Monday, September 08, 2014

Fair Play: Pass the Peace Cup between fans, PFF?

(This is my Fair Play column for Sun.Star Cebu's Sept. 8 issue)
WHEN I first saw the cast of teams in the Peace Cup, I knew defending the crown would be one difficult task. Myanmar, Palestine and Chinese Taipei were all invited, a vast improvement from last year’s cast which seemed pre-selected to assure the Philippines keep the crown.

This year, the organizers wanted a real test for the Philippine team in preparation for the Suzuki Cup and it got what they wished for, of course, minus the silverware.

So, is it back to the drawing board with the latest loss? Perhaps, but aren’t we still in the drawing board and the Peace Cup was just but one of the tests?

Sure, having the Peace Cup in our trophy case was nice, but let’s not forget the glaring absence of that silver ware we all covet—the Suzuki Cup.

The football gods have a funny sense of humor, days before the Peace Cup started, folks were talking about a rematch of Challenge Cup finalists Palestine and the Philippines and look what happened? Raddy Avramovich has the final laugh.

I think the loss should stoke the flames of the players. Perhaps teach them a thing or two too that having the lead in the late minutes is never a guarantee that we’d win.

A former coach summed it up to me a day after the loss, “Nawagtang ang depensa.

For Coach Thomas Dooley, well, as Cebuanos love to say it, “Qouta na ka Coach!” That second straight runner-up finish for the former American captain should be his final runner-up finish. He’s reached his quota of silver medals and the third time should be the charm. We hope, right?

Myanmar showed pace and composure in the whole match—minus, of course, those minutes when their players were dropping at a fly’s touch—and deserved the win. They were never intimidated by the Azkals or by playing in our home court because to be honest, the crowd wasn’t even intimidating.

Like what my fellow columnist say Noel S. Villaflor said, it’s a bit sad how the crowd stayed away for this tournament. If we get a home game in the Suzuki Cup, would the number be as pathetic? That crowd for Wednesday’s game has got to be the smallest in the post-Vietnam era.

And of course, the folks who did go to the venue had to deal with a code of conduct the PFF is imposing. A code of what? Before we get to that, shouldn’t we make sure we get a crowd first?

There are always regulations for the crowd and some are just ignored—just like the ban on poles etc—but a ban on the iconic giant Philippine flag that has always been present in Azkals matches?

What gives?

This isn’t Europe or other parts of Asia where hooliganism is a concern, this is the Philippines, where getting the crowd in the stadium should be the no. 1 concern, as shown in the Peace Cup.

So, I guess that means it’s back to the drawing board for the PFF regulations for the crowd because what happened in the Peace Cup is something that shouldn’t happen again.

During one of the first home games back in 2011, I remember that the crowd followed the regulations to the letter. But as we kept on hosting games, and new rules were added, some of those who bother to show up in home matches were starting to bend them.

Even the Kaholeros, the official booster group of the Azkals, were affected as they weren’t able to bring in their giant flag.

If we continue this way, we’d have a crowd and an association that won’t see eye-to-eye. The Philippine football scene is still young and relatively small, everybody knows everybody.

I think issues on crowd behavior can be best addressed, not through a Code of Conduct, but perhaps with a roundtable with key fans, even those who see themselves as outsiders.

Let’s pass the Peace cup between fans and the PFF shall we?

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