Fair Play: A tough night for PHL football

(This is my Fair Play column for Sun.Star Cebu's Sept. 12 edition)
FANS had barely settled on their seats, or drinks, last Tuesday when the Philippines found itself a goal down against Uzbekistan in the World Cup qualifiers last Tuesday.

The shock on the faces of the fans in the sports bar I was in was obvious. One, who was watching with his family, asked me the obvious question, “Sulod to?”

That first-minute disaster pretty much dictated the rest of the match. The Philippines was totally out-classed and out-played by an Uzbekistan team that showed why it is ranked 60 places higher than the host in the world rankings.

It was ugly but not embarrassing and as we try to crack the higher echelons of Asian football, we are going to stumble along the way against the powerhouse in Asia.

Of course, hindsight is the best analytical tool and as some has pointed out, it would have been great had the team played defensively in the first 20 minutes, try to see watch the Uzbekistan had to offer. Some sort of a feel-out first round in boxing.

But who’s to say that wasn’t the plan?

Coach Thomas Dooley said their game plan was shot to hell in the first minute alone.

“The thing is, from the first kick, we started in the wrong direction and after the first goal in the first minute, everything that we actually tried to do was gone,” he said post-match.

That was pretty much obvious, and those two other goals in the first half showed how the visitors almost had a 100-percent conversion on their chances, finishing the match with five goals on six chances.

Still, I like what I saw in that game--except, of course, the goals--despite the odds, the team never got out of synch nor did they give up.
They continue to play possession football and tried to create their own chances, things that local coaches want their own teams to do when faced by long odds.

Can they recover? Of course they can. They have to. But you have to remember, at this stage of our international football development, where we are trying to join Asia’s elite, the team--coaching staff and all--has to learn to compete with the best team. That first-minute mishap was forgivable, considering the opposition, and Coach Thomas Dooley gets that one chance, and only one. The next time match against an
Uzbekistan-caliber foe shouldn’t come as a surprise.

FAN WOES. I’m really not a fan of the Ultras Filipinas, especially with how some behave online as if they are god’s gift to Philippine football, but when it comes to home matches, these guys walk the talk and they do their darndest to make sure the home matches are really home matches. So it’s quite disappointing that the last home match also saw another PFF vs. the Fans episode.

Due to some rules which the PFF said was that of the match commissioner, the Ultras drums were not allowed (and didn’t I see the Uzbeks fans get their drums in?) the latest incident in this drama that started when the PFF enacted that Code of Conduct for fans in the stadium.

Any code of conduct should be geared toward getting more fans in, not barring some out. Should the match commissioner in the next match have the same mindset, I hope someone from the PFF explains the unique setup in Philippine football and state the obvious--Pinoy fans are not violent, there is no need for restraint. Heck, the last and only time there was an incident in an international game at home was when the Blue-Haired Fanatic ran to the track in Bacolod in a drunken stupor!

Let the Ultras, the Kaholeros or whatever group bring whatever they want to the stadium. Whatever we think of them, or however they conduct themselves online, these guys only have Philippine football’s welfare in mind when they watch the games.

Trust them. Trust the fans. Rip that Code of Conduct before the next home game. Else fans develop a code of their own when it comes to matters concerning the PFF.


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