Declaring himself fit as a fiddle after a recent hospital confinement, Philippine Football Federation (PFF) president Jose Mari Martinez yesterday dared his detractors to face him in a public forum where they can settle their differences once and for all.
“My critics are trying to put me down but what they don’t realize is that by doing that, they’re destroying Philippine football,” said Martinez. “They won’t stop but they just can’t win. They tried to embarrass me by planning a demonstration when (FIFA president Joseph) Blatter came to Manila for the inauguration of the PFF building but nothing happened. They tried to kick me out during the PFF Congress in the presence of (Asian Football Confederation president Mohamed Bin) Hammam but nothing happened. Why can’t we just work together for the sport we all love?”
Martinez said he’s willing to sit down with his critics - before the media - and agree on a modus vivendi.
“I challenge whoever has something to say to come out in the open,” he said. “That’s the only way we can fix this problem. We can invite the press to observe and mediate, if that’s possible. All I want is for Philippine football to be united so we can move forward.”
Martinez admitted he brought a delegation of over 20 to Kuala Lumpur a month ago but he insisted it wasn’t an appreciation junket for those who thwarted an attempt to boot him out of office.
“I took only five or seven presidents of football associations, two coaches, five officials from Cebu because of their involvement in the Vision Philippines project and representatives from the Department of Education,” he said. Martinez explained he invited the Education representatives for them to appreciate the popularity of football in Malaysia.
“I’m happy to report that because of our close coordination with the Department of Education, girls football will now be a demonstration sport in public elementary and high school levels,” he said.
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While abroad, Martinez was confined in the ICU of a Kuala Lumpur hospital where he was rushed with a swollen leg.
“I don’t think it was serious but they put me in ICU just the same because my heart was affected,” he said. “I stayed three to four days in ICU and another three days in a private room before I was released. Hammam flew in my wife to attend to me and it was a nice gesture on his part. I’m fine now. I’ve been checked by my doctors in Manila and last weekend, I was in Cambodia as a special guest at a football meeting.”
Martinez said nobody can accuse him of making money out of the PFF.
“Our books are open for anyone to inspect,” he said. “It’s true that I used $56,000 of our international funds to finish the PFF building which was started during the previous administration but Hammam will reimburse us. Hammam promised a P10 million allocation for Vision Philippines and the money can’t be touched unless for that purpose. It was an unexpected gift and we thank the AFC for showing its all-out support for the PFF.”
Martinez said the Philippine team, coached by Aris Caslib, will play in the Challenge Cup in Maldives this month and at least seven Fil-foreigners are confirmed to suit up.
As for the PFF’s activities, Martinez insisted the calendar is loaded with tournaments. “We’ve been holding regional eliminations on the way to the national championships in June or July,” he claimed. “We’ve been organizing tournaments like Ang Liga and the Premier Cup along with the UAAP and NCAA. There were problems with two of our eight FIFA referees because they’re affiliated with the NCRFA but that’s resolved now. It’s clear that only the PFF can accredit referees for work abroad and they’ve just got to toe the line.”
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Last week, Martinez’ staunchest critic and NCRFA president Pocholo Borromeo led a group of disgruntled football enthusiasts in a meeting with PSC chairman Harry Angping at the Rizal Memorial complex.
“Chairman Harry was happy that football, despite a Martinez PFF, can still see the light of day through the NCRFA and its supporters,” said Borromeo. “We’re preparing project concept papers for the PSC to review with the goal of directing assisting us. Chairman Harry promised to redo the Rizal football field and move track and field to ULTRA and air-con both the Rizal and Ninoy Aquino basketball stadiums.”
Martinez attempted to cripple Borromeo’s clout by splitting NCRFA into 13 different associations during the last PFF Congress but failed.
“Mari promised to resign if he couldn’t move the PFF forward in six months,” said Borromeo. “I supported him and even advanced my own money to cover for him. But after six months, I realized he’s just all talk. I’m afraid Philippine football isn’t going to progress with Mari as president.”
Postscript: Events organizer and sports agent Reli de Leon is calling on his good friend Al Galindo of Cagayan de Oro to get in touch. Reli’s cell phone was hit by a virus the other day and his directory has gone blank. Reli’s son Kevin is visiting Cagayan de Oro with the UST football team and hopes to connect with Al. Reli may be contacted at 0917-8168675...Former La Salle cager Juanito (Jun) Pecana will be interred today. His remains lie in state at the Jesus the Divine Healer Parish Church in Tahanan Village, Parañaque. UAAP secretary-general Junjun Capistrano of Ateneo and Pecana were once officiates at Columbia Tobacco. Pecana, an avid golfer, was 68.