Monday , June 25, 2018

Limpag: Disastrous U18 campaign in AFF

THERE was a brief shot during the Yemen vs. Philippines game that had me smiling and it wasn't an action shot. During a lull in the action, the camera panned to the Philippines bench and I saw a shot of the coaching staff and my first thought was," Does the Philippines have a coach for every field player?"

It was just a quick shot and I think I stopped counting at five. I'm not sure if all of those were members of the coaching staff but it sure got me thinking whether the PFF is pouring all of its resources on the senior team at the expense of the other teams.

I was reminded of that when I learned of the disastrous campaign of our U18s in the ongoing AFF tournament. Aside from losing to the weakest team Brunei, 3-2, Indonesia reminded us of where we used to be in a 9-0 rout; Vietnam walked all over us, 5-0; and Myanmar said hello from the other side, 7-0.

Grassroots football in the country is basically six years old as it got jump-started in 2011, months after the Hanoi miracle. I was there during that PFF BOG summit when the technical team lamented the state of PHL football and cited the lack of qualified coaches and a quality program.

From 2011 to 2015, we pretty much wrote off our U18s and U23s because they were the products of the previous disastrous PFF admins but for a few years now, we've done well internationally in youth football. We won some medals in the girls side, while the boys team also were competitive.

Check out the international competitions this year; Our U15s had four points in a six-team group and our U22 won twice for the first time in the SEAG. Believe me, it used to be that teams padded their goal difference against PHL squads and I thought that was a thing of the past.

And now this. Our U18 brought us back to the past. What happened?

Was the team unprepared? Or are our U18s, the 11-year-olds when the whole grassroots program started, part of that age group that we are writing off? And it's curious that the U15s and U22s did well but not our U18s.

Is the PFF too focused on the Azkals at the expense of the other teams? How was the U18 formed? How did they train? Does this mark a return to let’s call everyone two weeks before the tournament and hope we have a team?

Is this just a glitch in the PFF matrix? Or is this a crack that marks a bigger and deeper problem? Whatever it is, I hope the PFF has answers.

You can’t say, “Lei, re-angle this disastrous campaign.”