport will no longer be a lonely affair.

In 2008, when I got a column--for those that can't tell the difference it's an opinion piece, not just a news report---I used it, of course, to promote the game but I was really disgusted by the politics of football that I spent about a year and a half writing about anything--Maria Sharapova, boxing, talking to inanimate objects, other than football.  Like what Rick wrote, I said Philippine football can go die a natural death and we have the PFF officials to thank for.

One of my strengths in those pieces I wrote against the PFF was the "outside looking in" point of view because I was really an outsider looking in.  It is something that I no longer have, right now.  

Then, I wished there were a lot of football columnists who’d help sway opinion.  Or who’d help knock some senses to the PFF.  Now, there are a lot of football columns in the new media that they sometimes make the traditional media look stupid. 

Guys like Roy Moore and Ryan Fenix provide some of the best analysis and inputs, Rick has some of the inside info that doesn’t make the mainstream news, and Bob Guerrero uses his wide audience to drive home a point, especially on player selection.

There are countless others, too, who write their opinion or their own versions of match reports—Rex Torrecampo, Icko, JP—and snarly guys on twitter like Jaron Genota who all add to the football discussion.

I’m lucky to be part of the mix.  

Yes, I consider myself a pioneer of sorts when it comes to football reporting, and like all pioneers, we give way to someone who can do it better.  Roy, Ryan, Rick and Bob do analysis better than me. Cedelf—another pioneer--always had and has the best scoops in the team, followed by guys like Icko, JP, who are then followed by the rest of the mainstream reporters (they are always a slower bunch.)

But I think I’ll hold on to my hat a wee bit longer and hand it to the next guy who’d come up with a better opinion piece—under the tank.  Or I become a marathoner.  Whichever comes first.

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