By Reuben Terrado
PHILIPPINE Olympic Committee president Jose ‘Peping’ Cojuangco has clarified that they are not shutting the door on the possible participation of a football team in the Southeast Asian Games in Myanmar. Cojuangco said that the POC is still waiting for the Philippine Football Federation to build its case and prove that the men’s and women's team could contend for a gold medal in the Myanmar Games. “The team must prove that they are a quality team,” said Cojuangco in Thursday’s POC weekly radio program on DZSR Sports Radio 918.
“I want to see who their opponents are and their caliber and they must prove to us that they have a chance to win.” Philippine football officials led by Azkals team manager Dan Palami have called on the POC and the Philippine Sports Commission to reconsider the Under-23 team as well as the women’s team for inclusion in the national contingent to the Myanmar Games. The Task Force had earlier excluded the football teams in their initial entry by number list to be submitted to Myanmar organizers on July 10 based on the criteria set by the POC that only sure and potential gold winners will be sent to the biennial meet.
Despite the men’s team missing the semifinal round and the women’s squad called the Malditas not able to play in the 2011 edition in Indonesia, football officials believe both teams can compete against the best in the region. Cojuangco said they haven’t received an official appeal from the PFF and reiterated that the football teams have not been excluded. “I don’t know what they are appealing (about). Maliwanag ‘yung sinabi natin na we are not excluding anybody who can prove that they can win,” said Cojuangco.
“I heard that the Malditas are good but if they are not sure of playing well, they are killing themselves right from the beginning. Kasi kapag nangamote sila sa SEA Games, baka lalong bumaba ang sport nila,” said Cojuangco. Football officials said that they will do whatever it takes to compete in the SEA Games, adding they are willing to shoulder the expenses for the teams' participation through the help of private sponsors.
However, Cojuangco insisted that they won’t change their SEA Games criteria in order to accommodate a team or an athlete. The POC chief also ruled out adopting a ‘have-money-will-travel’ policy. “That’s one of the things we discussed in the executive board together with the PSC. We will carry that one out. Mahirap na mabago pa tapos sisihan na naman. Kung ano ‘yung desisyon, let’s stand by it already,” Cojuangco said. “Ayoko na nung ‘have-money-will-travel.’ Nabubugbog kami masyado. Okay lang dati ‘yun pero in the end, kung banatan tayo sa mga dyaryo pagkatapos mag-compete, ang may kasalanan POC at PSC eh,” he added.