I was sitting in a dark, empty stadium. The football field was empty, too, except for several strays marking the grass, oblivious to the powdered limestone that delineates the pitch and separates footballer from spectator. A few puzzled souls wandered in the unlit stands. Scratching their heads, they plodded toward the exit. I could hear their footsteps, heavy with disappointment. Then the click of a shutting gate – or door – woke me up.
No sooner had I felt relief to know it was all an ugly dream when I was greeted by some disturbing news: the Philippine Football Federation and Cebu Football Association cannot agree on the exact date for the November friendly between the Philippine Azkals and the Singapore Lions.
Earlier reports quoted CFA officials as saying the Nov. 16 date was final. However, the PFF maintains the date set with the Singapore FA is Nov. 15, an InterAKTV report said yesterday.
In response, the CFA said what they agreed on was Nov. 16, a Friday, since that date, being a weekend, would draw “more spectators.”
But according to the report, the PFF secretariat “stood its ground on the Nov. 15 date,” pointing out that “the schedule has been confirmed even by the Asian Football Confederation and FIFA as early as July 16.”
“No request from any of these football bodies to change it and no official correspondence has been released nor received with another date from 15 Nov.,” the InterAKTV report quoted the PFF secretariat’s forwarded text message as saying.
Now I’m not privy to the labyrinthine communication lines that connect the parties involved, but if the PFF, the Azkals management and the CFA won’t be able to sort this thing out, this bizarre development might turn into something far worse than a bad dream.
The November match would be Cebu’s baptism of fire in hosting big football matches. And for any sporting event of this magnitude, the date should have been set in stone by now.
Take the preparations for the Ironman 70.3 held in Metro Cebu last Aug. 5: the exact date of the event was announced as early as December 2011 yet. That’s nine months before the actual international triathlon took place.
It is now roughly just two and a half months away from the scheduled kickoff and the fans are still second-guessing, no different from how they were left hanging weeks earlier as to which team the Azkals would face in November at the Cebu City Sports Center.
Singapore’s name initially cropped up, but they reportedly backed out. In their place, the still unidentified runner up of the AFF Suzuki Cup qualifiers was slated to test the Azkals instead.
So when Singapore “finally confirmed” it will fly to Cebu for a Nov. 16 friendly, Cebu’s football community welcomed the announcement with childlike anticipation.
I was cautiously optimistic, though, about how the big day would turn out. Would the fans fill the stadium? Would the Azkals’s Europe-based stalwarts make it to bolster our cause?
Still, those were the least of my worries, since there was the bigger risk the friendly could be scuttled by circumstances beyond anyone’s control (due to really, really foul weather, for instance).
As it now turns out, the biggest threat to this match from happening are not acts of God, but the acts of men who cannot agree on the simplest of things as agreeing on a match date.
But the Filipino football fans – those who will need to file leaves of absence, those who will have to book their flights in advance, those who must block all matters of consequence on that day just to watch their beloved Azkals – all they care about is for these men in authority to get their acts together.
Whether it’s Nov. 15 or 16 for the dream match, it doesn’t matter, as long as Singapore comes to Cebu. But the organizers need to clear that up now, once and for all.
Otherwise, they better just spare the fans of that nightmarish wait for nothing.