Limpag: Cheers to the ‘zombies’ behind Face-Off

IN THE past few days, I’ve met some of the guys who work behind the scenes in making sure the Philippines vs. Malaysia match would push through.

And they pretty much have had nothing else in mind since the friendly was announced and they all say the same thing, “Wa’y tulganay.”

From the groundskeepers, to those liasons, to those in charge of putting up stickers for the seats and to the guys in the Cebu Football Association, let’s thank them for making the Malaysia vs. Philippines game happen.

Nope, it’s wrong to say Cebu got the hosting job on a short notice, because Cebu got the hosting job on the shortest of notices.

If the game was held in Malaysia, a two-week notice would have been more than enough; the set-up and facilities and funds are there. But this is Cebu, and a month ago, the field had more brown patches than green.

Dino Musni, the guy in charge of the two most difficult tasks—lights and pitch condition—has turned a few shades darker and even spent his Holy Week break tending to his baby, the pitch.

Imagine how difficult it is to book a room, on a three-week notice during the peak summer season? Now imagine booking a room for two 20-man teams, four match officials and then add in the visiting VIPs, officials and their support staff. Of course, they have to have their own transportation.

“Kumusta na?” I asked one of the harried-looking liason officers I met the other night.

“Grabe bai,” he said. “Wa na’y tulganay.”

His eyes were so red and he looked so tired it seemed he was ready to drop. Enjoying a bottle of beer while listening to him almost felt like a criminal offense.

He had a car and a driver on standby, just one of the cars and drivers of the CFA officers and supporters have lent in support of the hosting.

And it’s the resources and connections of the local FA that’s being spent, and I doubt they’ll even recover half of it through ticket sales. But earning something is not what they have in mind, you really can’t have that mindset in the growing up years of Philippine football.

Close to midnight on Friday, I dropped by the CCSC field, and the guys were there, making last-minute checks.

“I haven’t had much sleep the past few days because of this,” said CFA president Ricky Dakay.

Sir Ricky is to be “blamed” for all of these and we should thank him for that. In the days before the PFF officially announced that Cebu would host the Philippines vs. Malaysia game, Ricky could have simply saved everyone the trouble and said,”It’s not possible given the short notice and we can’t do that.”

The field wasn’t ready, the logistics weren’t in place and the organization certainly wasn’t. The April 27 friendly was announced in the last week of March, the Nov. 15, 2012 friendly between the Philippines and Singapore was announced in June that year.

He could have said no, but he didn’t, because he understands how a team that will go through the tournament that would define the country’s future will be boosted by getting a proper send-off match at home.

And it seems, the football gods smiled on Cebu, too, with the rains helping the grass grow the past couple of weeks.

Let’s hope the gods smile on the Philippine team, too, and we finally get to beat this Malaysian squad we haven’t beaten since 1991.

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