MANILA, Philippines - On the eve of their departure for Indonesia, members of the Philippine football team were assured that there would be no revamp of the team that recently scored a historic goal in the AFF Suzuki Cup.
“I don’t think the Philippine Olympic Committee will allow this to happen,” Philippine Sports Commission chairman Richie Garcia told the team that paid a courtesy call on him Monday morning.
Later in the afternoon they went to Malacañang to meet President Aquino.
The players, including their British coach Simon McMenemy and team manager Dan Palami, were up in arms over a recent statement by Philippine Football Federation president Jose Mari Martinez.
Martinez, who continues to enjoy the support of FIFA despite being ousted as PFF chief by 26 of the 33 provincial associations in the country, told The STAR that he wants a revamp of the Philippine team.
“I am now negotiating to recruit a Brazilian coach, Rick Figuerido, who has about 12 years of World Cup experience with Brazil, Mexico and Jamaica. I can form another national team that’s better than what we’ve got now,” said Martinez.
It did not sit well with the players, who will play the Indonesians in their two-game semis matchup on Dec. 16 and 19. It’s the first time that the Philippines, after so many years, reached the semis of the AFF Suzuki Cup.
“Mr. Martinez wants to revamp the team and bring in a new coach. I don’t understand and it disappoints me. A lot of the boys were disappointed reading that,” said McMenemy, who in four months had made great transformations for the team.
“I cannot understand how he can even say that. It’s so disrespectful as if we haven’t done enough for the country,” said McMenemy.
Team skipper Aly Borromeo can only smile and shake his head hearing Martinez’ calls for a revamp of the team that scored a historic 2-0 victory over the highly-regarded defending champion Vietnam last week in a group stage match.
Too bad that the Philippines lost its chance to host one of the two semis matches against Indonesia due to the absence of a venue that suits international standards. Martinez, however, is still pushing for the staging of the Dec. 19 match at the Panaad Stadium in Bacolod.
Palami, who has invested a lot for the team, blasted Martinez for saying that the former had “brainwashed” the players into saying that the embattled PFF president should have no credit in the team’s recent success.
“To say that I brainwashed these players is utter disrespect to the minds of these mature people. He is belittling the minds of our athletes,” said Palami.
Garcia reminded the players to set aside the problems hounding the federation, and instead focus on the coming matches.
“Don’t let the problems of the federation bother you. I know how difficult it is but please try to forget what’s happening within the PFF. Don’t let one person affect your game,” said Garcia.
“You have all worked hard, and are in the point of winning. It’s hard to do but leave these problems behind and play for our country,” said the PSC chief, who also assured the players that if they go farther than the semis, they will get the chance to play before their countrymen.
“If you get to the finals (scheduled Dec. 26 and 29), we can put up the lights at the Panaad Stadium for you to play there. Rest assured that the next time around you will play before the Filipino people,” Garcia said.