Someone asked me how my blog and newspaper column came to be titled "Bleachers Brew". It's like this, it's an amalgam of sorts of two things: The bleachers area in the stadium/arena where I used to sit when I would watch baseball, football, and basketball games and Miles Davis' great jazz album Bitches Brew. That's how it got culled together. I originally planned on calling it "The View from the Big Chair" that is a nod to Tears For Fear's second album, Songs from the Big Chair. So there.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Bleachers' Brew #144 Unfair Play

Unfair Play
by rick olivares

Two point four million pesos. That’s the amount the team has spent since 2005 to play futsal and represent our country in several international competitions. And there are 14 of them on the Philippine Women’s National Futsal Team.

The money comes from life savings, salaries from their day jobs, allowances, donations, sponsorships, and earnings from endless garage sales, newspaper and pep bottle drives. Oh, and that includes one Suzuki Grand Vitara that fetched for Php 220,000.

Team Coach Manny Batungbacal sold his only car just to pay for the fare and fees of several of his players so they could make the trip to the 2007 Southeast Asian Games in Nakhon Ratchasima (although the futsal matches were held in Bangkok).

Seven hundred eighty hours of training a year. That’s basic and not counting the extra time the team puts in extra training and competitions. A few have day jobs while some are finishing up their studies. Three of them are still playing with the FEU squad in the ongoing UAAP Women’s Football Tournament.

Their (mis)adventures abroad are the stuff of legend. Almost zero support from the Philippine Football Federation. They stuff their bags with canned goods when going abroad for international competitions. They scrimp and take as much bottles of water they get – which is free – during games. Without fanfare, they take the cheapest flights in and out of Manila and share beds in small hotel rooms that are meant for only one or two persons.

Instead for their efforts and sacrifices, what they receive are reprimands from various PFF officials and endless intrigues. Shame on them when only two officials have watched them play and one was practice while another was one game.

Hmm. The games. If they aren’t the most skilled of athletes as some officials claim, they why is it that they’ve beaten just about every women’s futsal squad in the country?

Oh, and they are the only Filipino football team in our more than 100-year association with the sport to bring home a medal. They won a bronze medal in the 2007 SEA Games by beating Malaysia 3-1.

In that same tournament, the Malaysian coach used them as an example for his team to emulate team discipline considering what they all went through just to get to Thailand.

Still the PFF brass unceremoniously sacked their coaches –Batungbacal and assistant Paul Encarnacion – last Wednesday, February 4, 2009 “since they were never the appointed coaches anyway.”

At the same time Batungbacal was being sacked, Jose Mari Martinez, PFF President, also declared that all the committees under the association vacant and void yet he retained the Futsal Chairman Esmaeil Sedigh to reorganize the futsal team and committee. Incredibly, members of all the committees only received the notice from the PFF the day after via email and text.

All the athletes immediately resigned that same day not because their coaches were sacked (“Because that is management’s prerogative even if it’s inaccurate and unfair,” as team captain Ria Tanjangco vociferously pointed out) but because of the shoddy, unfair, and unprofessional way the PFF has gone about its business with the futsal team.

In a report made to Martinez dated November 20, 2008, Sedigh, an Iranian national living in the country, cited the following infractions:
1) Ignoring protocol and processes
2) Disrespecting authority
3) Misrepresenting the National Women’s Futsal Team
4) Joining an unsanctioned international event organized by a breakaway group
5) Besmirching the integrity and reputation of the Federation through different forms of media
6) Uncooperative and impossible to work and deal with.

Batungbacal who is also the Athletic Director of a prestigious university submitted a four-page reply that was thrown out of the window and not given any consideration. He also provided hard copies of reports, memos and communiqués with PFF officials to back up his replies.

And if he was not the duly recognized coach, why was Batungbacal asked to sign a memo dated January 31, 2009 regarding formalizing formal office communication?

The coach’s answers (of which I have given the Reader’s Digest version) were thus:
1) No handbook, manual, or letter regarding proper protocol and the formation of a Futsal Committee was given to him or the team. When he personally asked Mr. Sedigh who was on the committee, the Chairman curtly dismissed the query “You don’t have the right to ask.” Yet in another meeting in a previous meeting held on Nov. 26, 2008, the PFF’s General Secretary Pablito Araneta informed all present that there is no futsal committee because it was not yet approved by the Federation’s Board of Governors.

2) Again there were no formal memorandums regarding Sedigh’s appointment or the formation of any committee.

3) This stems from the Women’s Team joining the Vikings International Futsal Cup in New Zealand from August 8-10, 2008 where they competed as Irok Team Philippines.; a tournament that is said to be organized by a breakaway group of the international futsal body. Yet not only did Araneta issue a memo dated June 5, 2008 to the organizing body sanctioning the participation of the national team but he also requested Mizuno, the sponsor of the PFF to supply the team with equipment for the competition. In the same letter, Araneta informed Mizuno’s Marketing Manager Jose Paolo Cagalingan “to contact Head Coach Mr. Emmanuel L. Batungbacal” for clarifications.

PFF officials had an issue with the team name: Irok Team Philippines. How different is that from the men’s national basketball team performing as Smart Pilipinas or the baseball team carrying the Lhuillier tag?

4) The team joined the tournament (that they paid for themselves and not by the PFF) for experience. At that point, their only international exposures were two Asian Indoor Games and the SEA Games of which the team paid all their fees and expenses (although the Philippine Sports Commission reimbursed them for their expenses after bagging the bronze. Whether it was conducted by a breakaway group (of which they are unaware of) is beside the point. The PFF sanctioned participation.

5) If the so-called Futsal committee’s basis is the Viking tournament’s entry on the national team, it is the work of its CEO Paul Wadsworth and no one else. In numerous interviews with the Philippine media, the team has in no way besmirched the reputation (what reputation? It isn’t good in the first place – my comment) of the PFF. If anything, the PFF has been lacking and wanting in its support.

6) Batungbacal is the Athletic Director of prestigious university. If he was “uncooperative and impossible to work with” then how did he get the job? He wrote numerous letters to the PFF and the futsal committee but not once did he receive and form of communication from the latter. If anything, the accusation is at best subjective.

The team doesn’t feel all that bad about not representing the country anymore (they simply want to set the record straight) even if it means losing the allowances that were accorded to them by the Philippine Sports Commission after their bronze medal stint in the SEA Games. After all, they’ve done their part but will continue playing as a club team.

But for the PFF to unceremoniously dump the coaching staff and to put their efforts in bad light is a disservice not just to them but to the sport. Guess “fair play” is just nothing more than an empty slogan, eh?

The former RP Women's Futsal Team:
Emmanuel Batungbacal - Head Coach (UA&P)
Paul Encarnacion - Assistant Coach (UP)
Ria Tanjangco - Team Captain (Ateneo)
Shella Ninobla - (FEU)
Tiffany Batungbacal - (Assumption)
Fran Ruffy - (Assumption)
Krishna Javier (UA&P)
Glaiza Artus (FEU)
Farrabeth Limbo (FEU)
Karol Joy Barrientos (FEU)
Sime Gaspay (Ateneo)
Bea Lim (Ateneo)
Marnelli Dimzon (FEU)
Honey Thomason (RTU)
Glenda Bascon (Assumption)
Carla Paredes (Ateneo)

Author's Note: Ms. Cristy Ramos pointed out that the RP Women's Football Team won a bronze in the 1985 Bangkok SEA Games. Thanks, Ms. Cristy for the info and sorry for the oversight. Talk to you soon!

From a Futsal Official in Germany:
SUBJECT: YOUR ARTICLE: Sunday Feb 08thUnfair play
Written by Bleachers’ Brew / Rick Olivares /
Sunday, 08 February 2009 20:52
Dear Ladies and Gentlemen,
As official PFF EUROPE CONSULTANT .... PFF PRESIDENT Mr. MARTINEZ committed to me that Mr. Batungbacal
is head coach of FUTSAL PHILIPPINE NATIONAL TEAM, as I spoke with him in Manila!
He said : "Yes, Mr. Batungbacal is our PFF NT coach for Futsal!", as I asked him about the successful bronze medal and if
Mr. Batungbacal is furtheron the coach of Futsal Women NT !
If Mr.Batungbacal needs a back -up,I can help him!
Sporty and friendly regards,
Paul Weiler ( official PFF EUROPE CONSULTANT )
Paul Weiler

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