Monday, April 15, 2013

Fair Play: Ebong's unusual job audition

EBONG Joson’s path to his new job is very unusual.  Unlike most who send their resumes, or get hired directly, Ebong got his because of what he did while he was drunk as a skunk.

It was Feb. 9, 2011 and the Philippines was set to face Mongolia for the 2012 AFC Challenge Cup qualifiers, and Ebong, like the rest of the fans who watched that game, went to the Panaad Park and Sports Complex early.  But unlike the other fans, Ebong, with Bob Guerrero, spent those few hours drinking rhum.

And minutes before kick-off, emboldened by the spirits from a bottle, he grabbed a Philippine flag and ran at the grandstands to stir the crowd.

Not content with that, he broke all security protocol, went to the restricted area at the track oval, and ran again.

The crowd loved it and thus was born the legend of the Blue Haired Fanatic.

The police sure didn’t like it and they moved in.  He ran away from them anyway.

And when the cops finally got to him, he stopped, planted the flag, kneeled and bowed his head.  The crowd exploded and the cops took him away.

I later learned that the police official in charge of security nearly bit his head off and told him,” You embarrassed me!”

Much, much later I also learned, too, that head coach Michael Weiss told the PFF, “You find out who that guy is and you get him!”

Now, he’s here in Cebu, again.  Not to while away the time drinking before Azkals matches, but as head of the PFF Marketing and Communications group.

Right now, he’s helping in the preparations for the AFC Presidents Cup group stage match in early May, and after that, for another friendly involving the national team on June 8, a Fifa international day.

“The dance will be here, we just don’t know who our partner is,” Ebong said when I asked him if the friendly’s a go.

And apparently, having a friendly in Cebu is great for the service industry, because of the Cebuano hospitality that makes strangers feel at home.

After winning the Suzuki Cup, Singapore could have celebrated its victory anywhere in the world, but the players brought their families to Cebu, fulfilling a promise to return after the Nov. 15 friendly against the Philippines.  It’s more fun in the Philippines? Singapore, certainly, thinks so.

All the advantages that Cebu has that makes it an ideal destination for conventions, seminars and the like also holds true for a football tournament.

We have the infrastructure, resources and most importantly, the people—the fans and those who act.  It used to be that if you can’t hold a friendly in Manila, it’s going to be in Bacolod.

That’s no longer the case.

After Cebu showed that it can be done last year, the other FAs, too, got to thinking, perhaps we can do this?

 “Cebu makes my job easy,” Ebong said. “They get things done.” 

The story of last year was the transformation of the Cebu City Sports Center dust bowl to one of the best pitches in the country, a mean feat that, because of the Sinulog, the CFA is replicating.

So, too, was the fantastic fan support in that game, the Kaholeros and the thousands of fans who packed the CCSC, some of them from out of town.

That’s something, I hope, that will be replicated not only for the June 8 friendly, but for the President’s Cup, where Global FC will be facing off with other Asian club champions.

And right now, Ebong is in Cebu, again, meeting with Ricky Dakay, Raffy Musni, Glenn Quisidio, Engr. Rodney Orale, Nimrod Quiñones, Rico Navarro and the rest of the staff of the CFA to make sure it’s going to be another epic tournament.

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