WHILE everyone planned for the Thirsty Cup months in advance, I think the thieves also plotted their schedule and practiced accordingly to score their perfect trophies in Cebu’s biggest football festival.

During the first day, in a first for a football festival in Cebu, one whole team lost all their bags to thieves and in the last day, the son of a friend lost his to a cunning thief.

The last one was alarming because he was targeted. Wary of previous thefts, the team had someone with the bags all the time, but during the knockout match—a win and go home affair—someone went through the bags and when he was asked what he was doing, the theft identified the victim by name and number, saying, “Kwaun nako ang bag ni ____.”

Thinking that the thief was a family friend or relative, he wasn’t stopped and the one who saw the theft even added, “Paghuman kuha sa bag, nag-cheer pa man gani sa ubos.”

The guy knew which bag to take and who owned it because he was sitting near the team for a while and everybody just thought he belonged until it was obvious that he didn’t. There were cops in the venue, and one of them reminded the players, that if they have no one to watch over their belongings, to leave it with them.

There was a CCTV camera too right at the grandstand but we learned the feed went straight to City Hall an immediate viewing of the feed was impossible. Ditto with the numerous CCTVs of the Cebu City Sports Center, as the admin office was close that Sunday night as I went to check.

Though the wallet of my friend’s son was recovered at the Cebu South Bus terminal, I think the latest incident shows the need for security practices of organizers and the CCSC to evolve whenever a crowd-drawing event is held there. (To be fair to both the CCSC and the Thirsty Cup organizers, they did what was needed of them, it’s just that they were outsmarted by thieves.)

One thing that could be changed, one that needs the cooperation of the CCSC, is the deployment of cops. Big events like the Thirsty Cup have police presence in the grandstand and near the field but perhaps in future editions, one or two could be stationed in the CCTV monitor, so they can be readily contacted if needed. They could stay too to monitor the feed once the employees of the CCSC admin office call it a day.

While organizers make sure participants enjoy their tournament, these neighborhod fiends with itchy hands spoil it for everyone, so perhaps their inevitable presence should be factored in in pre-event preparations.