A football is yet to be kicked in the 2012 United Football Cup and already a controversy is brewing in the horizon.
The UFL Cup final is scheduled on a Thursday, November 15, 2012. There is nothing particularly wrong about the chosen date, except that there happens to be one tiny problem. November 15, 2012 also happens to be the day when the Azkals play host to Singapore for an international friendly game in Cebu.
Local fans have been deprived of regular football action since the United Football League was concluded last June, but surely two important matches in one day is too much.
“I’m wondering why the UFL had to set the schedule of the finals for the UFL Cup on an international match date”, said Azkals team manager Dan Palami. A quick glance at the FIFA International Match Calendar shows that indeed, November 14, 2012 is listed as a date reserved for friendly matches, where teams are obliged to release their players for 48 hours.
“The direction of the PFF is for the national team to take advantage of international dates, especially during this time when preparations for the Suzuki Cup go full throttle”, Palami adds.
Sources in the UFL however, claim that the November 15 Cebu friendly with Singapore caught them by surprise. After league play ended, schedules of the Azkals for the rest of the year were ironed out by the PFF, Azkals coaching staff, and various representatives of the UFL and the teams. November 15, although technically an international match day, was not included in the schedule.
Thus, the UFL used that day to schedule the all-important UFL Cup final. Now, imagine if Global FC and the Loyola Meralco Sparks meet in the final. Given both teams’ offseason signings, that is a very distinct prospect. Make no mistake; it will undoubtedly make a final of titanic proportions.
However, they will be forced to play the final sans the national team players, which would undeniably be a crying shame. The likes of Phil and James Younghusband as well as Anto Gonzales would potentially be unavailable for Loyola. Likewise, Carli de Murga, Denis Wolf, Misagh Bahadoran and the rest of Global’s sizable Azkal contingent would be unavailable. As a matter of fact, Global would possibly be missing ten players in their roster.
The good news is that there is still time to thresh out things between the PFF and the UFL. For the sake of the growing football loving public, it is imperative that a win-win solution be brokered. The last thing that Philippine football needs is a club vs. country debate, most especially since the Suzuki Cup is right around the corner.
More than ever, what Philippine football needs is a united stand among all stakeholders. The fans certainly deserve as much.
Ryan Fenix is InterAKTV’s resident football analyst. His football column Rampaging Fullback appears exclusively on the site. He runs the football blog The Prawn Sandwich Brigade and covers football for AKTV on IBC. For more football discussion, follow him on Twitter.