Villaflor: Metro Manila’s half-hearted football scene

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Thursday, September 4, 2014


AS a Filipino sports fan, I am used to disappointment. The most recent one, however, had nothing to do with score lines.

I am talking about the sparse crowd at the Rizal Memorial Football Stadium during the Azkals vs. Chinese Taipei Peace Cup match last Wednesday night. Except for the few clusters of fans cheering their team on—kudos to these guys for getting their priorities straight—the stadium was achingly empty. Worse, the weather was so bad that the match had to be stopped for an hour.

Some point to the Gilas Pilipinas vs. Puerto Rico basketball match that was aired almost simultaneously as a reason for the dismal football attendance. There might be truth to this. But with a population of 12 million plus, Manila is half a megalopolis, so it still boggles the mind how the Rizal stadium with a capacity of only 12,000 can’t be filled to the rafters. Are our football stakeholders saying that Metro Manila can’t muster that many hardcore football fans who won’t think twice about supporting the national football team when faced with tough choices?

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Perhaps it can’t. And that’s a shame because the Philippines has been playing well of late—last Wednesday’s 5-1 trouncing of Chinese Taipei is a mere preview of games worth seeing live in the stadium. But the reality is most Metro Manilans have other priorities. Having said that, I’m compelled to ask: would football hotbed Bacolod, for example, have responded more positively, the way it did as hosts of the 2013 Peace Cup at the Panaad Stadium?

It doesn’t help that the 2014 Peace Cup has been nothing short of disorganized. For one, it was announced that the participating teams—the Azkals, Chinese Taipei, Myanmar and Palestine—would play in a single round robin format, only to be changed at the last minute. The Philippine Football Federation, on its website, cited Fifa’s “new regulations on ‘two-match(es) per international window’” as reason for the change of schedule, effectively canceling one match. That means no more Azkals vs. Palestine for you. Too bad for those who’ve booked tickets for this mini-tourney.

On a brighter note, the Azkals have advanced to the final against Myanmar, which trounced Palestine, 4-1. So expect a spirited performance tomorrow from our Philippine footballers, as they play with whole heart and soul, whether under raging thunderstorm and lightning, despite dismal tournament organizing.

For that alone, our boys deserve a capacity crowd.

(nsvillaflor@gmail.com)

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on September 05, 2014.

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