PFF Suzuki Cup Under-23 aftermath angers sponsor

By Francis Santiago

The Philippine Football Federation should be more decisive in implementing tournament rules to avoid future controversies, an official of Suzuki Philippines said, the title sponsor for the recently held PFF Under-23 tournament.

Suzuki spent P3.2 million for the first ever national age group football competition to help discover talents for the Southeast Asian Games later this year.

But the three-month tourney descended into chaos after protests and counter-protests by the opposing teams in the home-and-away finals almost scrapped the second game.

Negros threatened to walkout of the second game finals when officials restored the 1-1 tie on regulation during the first game in Iloilo which it won 3-1 on extra time. The team only agreed to play the second game when football officials bowed to pressure and gave Negros the victory.

Negros then routed Iloilo, 9-0, for an emphatic 12-1 victory on aggregate.

But the aftermath left the sponsors disheartened if not disgusted. It had spent millions to give the sport a boost but lack of decisiveness on the part of the PFF almost ruined what could have been a very successful tournament, leaving the sponsor to wonder if it would support this event again next year.

“I just hope that next time, the PFF will prepare a more stringent regulations to abide by and implement it to all until the end to avoid the protests that we’ve encountered,” said Eilleen Esteban, PR manager of Suzuki, whose company also sponsors football tournaments around the world.

“Despite the controversies, I can still say it was a good start to help develop the culture of football,” Esteban said. “(It’s) relatively a successful project for our brand if you will look at the bigger picture.”

But whether Suzuki will continue to sponsor the tournament next year, Esteban said: “It is currently under study. I am still preparing my evaluation report.”

Observers said it was wrong to send the first leg into extra time as this is not allowed under international rules. Only during the second game when that game is tied is extra time allowed.

The match commissioner made a mistake when it asked officials of Negros and Iloilo if they wanted to go to extra time and both said yes. The right thing to do was to declare the match a draw, football experts said. Manila Bulletin