27 January 2012

Limpag: Half-baked preparation for Bolkiah Cup?

By Mike T. Limpag

Fair Play

Friday, January 27, 2012

NOT too many people know that before Dan Palami took over the senior team, he was the manager of the Under 19 squad that had their breakfast, lunch, dinner and midnight snacks handed to them in 45 minutes during the AFC Under 19 championships qualifiers in 2009.

Because of that humiliating showing, when Dan was offered the job as senior team manager, he vowed not to be as ill-prepared as the Under 19 team.

A lot of folks know that Dan was the manager of the Southeast Asian Games team last November, who, shall we diplomatically say, failed to live up to their newspaper space and TV airtime.

Aside from saying the SEAG team will be better prepared and that they will be joining the Hassanal Bolkiah Trophy in Brunei next month, nothing much was heard of the team before the announcement of the PFF hiring Serbian coach Zoran Dordevic a few days ago, and the announcement of a team tryout a week ago.

The last time we joined the Bolkiah Cup, we lost to Myanmar, 9-1, and Cambodia, 6-0, and to Brunei, 3-2, in the final match. That Brunei loss was painful. We were up 2-0 at half-time and lost after conceding two goals in the last two minutes. That squad had Phil Younghusband, and now UFL players Jason Cordova, Matthew Hartmann, Francis Gustilo and Dave Villon.

And now, the big question is, are we headed for a repeat of the SEAG debacle? Are we throwing in an ill-prepared team to an international competition?

The simple answer is yes as this year’s tournament will start on Feb. 25, and if they’re still conducting trials on Jan. 21…

But, it’s not as simple as that.

Dan told me the other day he’s having a hard time gathering the players for practice due to UFL and UAAP duties.

Aah, crap, the collegiate game. It is understandable why colleges hold on to their players since they’re the one paying handsomely for their scholarships but this conflict of schedule could have been avoided by a simple change of schedule—hold the damn football tournament early.

It’s the same problem in Cebu. The college season starts late to give way to the basketball season, and all other tournaments involving the age group have to wait.

This conflict of schedule, too, is what former national team Aris Caslib pointed out as one of the problems in Philippine football when he did his presentation to the PFF Board of Governors last January, 2011.

I guess his suggestion to talk with the UAAP and NCAA guys was never taken?

The Bolkiah trophy will be the first outing of this U21 squad, but it’s not the goal.

Dan is aiming for the AFF U22 contest and the SEA Games next year and I admit that this is one massive preparation.

I’m only afraid, though, that if the team does poorly in the Bolkiah Cup, which will end just as the Challenge Cup is starting, folks will remember SEAG 2011 and well, you know what I mean.

By the way, Dan said he’s going for locally-based players (take note, locally-based, not locals), so perhaps this addresses the criticism on how team chemistry was shot to hell in the SEAG when as many as six players flew in a day before the competitions.

“I’m fixing sight on U23 SEAG as promised, but this team will have to absorb initial setbacks. The good thing is that we are building strong local-based players. Raw talents still, but the new coach sees the diamonds underneath,” Dan said.

Diamonds in the rough is the perfect way to describe the team and I hope we finally see the final product in SEAG 2013.

As for the Bolkiah Cup?

I’m not expecting much but since most of the U21 members played in the SEAG, I expect them to fight as if they have something to prove because those guys really do have something to prove.

So, what’s after Bolkiah? I hope, since this won’t be the first time, the PFF will get to talk with the schools about the release of players. If clubs take a rap for not releasing players to a friendly, shouldn’t the schools/league take some of the heat, too?

“After Bolkiah, I will tour this team around to play senior teams in Bacolod, Iloilo, Cebu, etc. and also friendlies with UFL first divisions.”


Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on January 28, 2012.

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