Limpag: U22 team pays the prize for 2005 follies-A A +A
Wednesday, June 27, 2012
WHAT we really need,” the coach said. “is development for players 14 up, because at 14 or younger, our best players are just about the same level with the rest of Asia.”
This was a conversation I had with a coach, while talking about yet another game where our U19--or was it the U16?--got hammered from pillar to post in an international tournament.
The Azkals may have taken new strides in the international scene, but the thing is, two years is too short a time to overhaul a football system that is a mish-mash of programs that never really took off.
The most promising one we had, the Center for Football Excellence was launched in 2005, which was when I had that conversation with the coach. And do you know what its target was? The Southeast Asian Games gold medal in 2015.
Yep, it was a 10-year program, designed to take the then best 12, 13-year-olds in the country, give them the best training possible regularly, because that’s what the other countries were then--and are still--doing.
And this is what the PFF is starting to do now, with the Little Azkals. And yes, though there were some hiccups, this program started about two years before a certain group of players raised football awareness in the country in the Suzuki Cup.
So where are we now with this team? The Little Azkals are making a few strides, finishing at third place in a tournament in Japan.
And, along with the relative anonymity of the team’s accomplishment, is the slew of hate and insults against the U22, which got routed by Myanmar and Malaysia recently in the AFC U22 qualifiers.
The Philippines may beat Myanmar and draw Malaysia in the senior competition, but the thing is, we have a weird setup. Unlike other countries, our national team doesn’t reflect the strength of our football development, which, again makes what the senior team has done, all the more remarkable.
Our grassroots programs are but a couple of years old and our U22 team, sadly, is a reflection of those years when we had none and now, the boys are reaping the burden of those barren years. Curiously—or is it ironically—some, if not most of the locals in the U22 squad would have been the beneficiaries of that CFE program as it was designed for the local boys. The problems of Philippine football in 2005, is catching up with them.
That’s we owe the team our support. Color me blind, but I’m sticking with the team, the way I had when being a fan meant dealing with disillusion in every tournament.
You never know what will happen.
Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on June 28, 2012.