By Noel S. Villaflor
NOT so long ago, the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) planted an idea in the minds of Filipinos that the sport will soon emerge from its nightmarish state.
In September of 2008, AFC Vision Asia officials announced the inception of “a massive development plan to elevate the quality of football in the country.”
The AFC and the Philippine Football Federation (PFF) handpicked the Cebu Football Association (CFA) to be at the forefront of the campaign.
The dreamers sprung into action, as representatives of AFC Vision Asia met with PFF and CFA officials to formulate the plan of making Cebu the pilot area of Vision Philippines, a 10-year grassroots development program. AFC Vision Asia pledged to fund the project.
As discussed during several days of planning, a few technical requirements had to be ironed out, one of which was for the CFA to amend its by-laws in line with Fifa statutes.
Less than a year later, the CFA, in a General Assembly in August 2009, amended its bylaws. PFF president Mari Martinez himself made sure to fly all the way to Cebu and attend the gathering to express his support for the ratification.
“It’s the first FA in the country to do so,” a CFA board member had said, pointing out that even the PFF has yet to update its bylaws.
In January this year, the CFA launched the Vision Philippines grassroots project, assembling young “elite players” ages eight to 16 from different clubs and schools all over Cebu, mentored no less by licensed coach volunteers.
Every afternoon for several weeks, dozens of players from the different groups would religiously train under stifling conditions at the Aboitiz Football Field.
But one weekend the practice sessions abruptly ended. The reason: funds the AFC promised never reached the CFA, sending the Vision Philippines’s pilot project in limbo.
I asked a CFA insider what happened. The PFF, he said, never sent them any money.
The AFC had earmarked at least P200,000 for the CFA program this year, and another P200,000 for the next. However, the AFC apparently cannot directly send funds to the CFA and had to course the money through the PFF.
The CFA repeatedly asked the PFF about the funds. CFA president Richard Montayre, the insider said, even had to meet the PFF president in his office to ask about the funds and why this wasn’t released. The CFA president ended up storming out of the office without getting a straight answer.
Left with limited options, the CFA emailed the AFC about the funds. The CFA was in for a surprise: it received a letter from the AFC last June recommending “a few amendments” in CFA statutes.
Now, didn’t they go through this before?
According to a June 23 report published on its website, the AFC has asked the CFA “to make the changes to take Vision Philippines-Project Cebu a step forward.”
The changes recommended mainly involved membership and disciplinary issues, none of
which has anything to do with the handling of funds.
To amend the CFA statutes meant the holding of another assembly and wasting scarce resources.
The CFA insider wondered: Why did the AFC not push these recommendations at the onset?
And granted the CFA does labor to amend its statutes anew, what next? What other set of recommendations would be needed to take the project “a step forward”? What other bureaucratic mumbo-jumbo and labyrinthine nonsense would the AFC spelunkers hatch next?
This “amendment” explanation sounds like an elaborate excuse to withhold funds. I can’t help but ask whether the deficiencies in the CFA statutes are reason enough.
If so, how come the PFF continues to get assistance from the AFC? Didn’t the AFC find anything to rectify with the PFF’s “un-amended” statutes?
In a newsletter the PFF released last year, a headline read: “PFF: Financially healthy.” In the story, the PFF treasurer trumpeted the PFF’s fiscal gains for 2009.
But there was one detail in this paragraph I found disturbing: “Fiscal discipline, strict expenses, addition of new sponsors, and new assistance from Vision Asia helped PFF hit its financial target this year.”
I wonder where that “new assistance from Vision Asia” went. To dreamland, perhaps? But definitely not to its pilot project in Cebu.
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