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.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Philippine Men's National Team Diary Part 3: Patriot Games

Photo taken from a mobile phone above is an Indonesian fan being harassed by Malaysian police and PSSI officials for unfurling a banner that called for the ouster of Nurdin Halid. The person who took the pic sent this to me last night. This article appears in the Thursday December 30, 2010 edition of the Business Mirror. Boy, have they got a surprise for Nurdin tonight at the final match of the 2010 Suzuki Cup Finals.

Patriot Games
by rick olivares

As the Philippine Men’s National Football Team entered the Sultan Hotel the Jakarta after a late afternoon practice on December 15, there was a crowd of autograph and picture seekers waiting for them at the lobby. After a few minutes of obliging the fans, the team made its way to its quarters at the Lagoon Tower of the five star hotel.

On their way to the tower, they passed by a lounge area near the lobby where there were more people either sipping coffee, smoking, or lounging about watching the world pass them by. There was one person sitting on a sofa beside a hotel billboard that was promoting a coming event.

It was Jose Mari Martinez, former or current Philippine Football Federation president depending on which side of the spectrum one belonged to. The Azkals for years have feuded with Martinez. It got to the point where former national coach Desmond Bulpin resigned out of disgust with the Suzuki Cup qualifiers in Laos a few months away.

Now here in Jakarta, the Filipinos further angered by Martinez’ statements to Quinito Henson of the Philippine Star about disbanding the team after the tournament, ignored him as he stood nearby for attention.

As the players passed him, some with looks of disgust on their face, Martinez reached out and grabbed midfielder Jason de Jong for a talk. The Fil-Dutchman would later avoid Martinez for any further talks.

Said Martinez, “They are being very disrespectful. What they do not know is I have done so much for them. I just don’t announce it to the media.”

Later that evening, Mariano V. Araneta, who replaced Martinez as interim PFF President, invited his predecessor to join the team for dinner. Martinez declined.

The national teams of the Philippines and Indonesia have more in common than at first glance. For years, despite the talent within, the teams have floundered and even underachieved. The problems of the national squads are but a miniscule glimpse into the troubles of their respective football federations.

Years of stagnation of the local football scene, the failure of programs, and allegations of corruption have plagued both the PFF and the Persatuan Sepakbola Seluruh Indonesia (or PSSI as the Football Association of Indonesia is called in the vernacular). After years on infighting, the Philippines was able to remove and replace the unpopular Jose Mari Martinez in a Congress last November although he is still clinging on the belief that he is the rightful leader of Philippine football. He has claimed to take his case to the Court of Arbitration for Sports.

As for PSSI Chairman Nurdin Halid, who like Martinez is an ally of the Asian Football Confederation’s Mohammad Bin-Hammam, he is still stubbornly clinging on to office even if the national government has called for reviews and submitted to FIFA.

At a congress last February suggested no less by Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and former national players, included in the agenda about reform as a motion to remove Nurdin.

Halid was implicated in several corruption scandals and served time in 2007. Yet from his jail cell, he continued to run the PSSI which a clear violation of FIFA statutes that disbar any official with criminal records from holding office. In a move that is similar to Martinez’ illegal appointment of Henry Tsai (who had PFF funds transferred to his personal account “”for safekeeping” to use the former president’s words), Nurdin’s Vice President is Nirwan Bakrie, the younger brother of a controversial figure in Aburizal Bakrie.

With the support from PSSI officials, Nurdin continued. The opposition failed to muster the numbers in the February congress and the incumbent survived the putsch.

The widespread dissatisfaction and opposition remains. During the first match between of the 2010 Suzuki Cup finals in Kuala Lumpur last December 26, Indonesian fans unfurled a banner demanding Nurdin’s ouster. As one Merah Putih fan described the incident to BUSINESSMIRROR, “Andi Darussalam, the national team manager, warned the journalists to not take a picture of the banner. A couple minutes after that, Malaysian cops came to our sector with another member of the PSSI executive committee and he forced the fan to put away the banner. Before that, he wanted the cops to arrest the fan but the crowd prevented it so he just took off the shirt and gave it to the police. For our home match, Indonesian police made an official statement that all banners will be inspected and those with statements about Nurdin will be confiscated.”

“We are also monitoring what is going on with the PFF,” summed up the fan.

Before the Philippines’ match with Vietnam during the group stages, the Azkals planned on writing a statement on their undershirts that they would flash to the cameras and the crowd should they score a goal. The other option was for Filipino fans in the stands to raise banners with messages. But after consultations with team and FIFA officials, it was decided that the team would keep the game politics free. But that didn’t stop them from making a statement that they would read to the media upon their return to the Philippines. “We want to set the record straight,” said skipper Aly Borromeo.

photo (top) from The Jakarta Post. photo (below) from some creative Indonesian fan.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you Mr. Olivares for the 3 articles you wrote about the Azkals and Phil. Football. I rarely watch football (I'm more of a tennis fan) but the recent wins of the Phil. team changed all that. I now want to watch football more often and cheer for the Azkals. The politics and the corruption in Phil sports is also an eye-opener for a fan like me. I hope that eventually it will ceased as football is gaining interest in media and general public.

    Speaking of media, however, I agree on what you mentioned in your first diary about media becoming a distraction. The media attention gained by the Azkals is an advantage to raise the interest and get support for Football in the Phils. However, I hope that there will be some sort of media control once the team is in the midst of a tournament. They surely do not need distraction before their game/s. I like how the Indonesian team and coach handled the media.

    Thank you again for all your updates and posts!