By Edri k. Aznar
ALTHOUGH the RP Men’s national football squad has brought glory to the country by reaching the semifinals in the ongoing AFF Suzuki Cup, ousted Philippine Football Federation (PFF) president Jose Mari Martinez has plans to build a “different but better squad.”
Martinez, who was ousted in the congress last Nov. 27 but is still backed by Fifa, reportedly wants to virtually change the whole RP team starting from British coach Simon McEnemy to the rest of its roster.
“It’s not only the coach but he plans to revamp the whole team. If he feels that it is best for Philippine football then he can do so,” said team manager Dan Palami in an interview by Sun.Star Cebu yesterday. “He is free to say whatever he wants to say. If he’s sincere in improving football by building a (better) team then it would be good for football. The question is what is his motivation in doing that?”
Palami questioned Martinez’s intentions of changing the whole squad but he would gladly accept it if the new team will be better than the current squad.
“He should have built that team when he had three years to do it. Why wait this long?”
Martinez was ousted by majority of the presidents of the different football associations of the Philippines. He was replaced by interim PFF president Mariano Araneta. However, Fifa continued to support Martinez as the president of the PFF because of questions on the legality of last month’s congress. Fifa has advised the PFF to have another congress within 90 days from Dec. 3.
The Azkals will have their last practice in the Philippines today and will be leaving for Indonesia on Tuesday for their first semifinal match on Dec. 16.
The semifinal was supposed to follow a home-and-away format but the RP squad will be playing both matches in Indonesia because the Philippines doesn’t have a suitable venue. The second semifinal match will be on Dec. 19.
“It’s unfortunate because the players have worked hard. They are inspired to play in front of their fellow countrymen but it didn’t happen because we have no pitch ready for international competition,” said Palami. “Its unfortunate but the boys will work hard to make the country proud.”
The Azkals arrived in the Philippines last Thursday, after a goalless draw with Myanmar last Wednesday, and practiced at the International School of Manila football field the other day.
Amidst the chaos with the leadership of the PFF, the RP Men’s squad is still focused on its daunting task at hand—bring glory to the country.
“It’s difficult to assess (our chances against Indonesia) because when we started, everybody didn’t give us a chance to advance to the semis. Everybody thought that we would be thrashed by Vietnam but we surprised them. We will give the Indonesians a good fight.”
Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on December 13, 2010.