My thoughts on the POC/PSC not sending any football teams to the 2013 SEA Games (or the danger of potential)
by rick olivares
When the news broke that there will be no Philippine football teams competing in the 2013 Southeast Asian Games, my first reaction was, ‘Not again.’
This is the third time in the last four stagings of the regional games that we will not have a men’s football team – unless things change in the next few weeks.
I remember in 2007 when the POC/PSC officials informed then PFF-president Johnny Romualdez that they can only send a women’s team and not a men’s team, I was shocked. I even wrote about that in Business Mirror questioning the decision. That team was not included for the same current reasons the POC/PSC is giving us.
During the 2005 SEA Games (with football matches played at Panaad Stadium in Bacolod), the men’s team never got out of the group stage with a 1-2 record. The Azkals lost to Thailand 1-0, defeated Cambodia 4-2, and bowed out after losing to Malaysia 4-2.
The women’s team on the other hand finished 1-0-3.
Two years later, in 2007, Romualdez and the PFF were informed that the men’s team did not meet the criteria as a medal sport. Yet, the women’s team got the nod (although to their credit, they bettered their finish with a 1-0-2 slate). That year, the Younghusband brothers were ready to suit up for the men’s team. Imagine the impact they would have made on the team’s performance.
Then in the 2009 games, not a single team was sent to Laos.
Once more today, the decision not to send any football team to the upcoming biennial meet is because POC/PSC strictly follows the criteria that allows only the inclusion of gold medalists and potential gold performers.
Looking at the 2011 SEA Games in Jakarta, the Philippines came away with at least one medal in each sport for a haul of 36 gold, 56 silver, and 77 bronze medals.
The U-23 football team that played in Singapore during the 2011 games finished last in Group B with a 1-0-4 record. There were high hopes for this team especially after the late resurgence of football in 2010.
If you look at that finish very coldly, you can say that they do not stand a chance. But that discounts the sport’s potential. It is already one of the fastest growing sports in the country. The national team is performing well. The domestic league is finally flourishing alongside its collegiate counterpart, the UAAP.
The non-inclusion of the U-23 team also spoils the dream of homegrown players of donning the national colors. Already nearly extinct in the senior team because of the predilection of the national coach for foreign-based players, it is a shame if they will not be allowed to compete.
I understand that the funds are in short supply but this is still wrong. The experience will benefit many an athlete.
Potential is such a dangerous word. If one lives up to it then good for him or her. If not, do we hurl them down a cliff? Does every athlete who goes to the SEA Games or Asian Games win a medal?
Let me throw you a curve ball right here -- we have not won an Olympic medal in a while maybe we should stop sending delegations to the world’s biggest sporting event.
What does this potential and medal-hopefuls tag mean -- that we only celebrate winners? Yes, so typically Pinoy. You only love a winner (and jumping on the bandwagon).
Let me tell you a similar story.
The Greek national football team only participated in the UEFA Europeans Championship once in their history – 1980.
They made it back to the 2004 tournament where bookmakers gave them a 150-1 chance of winning the competition. And they did. In the two succeeding Euros, they were bounced in the first round and the quarterfinals respectively. And to think that the European tournament is a world class competition and is miles away when compared to the SEA Games football games.
For years, the Philippine Men’s Basketball Team would only win in the SEA Games and not anywhere else. But yet, we continue to fight for that Olympic Dream and more.
The national basketball team has not qualified to the FIBA World Championship since 1978. But yet they compete in the FIBA Asia (to qualify for the world championship) and elsewhere.
Potential is such a dangerous word. Manny Pacquiao lost his last two fights. Do we count him out in his next outing?
How about our Dragonboat team? They were winning even before they were suddenly ‘discovered’ by the mainstream media and the general public.
I remember too when Michael Jordan donned the Washington Wizards’ colors where many said that by doing so, he would ruin the perfect ending he had with the Chicago Bulls. Foolhardy or not, MJ said something to this effect, ‘That is for sportswriters and historians to debate and write later on.”
And that is for all of us to find out – the fate of our athletes’ campaigns for glory.
If we follow the logic that there is room only for potential, then we would have missed out on the Philippine Men’s Football National Team’s incredible run in the last few years. Should they have stopped competing? Even after the early months of 2011 where they faltered, they bounced back.
I do not think that the team that the PFF is sending is going there to lose. The footballers have a mindset to win and not be a foil for other teams.
If there are people who can help bankroll the U-23 team’s stint in the SEA Games, why not?
That’s why there’s the saying, ‘bilog ang bola.’