Crisis hits RP women's futsal team, PFF

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Mar 10 2009 09:35 PM | Updated as of Mar 11 2009 05:35 AM

Another dispute within the Philippine Football Federation (PFF) has erupted following the removal of the national women’s futsal (indoor football) coach and the mass resignation of the team members.

“We’re looking for a tribunal where we can explain our side, but unfortunately the Philippine Football Federation doesn’t have one,” said national women's futsal coach Emmanuel Batungbacal during Tuesday’s Philippine Sportswriters Association forum at Shakey’s UN Avenue Branch.

Batungbacal, who steered the women’s futsal squad to a surprising bronze medal finish in the 2007 Southeast Asian Games, was sacked for sending the team to an international competition in New Zealand without the PFF’s sanction.

Based on documents presented by Batungbacal, the main reason given for his relief is the alleged misrepresentation of the national women’s futsal team. He is accused of sending an unsanctioned squad to the Vikings New Zealand Futsal Invitational.

The relief was based on the recommendation made by PFF Futsal Committee chairman Esmaeil Sedigh.

“It’s ironic because the PFF actually sanctioned us to represent the country in the New Zealand competition,” said Batungbacal, who presented to media a copy of the PFF document approving the team's participation in the invitational tournament.

The document was signed by PFF General Secretary Pablito Araneta.

“We tried to talk to PFF… but during the meeting, kasama ‘yung president (Jose Mari Martinez), what he told me was, 'Just put it in our pocket.' [It's] As if nothing happened. How can we explain our side kung ‘yun mismong president ayaw kang pakinggan?,” said Batungbacal.

Resignation of RP futsal squad

The women’s futsal team came to Batungbacal's defense by resigning en masse.

Team captain Maria Aurora Tanjangco said they repeatedly requested Martinez to have Sedigh explain his recommendation.

Martinez, however, reportedly sided with Sedigh and asked the team to “forget what happened”.

“Let it be clear that our mass resignation does not stem from the firing of Mr. Batungbacal but with the way you and Mr. Sedigh handled the situation, with obvious politicking, misrepresentations and outright lies,” the futsal team said in its resignation letter.

Tanjangco also claimed that Martinez insulted them for pursuing Batungbacal’s case.

“We were asking for clarification, and what happened? He ignored us, and he kept on reducing our efforts to a monetary value… Ang laging sagot niya sa amin, ‘Sumusweldo kayo ‘di ba (referring to athletes’ allowance)? Anong problema?’” she said.

‘It’s the license, not anything else’

Martinez, meanwhile, denied removing Batungbacal over the RP squad’s New Zealand stint but blamed it on the coach’s lack of credentials.

“We’re trying to put Philippine football in line with our long-term direction. But how can we do that by employing someone who is not licensed to coach?” claimed Martinez.

The PFF president also denied turning a deaf ear to the futsal squad’s complaint.

“In fact, we had a dialogue already,” said Martinez.

This is not the first time the PFF has been hounded with internal problems.

Last February, PFF technical director and long-time national coach Dr. Juan Cutillas resigned from his position over his dispute with Martinez.

Cutillas said he has totally lost confidence with Martinez's leadership after the latter reportedly stripped the PFF committee heads of their authority.

“Together with my lack of confidence goes my lack of respect, following the lack of respect you have displayed towards me, my committee and other committee heads under you,” Cutillas said in his resignation letter.