Frontline: In the trenches covering Philippine Football
In the early years of the new millennium there were very few football writers in the country. There was the groundbreaking and late pinoysoccer.com with Jack Biantan and the late Eduard Smit. There was radio broadcaster Cecil Quimlat who always made it a point to be where the action is. Then guys like Mike Limpag and Cedelf Tupas came up covering the beautiful game.
This is our story.
Jack Biantan is a graduate of University of San Jose-Recoletos who migrated to England. He put up pinoysoccer and would come over to cover matches by the national team.
I covered AFC Challenge Cup elimination tournament in Iloilo city for the now defunct Pinoysoccer.com in Iloilo in 2008.
There was a typhoon during the week so the pitches in Iloilo city and Barotac Nuevo were all soaking wet. They were worse than what happened to Rizal in the recent game against Cambodia.
There was no Facebook and Twitter then. There was even no wifi in the or internet connection in the venues and there was only one computer in the Iloilo City Sports Center and that was hugged by one person who was supposed to be the media person of the PFF.
Anyway the Azkals then were not as strong as this current batch. There were very few international players then. I remember Chad Gould and Neil Etheridge who was only 18 then. Armand del Rosario was also in that line-up.
It was during the time of that fat useless bloke running the PFF. What stuck in my mind during that coverage was not the action in the pitch but the politicking around the PFF during that time.
I pitied Nonoy Fegidero who was supposed to be the coach of the Azkals. He was undermined by his superiors and was no given a freehand in selection of players.
Nonoy replaced Cuto but the Spaniard was in the bench all the time acting as if he was the head coach.
It is really good for the PFF to hire a foreign coach this time because nobody could dictate them.
I had an argument with that fat useless bloke running the PFF. Actually two arguments. First was when he questioned the Azkals name. He did not like the name and wanted to replace it. I had to tell him the history of the name and explained the source of the name in our website.
He then kept quiet and never questioned the name again. Maybe that was the reason why he refused to pay my hotel bills.
Before I left for England for that coverage, I asked him if the PFF could at least pay for my hotel bills. I would be spending a fortune for my trip and I was going to hire and feed a cameraman.
He agreed to pay for my board and lodging. So I set my return to the Philippines during the tournament dates. The night before I left for CDO, I politely gave him the receipt which was only P8000. He refused to read them and said he would not pay them.
From then on I realized I was dealing with a crook. Then I decided to campaign for his ouster. It took two more years before he was ousted. Now at least there are good people running the PFF.
Mike Limpag, Cebu Sun Star, went to the University of San Carlos in Cebu.
I first wrote about the national team back in 2000, when a couple of Cebuanos made the roster. I think it was during the 2002 World Cup qualifiers and I remember following the games online. That time, I called the PFF president and he said he was conceding all but one home games due to lack of funds. (That's something that's no longer an option now.) Fast forward to 2006, after a 4-1 win over Brunei when we badly needed a win after losing to Laos, Coach Aris Caslib was stumped when he was asked when the last time the Philippines scored that many goals.
The next game, Phil came up with three (or was it four) against Timor Leste and I thought "This is a once in a lifetime event." Seven years later, it happened again.
In 2006, the media center was a lonely place. I think it was only Cedelf Tupas who had a laptop, and there was only one PC. Hehehe. I had an office laptop, but I didn't bring that ancient Toshiba, lest I die of shame, to the media center. After one press con, I'd steal the lone PC from the AFF media officer who was using it for 10 or so minutes to send story. Those were great times.
When I started. I had a difficult time getting the PFF's side of things, especially on controversies. After yet another story that had "Sun Star Cebu" I tried to contact the PFF for a comment. I faxed the damn page with the line, "This sir, is why you need to answer my call so I can get your side." I didn't have any trouble after that.
Cecil Quimlat, Radio Broadcaster, DZSR ( A graduate of Centro Escolar University who loves sports)
It is always tough to cover Pinoy football, on a personal perspective because I lack knowledge in the technical aspect of the game. But I was given a football program to produce so I had to do it. Along the way, I met people who showed a lot of passion and love for the sport and I guess that's what started it all.
I have been producing a football show for radio since 2002. I learn to love the sport and develop this commitment to help in my own little way because of these people (coaches and athletes) who are willing to commit themselves to football with nothing in return.
I started to know the sport in 2002 --- when Japan and South Korea co-hosted the World Cup. I was amazed how football fans in the country gathered and enjoyed watching the games. And that time, DZSR decided to put up a football radio program through the initiative of the then POC president Cristy Ramos. The rest is history.
Eduard Smit, (as told by his older brother Hans Peter Smit) went to La Salle Greenhills before studying abroad. Eduard wrote a column in pinoysoccer.com called “Offside and Other Certainties”.
Eduard Smit once played for Magnolia and UTex in the old commercial leagues of the 1970s before leaving for the United States where he worked for JC Penney. He continued to write about football even while based in the United States. He wrote about everything – the Philippine Men’s Football National Team, the English Premier League, the UAAP, etc. He did so until his health worsened. Smit passed away in 2011.
Cedelf Tupas (reporter, Philippine Daily Inquirer) went to the University of St. La Salle Bacolod. He also currently does analysis for the UFL games on AKTV.
I started covering football with the U23 Azkals in 2005 in the SEA games in Bacolod. The core of this team made up the 2010 side with Phil, James, Aly, Chieffy and Ian there in that squad. The media center was packed then because it was the SEA games and that was the first time in awhile that we fielded a team. Coverage was fun. I was always near (the Cebu Sun Star’s) Mike Limpag but never beside him. After the coverage though was the fun part where me and other fans, including Graeme McKinnon would all meet up at Draft to share stories about the team.
The following year was the Asean Championship qualifiers. I was interim sports editor of Daily Star and I would devote an entire page about the tournament and the team. Access to the team was easy with coach Aris Caslib but I always loved the feeling that players appreciated efforts of promoting the sport as they never failed to express gratitude for what we in the local media in Bacolod were doing.
It’s funny that Mike mentioned that I was the only one with a laptop back in 2006. I had no choice because there was only one computer. I remember Mike, Cecil Quimlat, Noli Cortez of Malaya also there as well as the late Henry Villalva. It was a small group.
Since I already covered the qualifiers and the Philippines advanced to Bangkok, I used my savings to buy a plane ticket so I can watch and cover the matches there. I asked for help from PFF if perhaps I can get help with hotel. Our paper wasn’t spending for anything and I really wanted to cover because the team was already popular in Bacolod. The PFF said they had no budget for it. Still I went on with my trip, covered the first match versus Malaysia at Supachalasai where Aly Borromeo got injured. Malaysia scored on a bicycle kick goal that made CNN play of the day. I would visit the hotel everyday to do interviews and had my stories printed on PDI. The only consolation from the trip was the fighting draw against Myanmar. This was really the first time I saw first hand that resilience of the team. Watching Alvin Ocampo fighting for every ball and getting crucial tackles and Michael Casas keeping out every Burmese shot was amazing. These were moments that convinced me to keep writing with the hope that sooner or later everyone else would take notice and follow suit.
Rick Olivares (Business Mirror, philstar.com, abs-cbnnews.com, nba.com) Went to Ateneo de Manila University. Does a lot of work for different companies.
In 2006, Ed Formoso came up to Jude Turcuato and me if Solar Sports could televise the Azkals’ matches. At that time, there were several former football players in Solar Sports – Ralph Roy, Rely San Agustin, Paolo Diaz, and myself. We all leapt at the chance to cover it. It was at that time I began to get reacquainted with Philippine Football after a long spell. That is where I first met Ernie Nierras who did commentary for those matches.
Around that time, I began to write for Business Mirror as a columnist and occasional reporter. Much of my early columns and articles were about football – the World Cup, UAAP Football, the Azkals, and others. For years I would cover the UAAP, Ang Liga, and the old UFL by my lonesome going from the pitches in Ateneo to Philsports to Nomads. It wasn’t easy getting articles on football published then. More often than not, it would be delayed a day or two. At times, it wasn’t even run at all. The only time they were guaranteed to be published if I used it for my Monday column. Nowadays, I get bugged if I don't write a football piece. How the times have changed -- for the better, of course.
Then I started to get critical about a lot of things regarding local football. At first it was the lack of support for the Azkals then the national futsal team that didn’t make me popular with the head people at the PFF. It got to the point where I was actually banned from entering the premises of the PFF or even interviewing the national team. If I wanted to interview them I had to seek permission first and that always meant I was denied access.
I will never forget what Aris Caslib, then head coach of the Azkals, or guys like Aly Borromeo, Anton del Rosario, Louie Casas, Japeth Sablon, and Phil Younghusband did. They actually went out of their way to grant interviews (without the knowledge of the powers-that-were). They kept me abreast of a lot of things. But the one person who really came through was Red Avelino.
It was during the 2009 PFF Congress where I swore that local football can go to hell after the botched ouster of the former PFF President where many turned turtle.
Poch Borromeo, Aly’s dad, gathered many of us (including DZSR’s Cecil Quimlat and current UFL official Ritchie Gannaban) in a secret meeting to determine how to fight the president. I left the meeting bewildered and sure in my decision to leave football.
That changed the following year when Red Avelino and Nonong Araneta asked me to come back in the fight with the incumbent. It wasn’t easy as no one else was writing about the corruption. To answer my tirades, the PFF President went to Quinito Henson but the Dean saw through the lies and he too joined the fight.
The penultimate battle to oust the president was hatched at Wack Wack Golf Club. It was decided to record the meeting with the board where the allegations of corruption. I released the tapes in podcast form and uploaded them to my blog. The tapes spread like wildfire and then the opposition spread.
Around this time, as a form of a bribe, I was returned as media officer to the team (a position I held very briefly in 2006). I re-took the job but said I will be fair in publishing his side of things. When I returned it wasn’t the team I knew. Chad Gould wasn't in the lineup. Des Bulpin was gone. Dan Palami was team manager and Simon McMenemy was the head coach.
I had returned in time for the 2010 Suzuki Cup.
Mike Limpag wrote something similar for his blog. Read it here.
Mike Limpag wrote something similar for his blog. Read it here.