SOFA - State of Football, Addressed
FEEL THE GAME - Bobby Motus () - August 5, 2011 - 12:00am

It is not uncommon for countries to tap aliens (not the E.T. kind) and offer them slots in their national athletic teams to boost their chances of winning. The French and Arab countries had been tapping talents from Africa for a long time already and it has produced positive results.

We were into the bandwagon, long before the Azkals threatened to upstage Kris Aquino. Guys on my age group should remember the Northern Consolidated Cement national basketball team coached by Ron Jacobs who had three naturalized foreigners in the squad. And the girls then went gaga. Even then First Lady Imelda Marcos sat at ringside to watch one of their games.

The PBA foreign recruits came who claimed they had Filipino blood flowing in their system. Some were legit, the others were Fil-shams, and these pseudo-Pinoys were promptly banned from ever playing in the league.

There was the much hyped track athlete from some top-notch Stateside university whose international stints carrying the PHL colors were more of excursions than participation, considering all the supposed records posted and media fanfare.

The sport of boxing boast of several US-based fighters donning the PHL colors, and they also are doing well in their matches, giving glory and honor to the motherland.

The current Smart-Gilas national basketball team, now preparing for the Jones Cup in Taiwan have their own international flavour, mainly US based athletes, with a recently naturalized member, who chose to play for flag and country.

Our Azkals are in the same boat but with some hysterical twists. Except maybe during the recent visit of real NBA stars, our dogs of war almost always create pandemonium of biblical proportions every time they take the home pitch.

The current line-up is a merry mix of organic and endemic athletes, US-based, Euro specs and Iranian-flavored.Two of the Euro specs, Stephan Schrock and Ray Jonsson, had half of their parts sourced from Cebu as their mothers are Cebuanas.Jonsson’s mother hails from Yati, Liloan. 

The guy speaks fluent Bisaya and he’s comfortable with buwad labtingao and mais binuyok.

A former Azkal whose mother Viol Noval also hails from Liloan is Australia-based Leigh Gunn, who played under coach Juan Cutillas in the late 90s to early 2000. 

Viol is a cousin of my pa-in-law and her younger brother Jemar is a close friend. I suppose Leigh is busy with his work Down Under that he did not commit his services to the team. 

We have come a long way from being the favorite doormats to serious threats and we should be grateful that there are individuals and entities willing to sacrifice for Philippine football’s rise to glory. The 10-year commitment of support to PFF by a local communications giant is heaven sent and I hope other companies will follow suit. 

This is a long term affair and it has to be sustained for the rise of future Azkals, hopefully majority will be home-grown talents.

Some quarters are not too enthusiastic with the foreign blend on the team arguing that we have abundant talents around the country. Point well said. But the argument stops there. Compare the training and exposure between our locals and the imports and the disparity will be kilometres apart.

Our present imports play in top-tier Euro and Scandinavian leagues where the competition is fierce.

Training is also several notches higher with almost unlimited logistical support. Only recently did our locals have their chances of real competitive matches in the UFL and the just-revived national club football leagues with the appearance of several corporate sponsors.

The only problem with our athletes based overseas is their availability every time the national team is scheduled for an official match. Because of their club commitments, it will always be iffy when flag and country calls. If and when they’re available, they come in just a few days before the actual game and that speaks volumes with regards to cohesion and team work. No matter how excellent you play, you need to jell with your teammates to be more effective. This holds true to all team sports, not only football.

To address the matter, I suppose the coaching staff must devise plans and programs to adjust plays in the absence of the overseas players, so as we could not be too dependent on them. Again, we have ample talents just waiting to be called into action. The road to success is a long route and we better start with our locals.

The PFF, with technical director Aris Caslib, also are upgrading the intricacies of coaching. To be an accredited football coach, you have to go thru several weeks of introductory and by-level upgrading license certification. This, he said will eventually erase our dependence on foreign mentors as local coaches have a real feel on the materials on hand. And they are doing this on a regular basis with the cooperation of the local football associations.

In the recently held AFC “B” Licensing Certificate Course at Don Bosco – Liloan, Coach Aris mentioned that among the 14 participants, one or two have the potential to become national coaches, excluding former national coach Noel Casilao who also participated. Likewise, he also noted that two or three athletes from Don Bosco are national team potentials but stressed that they need to expand their horizons and explore options outside Cebu, of course with the much needed support.

So this is our SOFA, the state of Philippine football well addressed and going in the right direction. As to the state of our nation, typhoons make frequent layovers and we still have floods, rigged biddings, 2nd hand choppers, hold-ups, smoke-belching vehicles, sunken ships and sore election losers. 

The only thing new is the resignation of Senator Migs Zubiri. And I thought the hallowed halls of the legislative department are populated by grandstanding comics. Somebody still is worthy to be called ‘honorable’.

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