Thursday, May 22, 2014

Fair Play: A crazy ride, literally, in the AFC Challenge Cup

(This is my Fair Play column for Sun.Star Cebu's May 22 edition)
IT WAS a dark and stormy night. With bad weather holding their ship back, the men had to deal with the prospect of transferring ships mid-sea, amidst huge waves that seemed to toss their little boat like a toy.

That’s not an excerpt from an adventure novel. That’s what happened a couple of hours before the Philippines fought Afghanistan to a scoreless draw in their opening match of the AFC Challenge Cup in the Maldives.

And that, also, is the perfect reason why the Maldives should never have been given the chance to host the matches.

As what Didits, a fan who travelled with the team, said over Twitter last night, “Beautiful islands and beaches, yes, but impractical game venues.”

Another said, “The country is perfect for island-hopping, not for football.”

And here’s what football writer Cedelf Tupas, who is with the team, said during the ride, “You got to be kidding! Azkals transferring to a bigger boat in the middle of the sea...They can’t connect the two boats. Our boat is rocking like crazy. Too risky to transfer I think.”

And that was just one way. They had to go back after the game, too.

This whole shebang sounds crazy, right when the Asian Football Confederation announced the hosting after it accidentally sent an e-mail announcing that the Philippines was going to host it. (I was told the AFC called the PFF up and told them they sent an e-mail accidentally and told them not to read it and delete it. Naturally, they read it.)

We can wail against this crazy decision of the AFC to award the rights to the Maldives but if you look at the bigger picture, there’s Fifa and Qatar.

So, the next time we bid for the AFC tournaments, let’s show them slides of the beaches of Boracay, Palawan and Cebu.

Perhaps, that might sway them.

By the way, though the draw was disappointing I think we’re lucky to get that point, considering Afghanistan hit the bar in the dying minutes.

Up next for us is Laos, which lost to Turkmenistan, 5-1, despite taking the lead. We haven’t beaten Laos in the previous nine matches, and the last was a 2-2 draw. But we also haven’t faced Laos post Vietnam, 2010. And considering that since 2010, we’ve always picked up our game in the second match of a group stage, this is going to be a good one.

I just hope, the team’s boat ride to the venue would be better, too.

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