AN EMAIL received last Wednesday was captioned: “Goodbye.”
When I checked, the signed email addressed to friends and colleagues was from Lazarus Jansen Xavier, Chief Executive Officer of the Philippines Football League. He is leaving the PFL.
In the email, Xavier wrote: “After two intense and inspiring seasons with the Philippines Football League (PFL), I will leave the PFL and start a new chapter in my life, one where I take the PFL, the TEAM, the memories, the remarkable journey with me and rank myself as a proud fan and watch the PFL grow from strength to strength.”
The news from Xavier didn’t come as surprise to some of us, though. I had the honor of meeting the man at the PFL’s helm last July 30 in Manila, thanks to our gracious host, Selrahco’s Charles Lim, who arranged an interview. He had told our small group that he was stepping down by year’s end.
Xavier took the PFL post in April of 2017, and after a year and eight months at the helm, one could say that he’s fulfilled most of the tasks asked of him. Running a fledgling league in a country that’s obsessed with another sport, the challenges and setbacks he and his team faced must have been daunting. Finding sponsors, dealing with logistical nightmares, trying to make do with poor football infrastructure, you name it.
And yet under Xavier, the league has survived two years. Not only that, the PFL launched the Copa Paulino Alcantara just this August. As a direct result, the country has another representative to the 2019 AFC Cup, inaugural champions Kaya Iloilo FC, who will join 2018 PFL champions Ceres Negros FC in the Asean Zone Group Stage.
Xavier’s stint at the PFL helm merely adds to his already impressive curriculum vitae. He’s been part of the Kuala Lumpur-based Asian Football Confederation since 2010, first as head of the Disciplinary, Appeals and Ethics Committee for four years, and continued as member until last year. He was also Assistant General Secretary of the Football Association of Malaysia from 2014 until April of 2017, after which he flew overseas to take up on the achingly challenging Philippine football scene as PFL CEO. Now serving as AFC consultant, Xavier leaves the country confident that “The PFL is here to stay!”
There’s no doubt that the man who laid the foundations of a league once deemed impossible to sustain will always keep the trust and respect of the Philippine Football Federation led by President Mariano Araneta. In return, Xavier expressed his gratitude for having the privilege of working with those who share his passion for football here.
On the other hand, the sport’s stakeholders ought to continue listening to such an experienced, high-profile consultant. In his parting letter, Lazarus wrote: “I hope that I have inspired in you the values that have blessed me in my football management career and this is reciprocal. These are values that I urge you to continue to embody. Our value to ‘professionalize Philippines football’ are there for a reason — they have guided me and I know they will continue to guide you.”