By Joaquin Henson
Former national coach Juan Cutillas yesterday appealed to the Philippine Football Federation (PFF) to limit the participation of Fil-foreign transients in all levels of international competition, particularly the coming Southeast Asian Games where the maximum age is 23 for the sport.
|Coach Cutillas (L) & Rick Olivares (R) | Photo by Rick Olivares|
“I can speak freely because I am neutral,” said Cutillas, a former Spanish football player who now lives in the country with his Filipina wife and their two children. “I’m grateful that finally, football is gaining recognition and popularity in our country but there are several issues for the PFF to address. Let’s face it. The Philippines will remain at the lower level of the Asian standings for a long, long time. In the recent Challenge Cup qualifications, we couldn’t even beat Palestine and Myanmar.”
Without dampening the enthusiasm created by the Azkals’ emergence as the country’s latest sports heroes, Cutillas said it is necessary to put perspective and focus in planning for the future.
“I think we’re spending unnecessarily for the Azkals and it has gotten out of hand,” said Cutillas. “We’re throwing away lots of money for travel. For instance, we don’t need to go all the way to Germany to train for our home-and-away games against Sri Lanka. Where is Sri Lanka in the Asian standings? Just because we have lots of money to spend, we shouldn’t throw it away unnecessarily.”
In the latest FIFA rankings, the Philippines is No. 155, Myanmar No. 161, Palestine No. 170 and Sri Lanka No. 173.
Cutillas called for sobriety in managing the PFF affairs.
“The priority must be synchronization,” he said. “Right now, the PFF interferes with the schedule of tournaments. Clubs are the strength of any national association. It makes no sense for the PFF to postpone or cancel tournament matches because of conflicts in schedule. That’s because the PFF prioritizes the Azkals and whenever there is need to pull out a player from any club, nobody stops it. I suggest a synchronized program of activities from the very beginning. A national player’s duties shouldn’t collide with his responsibilities with his mother club. In other countries, national associations respect the schedule of local tournaments and encourage the continuity of club matches. Clubs aren’t only respected but also protected because they provide the backbone of every national association.”
Cutillas said the PFF should restrict the participation of Fil-foreigners in the national team. “For the Azkals, the limit must be seven,” he continued. “For the under-23 team, four to five or maybe, three to four. The idea is to give local Filipinos the opportunity to represent our country. The under-23 team will give us a chance to evaluate the strength of our local program but if we bring in eight or 10 Fil-foreigners, it won’t give us the right perspective. Our locals become second choice players. It’s important that we promote the spirit of patriotism with our national team.”
Cutillas said the SEA Games are a showcase of local talent and pointed to the age limit of 23 as a way to assess the growth of grassroots development. “We are jeopardizing the chances of local Filipino players by recruiting Fil-foreigners from the US and Europe,” he said. “Every Filipino would like to see a genuine national team made up of Filipino players in the SEA Games.”
Cutillas also took issue with the under-19 program. “The PFF has given control of the under-19 program to its technical committee,” he said. “It’s an opportunity for a Filipino to coach the youth team but instead, a foreigner is coaching the team. It’s not right. The PFF is losing perspective of what must be done over the long term.”
Cutillas coaches the Pachanga club of Freddy Gonzalez in the NCR division of the national league championships. There are no Azkals in his lineup. According to league rules, each club is allowed to draft five foreigners but only four may play at a time.
“The foreigners with the clubs live here and don’t come and go like the Fil-foreigners who play for the Azkals,” said Cutillas. “They’re good for Philippine football. The limit is five foreigners whereas in the past, the limit was 40 percent with 60 percent for Filipinos. It will be a step back if we restrict the participation of foreigners in club competitions. They raise the quality of our level of play and we can learn from them.”
In the same way that there is a limit to how many foreigners may play for a club, Cutillas said the national team must set a cap for Fil-foreigners. Source