Friday, March 15, 2013

How the mighty has fallen

FOUR or even three years ago, a football player in the Philippines who wants to make a career in the game can do so by signing up with the teams of the Armed Forces of the Philippines--Navy, Army or Air Force.

For years that was the route, not just for footballers.  Play with the national team and get a not so decent allowance, sign up with the military to complement that allowance.

Now, with club teams bolstering their rosters in the UFL, that's no longer the only option and from being one of the top teams in the country, the Army, Air Force and Navy squads aren't even considered contenders.

And just recently, the Army compounded its woes with the conduct of  Rodrigo Betita, while assistant coach Rodrigo Cain made it worse by defending Betita.

Minutes before their loss to Kaya FC, Betita, frustrated by a non-call on what he perceived was an offside play, got the ball on his own half, and kick it at the linesman.  A petulant behavior that should have earned him a red card. Not content with that, the Army player approached the linesman, and took a whiff at his leg for good measure.

In defending his player, Coach Cain said the kick to the leg wasn't intentional, the player was going for the ball daw and "Yung pangalawa, bale natamaan yung bola tapos yung paa ng linesman andun."

It's not as crazy as the "my-dog-ate-my-homework" excuse but as crazy as Juan Manuel Marquez saying, I was stretching my arm and Manny Pacquiao's face got in the way, so I won.

That’s not even the worse of it.

Cain blamed the officiating and said the refs were biased for Kaya and cried patriotism by saying that officials should protect Filipinos and not the foreigners.

It is actually a sentiment that is not new.  Air Force keeper Tats Mercado said something like that when they beat Loyola in the UFL Cup finals two years ago.

But the thing is, it’s not about the Filipinos vs. Foreigners argument.  It’s about decency on the pitch and off it.  And the AFP teams are not without fans, they have quite a few, mostly fans—new or old—who have ties with the military.

I even know of a few fans, who, when they got the chance to get autographs of the Azkals, only got those who were with the AFP teams.

The AFP teams will always have their supporters, but guys like Cain and Betita should show they deserve backing, and not show an obvious disdain and resentment against other clubs for having foreigners in their lineup.

If they say, “Support your all-Filipino club,” they should set a good example and not be an embarrassment to every Pinoy who has ever laced his boots.

Just in case Betita and coach Cain has forgotten what most decent coaches tell their kids, “It’s not about winning, it’s about how you play the game.”

Bad calls are never an excuse for violent behavior, anyone who’s been to the Palarong Pambansa knows that.

For his behavior, Betita got a six-month ban from the UFL and he should consider himself lucky. 

Under the present football atmosphere, the AFP teams no longer enjoy the same lofty status like what they did four years ago.  They are no longer the priorities of the top players.

If they are to survive, they must learn to accept the reality and adapt. There’s no use wailing against the system.

I remember the time when clubs used to complain against the advantage of the AFP teams—it’s not fair, we have weekend warriors against players from the national teams.

Now, we have the AFP teams crying “unfair.”

How the mighty has fallen.

Can they recover?

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