Fair Play: The Juan about the former coach

By Mike Limpag

Juan Cutillas, the former coach of the men’s national team, stirred a hornets’ nest in his latest interview with a national columnist.

The Spaniard, who’s been based in the Philippines decades before the current members of the Azkals were even born, suggested that the PFF put a limit to the foreign-based Pinoys who see action for the national team—seven for the Azkals and four or five for the Southeast Asian Games team.

He said the SEA Games would be a good gauge of how well our local program is doing.

That’s true, by the way, we can really gauge our grassroots program by how well the team plays in the regional games.

But I have just two teeny-weeny objections: What football program is Cutillas talking about? The Center For Excellence, a program designed to win PHL’s first SEAG gold in 2015? Didn’t it die a natural death in 08?

The Kasibulan 6-12? A PFF-DepED program designed to train kids? Didn’t that, die, too?

The Vision Asia Cebu? Heck, that just got revived, this year, right?

We don’t really need a SEA Games to compare our program with our neighbors, we only need to look at their programs to know how far behind we are.

And if the PFF does send a SEAG team for evaluation purposes, then we won’t have a SEAG team. You see, the powers that be at the Philippine Sports Commission have set some criteria, those who have a snowball’s chance in hell of winning a medal will stay put, hence the team stayed put in 2007 and 2009.

And this year the PSC only allowed football a slot because of what happened in the Suzuki Cup last year.

Now as to his idea of limiting the slots of the foreign-based Pinoys to seven in the Azkals, I think that’s just plain wrong.

While I long for the day when players who learn their football locally will be at par with those who develop theirs in Europe or Latin America, the reality is we’re so behind we need a Ferrari to catch up.

Besides, these are mostly sons of our foreign workers,;limiting their participation in the national team makes as much sense as limiting their parents remittances home.

They save our economy, why deny them the right to play for the Philippines if they so deserve it?

The thing that really pissed me off was when Cutillas called the Europe-based Azkals Filipino transients and when he said, “Every Filipino would like to see a genuine national team made up of Filipino players in the SEA Games.”

All members of the Azkals are Pinoys, they only differ on their accent, language, and places of birth, like all Pinoys do.

Besides, nothing is more patriotic than playing for your country, in front of 40,000 home fans, while knowing that back at home, only a handful were watching on TV.

Because that’s what the Azkals faced against Vietnam in the Suzuki Cup match. How were they to know that Chris Greatwich’s first goal started a social networking movement that everybody, it seems, started tuning in to the match.

Some of the Azkals may not eat balut, nor will they know what a habal-habal is but my god these guys are as Filipino as you and me. Calling them transients is an insult to all Pinoys who are based abroad.

I wanted to add some more to this “local vs. abroad” but curiously, in the end of the interview, Cutillas himself provided the answer.

In defending the practice of hiring foreigners in local club competitions, he said, “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.”

P.S. Cutillas also complained that the PFF is throwing money left and right, and the funds for the Germany camp could have been better spent elsewhere.

But Dan Palami told me last February, the camp was part of the assistance package from the German FA, and that they will shoulder everything.

Besides, I think a camp abroad is what the Azkals need, no generals who will come calling, no photo ops, no “are-you-really-dating Angel” questions, no “please-marry-me,” distractions.

As the wise Michael Weiss said, “It’s going to be a real camp.” Published in Cebu Football