Pachanga in the ashes
by rick olivares
Pachanga, newly promoted to the United Football League’s Division One, is no more. At least not the team that played so well in last UFL season.
The Red Phoenix has been bought by a group associated with the Makati Football School and Diliman FC and will reportedly field a hybrid team composed of Pachanga and Diliman players.
While there is no truth to the rumor that the team is bankrupt, it is more of a family decision – that of team owner Freddy Gonzalez – to sell the club. Said Gonzalez: “I have been too busy with work and the past two months I have been in and out of the country on business. In fact, this is the reason why I couldn't commit to the Azkals' training camp or the Clear Dream Match even if I wanted to. It has been difficult for me trying to balance my life as a businessman, a family man and a football team owner. Even before I suited up for Pachanga during the league competition, I would only occasionally show up to the games because of my commitments. It is about priorities and unfortunately the team had to give. I will still play and that is so much easier than running an entire team. It was difficult to try and get sponsors for the club given that I am oft out of the country. I gave a lot to this club but I think I took it as far as I could take it. Obviously some people will be disappointed with what happened but there is no malice intended. The best possible people to run the club will take it much farther than I could."
Although people associated with the club understand the sale, it has left the coaching staff and players upset for many reasons. “Para saan pa tayong naghirap umangat sa Division One tapos wala na rin ‘tong team na to,” said the club’s former head coach Nonoy Fegidero Jr. when I spoke with him. “We would have wanted to see how we really match up with the best club teams, to see what adjustments we can make, and how good our team is. Pero wala na. Nung sabi ni Fred na pamilya yung rason eh wala na kaming paguusapan. I understand why it happened naman.”
Of the coaching staff of Fegidero Jr., Marjo Allado, Alvin Ocampo, and Kim Versales, only Allado was reportedly offered a slot in the new team's coaching staff. According to Fegidero and former team manager Jojo Rodriguez, Allado will decline the offer.
The general sentiment is one of anger mixed with sadness. One player who refused to be identified said that the team came off a camp in Bacolod and ownership expressed good words. “Masama yung timing kasi halos lahat ng clubs buo na. Saan kami pupunta ngayon? Para saaan pa yung pinaghirapan namin? Tapos ibang club ang nakinabang?” Another player said that he did not appreciate the circumstances of the sale. "Pagkatapos nung camp namin, eh meron pang mga pangako ng kung ano ano tapos wala. Naintindihan namin, hindi lang namin gusto yung nangyari."
The Bacolod contingent, made up primarily of Fegidero’s players from West Negros University as led by striker Joven Bedic and defender Camelo Tacusalme, are out as well.
According to the UFL, the new club, will be named “Pachanga Diliman FC” and will introduce their new lineup soon.
On a personal level, I understand the decision but question the timing of the deal. Now you have players with nowhere to go. It certainly isn’t true that the club is bankrupt even if the allowances of the two months were delayed (but they will be paid). It is just that it came down to a family and business decision. But that is hardly any consolation for the coaches and the players. I came to follow this team more than any other club because of personal friendships with Fegidero who I first covered when he was coach of the Azkals, as well as Ocampo, Allado, and Rodriguez who I became friends with while covering the UAAP football tournament when no one would. I thought that the way this club was run was very professional and much more so than many other clubs including first division teams. This team went through a lot and I was given a carte blanche view of this team and how it operated more than any other journalist. Working for Gatorade, I was only given five clubs to sponsor and the Red Phoenix was one of them (and ironically the first to sign and by far the easiest to work with). I feel truly bad and angry about this for many reasons some of which I should not even write about. Suffice to say that this has left many associated with the club in the same state as I am.
The club will still play but it will not have the spirit of the club that it once was. And I guess this should serve as a warning to all local football clubs about running a club long term and not short term. Nevertheless, this was a great run by a great club.