Wednesday, January 02, 2008


Courtesy of SUN STAR DAILY Newspaper (
December 29, 2007 Saturday issue
By Noel Villaflor, Columnist - Footnote
Mike Limpag, Sports Editor

MULTITUDES the world over speak of football as though it were a religion. But when the top sport’s deity descended on our shores early this month with $400,000 manna for Philippine football, hardly anyone sang a song of praise.

Instead, the windfall was met with great caution.

Joseph “Sepp” Blatter, president of the International Football Federation or Fifa, was just as wary. He and the rest of the football gods have been witness to Philippine football’s downward spiral over the last century.

Blatter yearns for Philippine football’s golden years. But every time the sport is poised to take a big stride, it trips on its own, face down, and humiliates itself before the international football community.

As of this writing, the Men’s National Team is stuck at 179 out of 201 spots in the Fifa rankings. And why it failed to send a men’s team to the Southeast Asian Games after a decent performance at the start of the year is beyond me.

“Help yourself and heaven will help you,” Blatter admonished the believers, doers and the heathen during the centennial celebration of the Philippine Football Federation (PFF) in Manila last Dec. 7.

Let’s hope everybody paid attention because when a top sports official starts calling out to heaven, you know we’re in deep excrement. That means the new set of PFF officers have a lot in their hands.

In a country obsessed with basketball and Judy Ann’s constant mutation, few would bother to keep an eye on the PFF. Yet Fifa’s $250,000 yearly subsidy, aside from the $400,000 top-up aid, is a lot of money, and how that trickles down to the grass roots is a burning question.

Will other areas such as Cebu even get loose change? One thing for certain is that the Cebu football community helps itself. The numerous tourneys and festivals for the past three years, many of which are independently funded, is testament to that.

The coming year will be no less vibrant in Cebu. But in the capital where the crucial decisions are made, 2008 can be a make-or-break year for Philippine football. Let’s just hope that the PFF officials share Blatter’s vision and lamentation. To them, enlightenment, please.

* * * You must be wondering, dear accidental reader, why this column suddenly popped up on this page. The truth is, this column is six months overdue, and I now have a vague idea how it feels to give birth. It is excruciating to undergo labor when you’re pregnant with ideas and there’s not much pushing, huffing and puffing. Call this writing’s equivalent of a caesarian section. You get the drift.

But I am just a taker of notes of the sport I love best (I dig boxing but, football, I can play). Lately though, I have found my weekends devoid of football games. Blame this on my feeble joints.

So what must one do when the spirit is willing but the body, stubborn? Write.

Last I heard, nobody tears ligaments typing. Besides, the sport can do with one less lout off the field. But I suffer from a niggling urge.

The Uruguayan writer Eduardo Galeano, a frustrated footballer himself, couldn’t have said it any better: “By writing, I was going to do with my hands what I never could accomplish with my feet: irredeemable klutz, disgrace of the playing fields, I had no choice but to ask of words what the ball I so desired denied me.”

So embrace me, dear muse of sports writing.

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