Fair Play: Yes, PNG's a foe Azkals need not face

(This is my Fair Play column for Sun.Star Cebu's Oct. 16 issue)
WHEN I first learned that our favorite friendly foe Malaysia backed out at the last minute from playing in the Oct. 12 friendly with the Philippines, I thought, “There goes a match that we could have played as part of our Suzuki Cup preparation.”

International friendlies are not like your neighborhood lima-lima, you can’t set up one in under a week. So I was surprised the PFF managed to get one in Papua New Guinea but after that 5-0 win, some are asking, should we have bothered at all?

There are two lines of thoughts regarding this.

A lot of people were already saying online, that the level of competition PNG provided wasn’t something that we need. But after the match, some are also saying that we should be thankful that despite the short time, the PFF managed to get a friendly at all. And besides, playing PNG was a throwback to the days when the Azkals were just like our guests—ignored winnows whom nobody wants to play with.

Who is right? Well, it all depends on what you think the purpose of the friendly is.

It’s all good to be nostalgic and all, and to say that we are doing PNG a favor by giving them the experience they need, but hey, what about the experience we need six weeks before the tournament?

Ryan Fenix, one of my favorite football columnists, said the Philippines could have gotten more had it set a match with the top UFL club. That’s true. A UFL club could have given the Azkals fits but was that even considered? And would a friendly between the Azkals and a UFL Club—a TV 5 mainstay—be televised and the PFF get its share of the TV income?

Some say that the 5-0 win was a good bounce-back after those heart-breaking finals losses, but bouncing back wasn’t the original goal isn’t it? Unless of course, the PFF expected a healthy scoreline against Malaysia. Besides, this is football, not boxing, where the losing world-title candidate gets a ready-to-fall patsy to boost his sagging confidence.

As to those who say the PNG match was a reminder of where the Azkals come, I have to disagree. For me, at this time, there is only one reminder the team really needs—zero Suzuki Cup titles. If you want, you can throw in the two finals losses as reminders too.

Sure the 5-0 win was a feel good match, but does it make any of us feel good about our chances in the Suzuki Cup?

Anyway, we may be disagreeing about the effectiveness of the friendly, but at least this disagreement means one thing--preparation for the Suzuki Cup is under scrutiny, and that’s what’s needed, too.


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