SEA Games: Football coaches downplay arrival woes ahead of competition

Camille B. Naredo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Nov 24 2019 04:51 PM | Updated as of Nov 24 2019 05:20 PM

MANILA - With just one day left before the football competition of the 30th Southeast Asian Games is set to start, coaches sought to downplay the travel and accommodation issues that hounded their teams upon their arrival in Manila.

Coaches of Timor Leste, Cambodia, Myanmar, and Thailand all confirmed on Sunday that they encountered some difficulty when they arrived in the country, but did not want those issues to cast a cloud over the competition.

"Obviously, all the teams get some problems. Obviously, somebody didn’t do his job the best possible way because everybody knows our schedule and (when) we need to arrive," said Myanmar coach Velizar Emilov Popov.

Popov's team had complained that they waited quite a while at the airport upon their arrival, and that the buses sent to pick them up were "small."

"It was difficult to enter normally," said the coach.

Yet he also stressed that there was no need to focus on the logistical troubles.

"That's a small issue for me, it’s no big deal. And, I don’t want to talk more about it because it’s not the main thing in this tournament. No need to look for excuses," said Popov. 

"Obviously the other teams also have the same problems. So for me, everything is forget, so no need to return about it," he added.

"But, I hope in the future, everything about the organisation (will) be better."

Fabiano Flora, the coach of Timor Leste, expressed a similar sentiment. "We got some problems, and I hope in the future, it cannot happen again," he said. "I think all nations deserve respect."

"But it's okay, it's finished, and just focus on the games," Flora said. His team had waited over three hours at the airport before they got picked up, only to be brought to the wrong hotel. The situation has since been rectified. 

Felix Dalmas of Cambodia acknowledged that the situation was "not ideal." Their team had to wait at a conference room in the Century Park Hotel, as their rooms were not yet ready upon their arrival. 

"We know that things are not perfect, especially when you're not the home country," said Dalmas. "We had to wait, it wasn't ideal, we had to wait eight to nine hours.:

"But things happened, and we're ready for this. We adjust and we evolve, and that's one of the qualities of our team as well. The guys took it with the best spirits. We're good," he added.

The organizers issued an apology on Sunday morning after the complaints of the various football teams became viral on social media.

"We sincerely apologize to our athlete guests from Timor-Leste, Myanmar and Cambodia for the inconvenience caused to them by the confusion regarding their transportation and hotel arrangements,” the Philippine Southeast Asian Games Organizing Committee (PHISGOC) said in a statement.

“While PHISGOC strives to ensure proper coordination of the arrival details, airport welcome and transportation provisions of all international teams to their respective assigned hotels, we acknowledge our shortcomings in this particular incident and vow to do better."

The men's football competition starts on Monday at the Rizal Memorial Stadium. The 30th SEA Games officially opens on November 30.