Friday, March 14, 2014

Fair Play: A solution to UFL,PFF conflict with school leagues

Coach Thomas Dooley said he sees some similarities between the US national football team in 1994 and  the Azkals today as both teams heavily rely on players who learned their football away from home.

The US football scene, too, had a fledgling league--the Major League Soccer--when it hosted the World Cup--while the Azkals have the United Football League.

What the US scene had and the Philippines doesn’t is 15 million kids playing the game.  Some of those 15 million kids in 1994 would become the present-day stars.

We don’t have 15 million kids and if the school leagues like the UAAP, NCAA or even the Cesafi, continue with their archaic world view, we will never have 15 million kids playing the game.

Four or five years ago, you’d find the best players in the country in the school leagues and the Armed Forces team. Now, that’s not the case.  You’d find them in the UFL.  The UFL is also trying to develop a youth league and here lies the problem. NCAA players can’t play; even those who haven’t suited up for their school varsities are barred from playing.

Why? Your guess is as good as mine.

Leagues like the NCAA, UAAP and Cesafi operate, act and decide solely for the benefit of their school members and nothing else and when you have leagues like the UFL or NSAs like the Philippine Football Federation or even SBP, which  are after the welfare of their sport, then conflicts are inevitable.

It is a pity because groups like the UFL and PFF are trying to raise the number of football players by conducting massive grassroots campaigns addressed at the age group levels.

These young players, of course, would be going to schools who are members of the UAAP, NCAA, Cesafi and other leagues, essentially boosting the school members’ stocks.

But when it comes to competitions, school leagues always say, you either play for us, or you don’t play at all.

What a pity.

Most of the conflicts have been the release of players for national  youth team duties. Now it’s about playing in the UFL youth league, which is sad that considering the players in the league are very young and their concern should only be about the game.

These conflicts would be eliminated if the NSAs meet with the leagues to address such concerns or if the leagues think beyond their members.

But like all simple solutions, these things are simply impossible.  To tell the leagues to think beyond their school members is to go against their identity.  They have operated that way since they started; a reboot now, while hoped for, may be impossible. 

So, is this a conflict that will forever be unresolved?

I think not.

There is hope and it will come from our politicians.

No, they won’t suddenly grow a conscience and offer a portion of the PDAF—or is it DAP now?—to sports.  Sen. Pia Cayetano, a sports buff who dabbles in volleyball, running and triathlon, is coming up with a magna carta for student athletes and part of the provisions of that bill is giving the student athlete the right to choose where he will play.

That magna carta may shatter self-serving regulations of the school leagues that have become a hindrance to national team duties in the past.

Remember, it was Sen. Cayetano who took on the UAAP for its absurd ruling that limits the choices of graduating high school student athletes.

Aside from addressing that, among the provisions in the magna carta is that if chosen, student athletes shouldn't be barred from representing the country in international competitions.

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