This appears in the Monday November 28, 2010 edition of the Business Mirror.
by rick olivares
Last Saturday, November 27, members of the Philippine Football Federation unanimously ousted Jose Mari Martinez (25 voted aye, 2 abstained, and 2 disappeared without even casting their vote) as president ending three tumultuous, controversial, and scandalous years on top of one of the oldest sporting associations not just in Asia but also in the entire world.
We live on old glory when our teams were one of the best in Asia but there is no one alive to remember those days. Instead, we have become a laughingstock with our national teams marked as sure wins by opposing countries even before we step on the pitch.
Singapore which has 1/95s of our population is ranked #138th. We argue that with over 1.3 billion Chinese they can produce world-class athletes. Yet somehow that doesn’t translate with us.
I have always maintained that football is a huge sport in the Philippines. It is played from Aparri to Jolo yet because like the 7,000-plus islands that make up the Philippine Islands, the football community is so fragmented and disjointed and seemingly bound by the mirage of prosperity of FIFA money, power, and prestige.
It is said that politics makes for strange bedfellows. But money… money makes bastards of men.
I watched intently as the presidents of 25 football associations verbally voted for the resolution that called for his removal and replacement. Martinez expected as much from “the rebels” as he likes to call them. But in an “et tu, Brutus” moment for those who sided with him but had a change of heart, Martinez glowered and stared daggers. Those who were resolute in their beliefs didn’t need much explanation while those who were perceived to be once allies stammered and groped for the right words in order to soften the blow.
One FA president who voted for the resolution was very emotional about his decision. When I bumped into him inside Martinez’ office about two hours after the ouster, before he left, he had the moxie to ask the deposed president if there was any money earmarked for him! Still one who didn’t bother to make his voice heard claimed that “the rebels” coerced him and offered cash in exchange for his vote in the removal of Martinez.
Yet another who voted “yes” also went to Martinez to sign for something when he clearly shouldn’t have done so. The outgoing president declined to sign.
Why does doing the right thing seem to be so difficult?
The problem with us Filipinos is we are so quick to forgive and forget no matter how the grave the crime and no matter how damning the evidence. From those who have plundered the nation and set us on the track to staggering international debt to those who have launched coup de etats, they have been incredibly pardoned and acquitted. So now, are you telling me if I rob a bank and return the money then all is okay? We’re quits and it is a sign of good faith that perhaps it was an honest mistake?
So we cover it up, cough nod, and go about our business and forget things until a similar misdeed raises its ugly head again so we can cry “foul”? Or maybe that’s only true for those with money and power.
No wonder our nation is like this.
There were four other presidents absent from the Congress. One of them refused to take part and said of Martinez, “Kayo naglagay diyan, kayo magtanggal diyan.”
So much for the healing power of football.
When I arrived at the PSC mid-morning, I sat down with Martinez to report on the press conference we held for the national team on the eve of the Suzuki Cup Finals in Hanoi, Vietnam. Not soon after that, one of the PFF’s finance officers arrived and while in conference, one of the member football associations asked if there was money.
Your guess is as good as mine about what he meant by that.
For years I had railed against Martinez and in fact, I still do though in a more tempered prose. A few weeks back, he asked me if I would like to work for him at the PFF and I replied that I knew about the financial troubles and didn’t think it wise to further strain resources. Furthermore, I added, “Do you want the fox inside the henhouse”?
He looked at me and laughed. “C’mon. Help me out here. Enough with the bad stories.”
Bad stories. That’s something I have to explain in greater depth to some people. I don’t really like writing scathing pieces. It brings me no joy or pleasure to do so. In truth, I’d rather pen stories that tell of titanic struggles and triumph moments and heart-rending defeats. But as a sports journalist, I have to do what is right as well. And that is why after the 2008 PFF Congress I stopped writing about local football and the PFF. I also refused to be used by others with agendas yet do not have the balls to go out and say it to the world.
However, the sport is near and dear to my heart and I agreed to help organize the press conference for the national team. I also worked on the press kit and wrote his press statement. But leaving nothing to chance, I made sure I had a “Plan B” in the event someone didn’t fulfill their part of the bargain. It’s a good thing I did because what could go wrong did go wrong. And luckily, we pulled it off without a hitch and sent off the nationals in high spirits.
I also became the bridge between the PFF and Gatorade as the sports drink giant plans to be more involved in the sport. It sure helps when my colleagues and I (who work with the global brand) love and believe that we can make great strides with the game.
Not soon after Martinez left the Philsports Complex to repair to the PFF House of Football one last time, the members of Congress discussed a few matters. Some put things in perspective and said that they understand that what transpired was a bloody process but it had to be done.
Some guests said a few words. And I too, had a few words for Congress. I said that I had been covering the local football scene for some six years now and I have written good and bad stories. This whole affair to depose a president who they have no confidence in will change the way the sport is governed in the Philippines. Whether there are repercussions from this or not, they will have to stand for what they did and believe is right. Other sporting associations with similar problems will learn their lessons. But the men who led this will be held to a higher standard and that they have a responsibility given them. And while I pledge my support for their endeavors, I ended by saying that I had enough of writing bad stories. It’s certainly time to write some good ones.