Friday, 24 December 2010
Jakarta: Despite the disappointment of missing out on the final of the AFF Suzuki Cup, Philippines captain Alexander Borromeo has expressed his pride in the team, which defied expectations to make it to the semi-finals of the regional championship for the first time.
The former whipping boys of the competition proved that they were more than up to the challenge this time by beating defending champions Vietnam and holding three-time winners Singapore to a draw en route to the last four.
Their dream was finally ended by Indonesia but only after two hard-fought matches in Jakarta, both of which ended 1-0 in favour of the home side.
"Our luck just ran out," Borromeo told www.affsuzukicup.com. "We had our chances from some set pieces but we got a bit unlucky and Indonesia deserved to go through.
"I'm very much honoured to be captain of this team. Finally, we have the right balance. Even with all the local and foreign guys, everyone creates a good mixture and that's what got us this far."
Borromeo, who made his international debut as a 21-year-old in 2004, feels that much credit for the team's performance should go to English coach Simon McMenemy, who has transformed the team's fortunes despite taking charge just four months before the tournament.
"He brought a new approach," said the Philippines skipper, 27. "Right from day one, he said he wanted the guys to be together all the time so that we could get proper cohesiveness in the team. That was really important because we communicate well on the pitch and that's one of our strengths.
"We would definitely like him to stay on. He got us this far and we don't really want to change anything apart from maybe adding a bit more firepower up front to help us get a few more goals. Hopefully the team stays intact for the next few years.
"I just hope we can keep up the momentum after this. We've got a few challenges coming up after this – the AFC Challenge Cup followed by the first round of the World Cup qualifiers – which we'll be participating in for the first time in eight years. We'll definitely have some things to aim for in the New Year."
THE Philippine football team, known as the Azkals, will have a busy 2011 seeing action in several international tournaments, including the World Cup qualifying tournament.
Fresh from their historic achievement in the AFF Suzuki Cup, the Filipino booters, together with newly recognized Philippine Football Federation president Mariano `Nonong’ Araneta, graced the Philippine Sportswriters Association Forum yesterday at Shakey’s UN Avenue and reflected on their recent campaign which ended with a semifinal defeat to Indonesia.
“It was a culmination of a very nice run for us,” said team manager Dan Palami. “We never expected us to be there in the semifinals and the credit has to be given to the players for playing their hearts out. Our campaign was a reflection of the Filipino spirit of never backing down.”
Palami, who has bankrolled the squad since late last year, said the team is now looking forward to several international tournaments next year, starting with the Asian Football Confederation Challenge Cup qualifying tournament.
Araneta also announced during the same forum supported by Outlast Battery, Philippine Amusements and Gaming Corp. and Shakey’s, that he finally got the recognition of the FIFA early Tuesday morning, certifying his election as president during the PFF Congress last month.
Araneta assured transparency as he serves out the remainder of the term of Jose Mari Martinez, who was ousted during the same PFF Congress. He vowed an all-out support for the team.
“He has the right to appeal (Martinez). But as far as we’re concerned, it’s already a closed matter,” said Araneta. “FIFA has accepted our legality and it has accepted our Congress.”
“I am glad sponsors are coming in,” added the PFF chief. “We can assure you of transparency with our governance and that the money will be spent for where it’s supposed to be spent.”
Araneta also promised to revive youth competitions and the national open tournament to discover new talents.
The PH booters salvaged a dramatic draw with Singapore, 1-1, on an injury-time equalizer by Chris Greatwich, who also scored in the 2-0 victory over Vietnam, which was considered as the upset of the tournament.
The results catapulted the Azkals to stardom, which skipper Aly Borromeo said they never imagined.
“We don’t want to make all of this for nothing. The country has a lot of potential to be very good in football,” said Borromeo.
The Azkals will face Mongolia in a home-and-away AFC Challenge Cup qualifying tie in February with the home game expected to be played at the Panaad Stadium.
If they beat Mongolia, the PH booters will move on to the qualifying event in a group which includes Myanmar, Palestine and Bangladesh.
Araneta said they have already expressed their intention of having the two legs against Mongolia in the Philippines to avoid playing in near-freezing conditions.
Palami said they will hold open tryouts to get the best available talent for the next tournaments.
“It doesn’t matter if you’re a local or a Fil-foreigner,” said Palami. “There will be an equal chance for everyone to compete for slots in the squad.”
MEMBERS of the men’s national team are hoping the football fever does not break anytime soon.
A surprise semifinal run in the Asean Football Federation Suzuki Cup brought football interest in the country to new heights and although the nationals were thwarted in the two semifinals legs by Indonesia, Azkals skipper Aly Borromeo is hoping the renewed enthusiasm in the sport will help them eventually take the top spot.
“We don’t want to make all of this for nothing. The country has a lot of potential to be very good in football,” said Borromeo during the Philippine Sportswiters Association Forum on Tuesday at Shakey’s United Nations Avenue.
The Azkals salvaged a dramatic draw with Singapore, 1-1, on an injury-time equalizer by Chris Greatwich, who also scored in the 2-0 victory over Vietnam, which was considered as the upset of the tournament.
The nationals fell short against the Indonesians, but before that, fan interest has improved especially with the matches shown on free TV, and now according to Philippine Football Federation chief Mariano Araneta, “sponsors are coming in.”
Araneta also said youth competitions and the national open will be revived to discover new talents.
“We never expected us to be there in the semifinals and credit has to be given to the players for playing their hearts out. Our campaign was a reflection of the Filipino spirit of never backing down,” said team manager Dan Palami during the forum supported by Outlast Battery, Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp. and Shakey’s
“It [semifinals] was a culmination of a very nice run for us.”
Palami, who has bankrolled the squad since late last year, said the team is now looking forward to several international tournaments next year, starting with the Asian Football Confederation Challenge Cup qualifying tournament.
The Azkals will face Mongolia in a home-and-away AFC Challenge Cup qualifying tie in February with the home game expected to be played at the Panaad Stadium in Bacolod City.
If they beat Mongolia, the Nationals will move on to the qualifying event in a group which includes Myanmar, Palestine and Bangladesh.
Palami said they will hold open tryouts to get the best available talent for the next tournaments.
“It doesn’t matter if you’re a local or a Fil-foreigner,” said Palami. “There will be an equal chance for everyone to compete for slots on the squad.”
Roderick T. dela Cruz
Strong dollar inflows from exports, investments, outsourcing revenues and tourism receipts pushed the country’s balance of payments surplus to a record high of $13.178 billion in the first 11 months of the year.
Bangko Sentral Deputy Gov. Diwa Guinigundo credited the strong surplus to increasing exports, remittances, revenues from BPOs, international tourism receipts, as well as the investment income of Bangko Sentral from its investments abroad.
“All of these plus inflow capital, both from direct investments and portfolio investments, brought about the all-time high BoP surplus,” he said.
Guinigundo said Bangko Sentral was likely to upgrade its BoP surplus forecast for 2011 from the original estimate of just $1.9 billion.
“We will have to upgrade that number. At this point, we are still completing our run. We will have to adjust our targets for 2011,” Guinigundo said.
The 11-month BoP surplus in 2010 was 153 percent higher than $6.421 billion year-on-year and exceeded last year’s full-year figure of $6.421 billion. It also topped the previous record of $8.557 billion in 2007, before the global financial crisis reduced the balance of payments surplus to just $89 million in 2008.
Bangko Sentral was looking at a BoP surplus of just $8.2 billion for the whole of 2010. The balance of payments represents the country’s external strength and summarizes all the foreign exchange inflows and outflows.
A surplus means more money came into the economy than what went out.
In November alone, the Philippines posted a balance of payments surplus of $3.902 billion, up from $2.736 billion in October. It also reversed the $93-million deficit in November last year.
The strong BoP position is the main reason behind the appreciation of the peso against the US dollar this year. It has prompted Bangko Sentral to intervene in the currency market by buying dollars in the market, which had the effect of rising gross international reserves that amounted to $61.3 billion at the end of November, exceeding for the first time the country’s external debt placed at $57 billion as of June.
Remittances rose 7.9 percent year-on-year to $15.456 billion in the first 10 months of 2010, while merchandise exports jumped 37 percent to $43 billion in 10 months to October.
Jenniffer B. Austria
The Megaworld Group plans to roll out P60 billion worth of residential units next year as part of its expansion program in the property sector.
Megaworld said in a disclosure to the stock exchange Monday that it would launch some 18,673 residential units next year with a combined floor area of over 830,000 square meters.
The Megaworld Group comprises of high-end property developer Megaworld Corp. and units Empire East Land Holdings Inc. and Suntrust Properties Inc., which focuses on medium-cost and affordable housing, respectively.
“The confidence level in the real estate sector is very high,” Megaworld chairman and chief executive Andrew Tan said in a statement.
“Many investors both here and abroad believe that our country is now moving in the right direction, and we see a surge of investments, especially in infrastructure areas, which will open up more growth opportunities not only for the entire economy but also for the real estate industry,” he said.
Megaworld will launch the bulk or more than P41 billion worth of projects totaling around 11,110 units with an aggregate floor area of over 372,000 square meters.
Megaworld’s new projects include One Eastwood Avenue in Eastwood City; 81 Newport Boulevard and 101 Newport Boulevard in Newport City; Viceroy Residences and two new towers of The Venice in McKinley Hill; additional towers of Manhattan Heights and Manhattan Plaza at Manhattan Garden City; Paseo Heights in Makati City; The Palm Bay in Roxas Boulevard; and One Uptown Place at Bonifacio Uptown in Taguig City.
“We have never been this bullish on the property sector, and we look forward to continued bright prospects not only in 2011 but long after that,” Tan said.
Megaworld also expects to complete more than 600,000 square meters of next generation office space for the business process outsourcing market and additional retail space at its ongoing McKinley Hill, Newport City and CityPlace projects as well as the upcoming Bonifacio Uptown and other projects in Iloilo and Cebu.
The projects are expected to help Megaworld to achieve a rental income of P5 billion by 2012.
Empire East Land and Suntrust Properties, meanwhile, plan to unveil their own residential projects worth P19 billion in Metro Manila and in Cavite and Laguna provinces next year.
111 Arroyo era projects clean
19 Takenaka-related projects on hold
THE Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC) on Tuesday declared 111 contracts entered into by the agency, its sectoral offices and attached agencies with the private sector as “clean” and placed 19 on hold.
Secretary Jose de Jesus also announced the department will implement 21 Public-Private Partnership (PPP) projects starting early next year, ordered the revision of its terms of reference (TOR) for the manufacture of car driver licenses, and the adoption of the bid-plus financing mode in buying transport equipment and facilities to veer away from the supplier country and technology-driven supply and financing.
He said his team is trying to put in and, if possible, irreversibly cement in place a culture of transparency and clean governance in the department.
At a press briefing on Tuesday morning, de Jesus said the 19 contracts involve the rehabilitation and upgrade of the defective Naia 3 involving agreements with small contractors who were in turn tapped by Japanese company Takenaka Corp., the lead contractor hired by Piatco to build the Terminal 3 of the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (Naia).
“These are worth P2.3 billion in all. . . .These were all put on hold. We are in discussions with Takenaka,” he said.
But he said the department is not abandoning repair of the terminal but will fast-track the full operation of Naia 3 at a lower total cost in civil works and equipment. Savings of close to $20 million is expected from the cancellation of Naia 3’s midnight contracts.
“Toward the end of next year, we hope to see the airport fully operational this time of next year. We are in discussions with Takenaka for the completion, testing and commissioning of the airport,” said de Jesus.
A total of 130 contracts were reviewed by the DOTC legal office headed by Undersecretary Aristotle Batuhan, since de Jesus assumed the post in July. These projects were approved in the few remaining months of the Arroyo administration.
De Jesus said the review was meant to ensure that these contracts are above board. He said this was also necessary to remove the potential obstacles that might get in the way of the full implementation of these projects.
License deal TRO revised
For the procurement by the LTO of driver licenses, de Jesus said the revision of the TOR is designed to uphold general performance specifications instead of limiting it to card types. This initiative is expected to widen the area for competing bidders, lower the license production cost, and ensure transparency and level playing field in the bidding process.
“We expect to bid [the review] out by middle of January next year. We will make sure that the auction will be done in full transparency,” added de Jesus.
The DOTC also ordered the review of the interconnectivity agreement entered into by Stradcom Corp. with other third parties to ensure consistency with the build-operate-own agreement between Stradcom Corp. and the LTO, and to make sure that fees charged are warranted and reasonable.
“The LTO is undertaking its own investigation. We are still not sure if there were violations or not on their part. Part of that determination will come from the discussions with them. We will sit down with them starting first week of January next year,” he said.
He said the bid plus financing mode of procurement for transport equipment and facilities assures transparency. One of those to be placed under the new system is the acquisition of maritime disaster and response equipment for the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG).
First on the list is the LRT South Extension Project involving the extension of the 15-kilometer Line 1 southward to Bacoor, Cavite, by an additional 11.7 km. It will include eight passenger stations with a provision for two additional in the future.
The feasibility study is being updated and the right-of-way acquisition is now 80-percent completed. Bidding documents for operation and maintenance of the line are being prepared and will be tendered out by the second quarter of 2011 and the construction for the extension will be bid out by 3rd quarter of 2011.
On the other system, or the MRT Line 2 Extension Project—a 4-km line eastward to the Masinag Junction in Antipolo, Rizal, from Santolan, Pasig City—a feasibility study is being updated and the tender documents for concession are being prepared. The extension will have two passenger stations at Sta. Lucia Mall and Masinag.
“We will bid this out in the second or third quarter of next year. We will bid out the concession so it can be operated and maintained by the private sector.”
De Jesus also revealed the agency has unraveled most of the tangled transactions in the MRT 3 Project—the line from North Edsa to Monumento—including the buyout scheme that has been proposed. Legal and financial experts have been tasked to finalize a strategy for a government takeover of the project.
Also, the department is pursuing the LRT Line 1 and MRT 3 Integration to ensure seamless connection and expand the capacity of both rail systems. It will allow riders to transfer using a single-ticketing system with an affordable fare rate. The integration of the systems will also result in new efficiency levels.
De Jesus also talked about the Northrail Project. He said Section 1 from Caloocan City to Malolos, Bulacan, has been under construction since 2008 but is only 20-percent complete.
Since July, this has been undergoing financial, technical and scope of project review. “We expect to complete the technical and financial review by the end of January 2011. If necessary, we will negotiate the project with the Chinese contractors.”
The Northrail Project Section 2 running from Malolos to Clark, Pampanga, is being reviewed to clarify and improve contract conditions to expedite implementation.
The Philippine National Railways North Rail-South Rail Linkage Phase 1 Caloocan City-Tutuban-Alabang has been operational since 2007. Ridership in this line has increased by 220 percent to 1.053 million from 325,591 passengers in the first nine months of this year.
De Jesus attributed the increase in passenger volume to the improved services and the rehabilitation and modernization of the commuter rail line.
The PNR main line south runs from Alabang to Legaspi, Albay. The DOTC plans to rehabilitate the entire stretch and privatize the line’s operation. Alternatively, the DOTC may bid the South line as a rehabilitate-operate-and-maintain project.
Also, master plans for the National Railway System and the Mindanao Railway System are being prepared. The DOTC will seek grant financing for its funding.
In the civil aviation sector, the Puerto Princesa Airport Project will redevelop the airport by the second quarter of 2011 to meet world standards, while the Laguindingan Airport Development Project is already 70-percent complete.
The O&M component of Laguindingan will be bid out by the third quarter of next year. De Jesus said the department is now in discussion with the United States Trade and Development Agency for a grant to prepare the transaction documents for an O&M agreement.
The Panglao Airport Project development is undergoing a review, meanwhile, to consider views from all the stakeholders.
Tuesday, 21 December 2010
YOU know what song came to my mind when the Azkals’ rock ‘n’ roll express blew into Jakarta? It was Oasis’s “Supersonic.”
The rock anthem may be dripping with swagger but definitely not the Philippine national men’s football team although they went through two rounds and six different national squads while taking names and kicking butt. Indeed, the team had gone from catatonic to supersonic.
I have been asked several times if the team in the wake of its recent success has been treated like rock stars. Not quite rock stars despite the Oasis song. Not at all. They have to queue for food and pay for their room Internet connection. Moreover, they are just ordinary blokes trying to lift the consciousness about football in a basketball republic and hopefully make history along the way.
And with every game, the believers grew. The game of football truly transcends borders because the Philippines was winning fans left and right from Laos to Singapore to Vietnam to Indonesia.
Prior to the match between the Philippines and Singapore, the Lions’ many-time champion coach Radojko Avramovic was asked what he thought of the Azkals. “You make the semifinals first then I will talk about the Philippines,” he said derisively.
After the Filipinos handed defending champion Vietnam a 2-nil defeat marking one of the greatest upsets in tournament history, the Singaporeans, who had been watching the game intently from the lower box broke out in cheer. That evening, Avramovic hung out with the Philippine team in the lobby of the Hanoi Sheraton swapping war stories and dousing the Azkals with profuse praise.
On the day of the Philippines’ match against Myanmar in Nam Dinh City in Vietnam, the team walked around a nearby park for their customary limbering session. As they walked around the pond, seven Vietnamese youths in bicycles followed the team around. A few mouthed expletives while one challenged a member of the team staff to a fist fight.
But for the most part, it would be safe to say that 80 percent of the comments from the locals was overwhelmingly positive. One coffee shop barista pointed to his temple and said that the home team did not use its brains. When it came to the visiting David who slew Goliath, he licked his lips to measure his limited English: “Very good. You know what I mean? Very good.” Then he bowed.
Nam Dinh was the city where 13th century General Tran Hung Dao was born. The soldier won two of the biggest battles in modern warfare. And here 22 Filipino football players and the 11 support staff won over the locals’ hearts and minds in a battle held on a pitch 50 miles away in Hanoi.
In the team’s final practice before the second match with Indonesia in a nearby practice pitch, onlookers—three people deep—surrounded the entire field. During a light scrimmage, when Phil Younghusband scored a goal, a collective cheer from the crowd went up. Since when did people cheer a practice goal! And since when did four Indonesian television networks cover a practice complete with an OB van? It was just an hour’s worth of practice.
During the first match with Indonesia, the entire Gelano Bung Karno Stadium was so noisy that one did not hear the Philippine national anthem playing. By the second match, there were cheers emanating from the capacity crowd of 80,000 plus.
The Azkals valiantly battled on to try and forge a two-goal lead over the host country in order to advance to the finals but last Sunday night, Indonesia was far more superior and had the quicker step to their pace. The Philippines bowed out of the competition with an aggregate 2-nil loss.
During the 45-minute drive to the team hotel that is just next to the stadium (it was made so because of the sheer number of people and vehicles parked around the area), the expletives, bad signs and hostile challenges that had marked their welcome two matches running was now replaced with cheers and applause.
In their group stages, Indonesia scored an astonishing 13 goals against their competition. The Filipinos held them to two goals and could have nearly taken a point or three had some balls found the back of the net. As Indonesia head coach Alfred Riedl said: “Prior to this tournament, any match against the Philippines was an automatic win.” Teams talked not of wins but by how many goals they would score. Now, every team had to take them seriously.
Said Philippine team manager Dan Palami: “We may have lost the game but Team Pilipinas has gained the respect of many for the truly valiant stand against the footballing giants of the region. This is but the start of the Azkal’s journey towards conquering greater challenges.”
To paraphrase the end line of the film “Cool Runnings” which is about the legendary Jamaican bobsled team that competed in the 1988 Calgary Winter Olympics, “The Azkals [returned] to the Philippines as heroes. When they return as an automatic entry in the group stages in the Suzuki Cup in 2012, they will compete as equals.”
Azkals vs. Mongolia in Panaad
AFTER a highly successful 2010 Suzuki Cup stint where the Philippines cracked the semifinals for the first time in the 14-year history of the tournament (only to be waylaid by Indonesia, the top goal-scoring team of the competition), the Azkals break for the holidays before returning to training mid-January for the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Cup qualifiers in a home and away series with Mongolia that kicks off on February 9, 2011 in Panaad, Bacolod City.
“We have written Mongolia about the possibility of hosting the two matches in Panaad,” said Philippine Football Federation president Mariano Araneta. “It would be difficult to play in Mongolia at that time of the year because it’s the height of their winter season. We have sent them a letter of request and are waiting for their reply.”
The Azkals will also be competing in the 2014 World Cup qualifiers that begin by mid-next year and the year-ending Southeast Asian Games that will be held in Jakarta. The groupings for the World Cup qualifiers have yet to be determined by FIFA.
“We will be meeting with the national team management to discuss how we can help them and what needs to be done to bring the team to the next level,” added Araneta who was in Jakarta for the first match of the Suzuki Cup semifinals to lend some support. “Hopefully, what they achieved in Laos, Vietnam, and Indonesia which is significantly raising awareness of the sport in the Philippines will continue to rise. We have shown that this is a sport where we can truly be competitive.”
Outside the Box
The 21st century has been called the “Asian Century.” The term was first used during a 1988 meeting between Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping and Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi.
We are supposedly in the “Asian Century” because of the population size and growth of Asia and the fact that the economic growth in the region has been stronger than the rest of the world for the last decade. Of course, when most people think and speak of Asia, they really mean China.
It would seem then that Asia’s time has finally come. But is that accurate?
In1800, Asia contained about 50 percent of the world’s population just the way it does now. In 1800, Asia accounted for approximately 50 percent of the global output of goods and economic activity. However, by 1900, Asia still held 50 percent of the world’s population but its contribution to global gross domestic product (GDP) had dropped to about 20 percent. This was due to the industrialization of the West in which Asia did not participate. You could argue that perhaps colonization by the West of Asia limited its industrialization. That may be only partially true. China and Japan were not colonies. However, the reasons Asia failed to modernize its economies are not vitally important. It is simply a fact that in terms of economic development, Asia did very little between 1800 and 1950. The balance of global economic power became unbalanced in favor of Europe and the US because Asia stayed out of the economic- development game.
If the 21st century is truly the “Asian Century,” it is because Asia finally decided to come out of a 150-year economic slumber.
The reason I offer this historical perspective is that over the last few months, many e-mail have mentioned that I seem to ignore the importance of China. One e-mail last week expressed this thought most clearly. From Mr. Chua: “We cannot always think of how the US economy’s domestic policies will affect the Philippine economy. This time, China has become too influential to ignore and its self-serving economic policy changes will surely affect Asian economies. Maybe we should also take this in consideration in your future analyses.”
Allow me to answer, Mr. Chua, by asking a question: What is the exchange rate between the Philippine peso and the Chinese renminbi (RMB)? Is the peso weaker or stronger against the RMB over the last year?
I would say that you do not have any idea what the answer is. In fact, if you look at the front page of the BusinessMirror, the list of exchange rates does not even mention the RMB. Why? Because the RMB is fixed to the US dollar.
The global economy is ultimately all about currencies. Successful and unsuccessful trade balances depend in large part on currency exchange rates. Foreign investment between any two countries must look at current rates and future projections of exchange rates.
Why has there been so much foreign investment in China during this “Asian Century?” A most important reason is that the Chinese government guaranteed that investors would not be subject to any instability of the exchange rate. Unlike in the Philippines where investors made money from peso appreciation, investors in China gave up the potential benefit of an appreciating RMB for a stable rate.
Of course, as the largest neighbor in Asia, the Philippines must keep an eye on China, its economy and its economic policies. But both eyes must be continuously focused on the US because of the dollar.
Another reason this is supposedly the “Asian Century” is that the wealth from Asian nations’ foreign currency holdings. Who holds the most dollars outside of the US? Number one is China (and Hong Kong) followed by Japan (2), Taiwan (4), India (6), South Korea (7), and Singapore (10).
Maybe the Philippines should look more closely at China. But I guarantee you, all the rest of Asia knows which country’s policy moves they need to watch.
As for being a big global economic force, China warrants a closer look to validate that assumption. In 2000, China accounted for 4 percent of the global GDP. The US share was 31 percent. By 2006, the US had dropped to 26 percent while China increased to 5 percent. As of 2009, China’s portion rose to 9 percent and the US fell to 22 percent.
The story of China’s economy is not the size but the amount of increase, which is immense. But even projecting current trends to 2015, the US percentage of global GDP will still be twice the size of China’s. Further, the G-7 countries, including Japan, will still make up almost 50 percent of the world’s economic activity, nearly five times as large as China.
None of this commentary is meant to underestimate the importance of the Chinese economy, particularly to its Asian neighbors. However, China must always be put in perspective.
As long as the dollar remains the world’s reserve currency and the US economy is the dominant player on the world’s stage, the US will remain the number one 800-pound gorilla in the room.
The Philippines must not make the same mistake with China that it did with the US. For decades, the US was the only consideration for our economic policies. We cannot allow that kind of thinking and mindset now to be switched in favor of China.
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Monday, 20 December 2010
By Cedelf P. Tupas
Philippine Daily Inquirer
JAKARTA, Indonesia — The journey that quietly started in Vientiane, made a lot of noise in Hanoi and created a stir in Manila finally ended in Jakarta on Sunday night.
Ranged against a side with unquestioned pedigree in the Southeast Asian level, the Filipinos fell short, their title hopes vanquished by a 0-1 defeat to the Indonesians in the second leg of the semifinals of the AFF Suzuki Cup before a wild crowd of 85,000 at the Bung Karno Stadium here.
Indonesia won both legs—by the slimmest of margins—with the Filipinos defending valiantly to limit the production of the tournament’s best attacking side.
Cristian Gonzales, Indonesia’s Uruguay-born striker, tormented the Philippines for the second straight match as his left-footed 25-yard strike in the 44th minute beat Neil Etheridge.
Gonzales also struck the winning goal in the first leg, his header sailing past Etheridge who slipped while trying to catch the long pass.
The Filipinos finished the game with 10 men after Chris Greatwich, who had missed a couple of good chances midway in the second half, was sent off for his second yellow card.
Just as surprising as the Filipinos’ run was the sudden rise of popularity of the sport in a country crazy about basketball and boxing.
Known as the Azkals, the Filipinos refused to give up until the final whistle, desperately throwing men forward and were almost punished several times. They were limited to a series of half-chances early on with Phil Younghusband, Chris Greatwich and Anton del Rosario firing long-range shots over the bar.
The Philippine defense looked panicky at times as Indonesia raided the flanks.
Etheridge needed to intervene several times, moving out of his line to gather through balls, including Firman Utina’s pass to a rushing Gonzales in the 11th minute.
Indonesia had blown several chances to score until Gonzales struck. The Indonesian striker did well to keep his balance against Aly Borromeo, and before Rob Gier could shut him down, he rifled the shot that had Etheridge diving to his right in vain.
It was the second goal in the tie for the 34-year-old Gonzales, a veteran of the Indonesian Super League, who became a naturalized Indonesian before the start of the tournament.
True to its word, Indonesia refused to sit back on its slender one-goal lead as Muhammad Ridwan and Okto Maniani marauded the wings and Firman Utina and Ahmad Bustomi terrorized the Filipino defense at midfield.
The Filipinos saw three players booked in the first half with Gier getting a yellow for his mistimed challenge on Gonzales, Ian Araneta for an altercation with Hamka Hamsah and Greatwich for a clumsy tackle on Gonzales.
Jakarta: Philippines coach Simon McMenemy felt that his players had no reason to be upset after their 1-0 loss to Indonesia in the second leg of the semi-finals on Sunday which eliminated them from the AFF Suzuki Cup.
Cristian Gonzales' strike two minutes before half-time secured a 2-0 win for the Indonesians, who will now meet Malaysia in the final.
But McMenemy expressed pride in his players, who had already exceeded expectations by reaching the last four of the regional championship. McMenemy proud of Filipino progress
"It was a very good game against very good opposition with amazing fans, and an amazing experience. They boys are gutted as they would be after losing a semi-final but to get to where they've got is an achievement," the Englishman said.
"I couldn't ask anything more of them – they created chances against the run of play, we pushed men forward, we changed our shape a little but it didn't work out at the end. However, I'm very proud to be the Philippines head coach and I'm very proud of my players tonight."
For McMenemy, the timing of Gonzales' goal, just before the interval, was crucial to the game.
"It kind of knocked the wind out of our sails a little bit," he explained. "They made some good chances in the first half and they caused us problems. But we rode our luck a little bit and got bodies in the way and gave it everything we had.
"But when you've got someone of the quality of Gonzales, it's tough. He would have had to put it into the top corner because (goalkeeper) Neil Etheridge is a big lad and if he had put it anywhere else, it wouldn't have gone in."
The Philippines were booed throughout the match by the partisan Indonesian fans at the Gelora Bung Karno Stadium. But there was plenty of mutual respect shown after the final whistle when McMenemy and his players went around the pitch to applaud the spectators.
"You'd expect them to be on your backs during the game but the fans were great in the end. They all clapped for us when we went round.
"I think that football fans genuinely appreciate hard work and that's what we do. There's no amazing tactic to how we play; we just grind it out, we get in there and make it difficult for the other team and we work as hard as we can. I think that any football fan around the world can appreciate that."
McMenemy had a bit of a Jose Mourinho moment during his pitch inspection before the game when the boos and catcalls of the home fans rained down on him while he walked alone in the middle of the field. But the Philippines coach claimed that the whole episode had occurred inadvertently.
"It was quite weird because I went out for the pitch inspection with a few of the boys, but when I looked around, the boys had gone so I was out there on my own. And everywhere I looked in the crowd, that part of the crowd started booing me. I looked down at the ground and when I looked up again, another area of the crowd started booing me. It's one of those things – it's nice to have a bit of backwards and forwards going on with the crowd.
"It's an incredible experience and we're very envious of that kind of support. The fans know their football and they're very passionate. Before the game, they were banging on our bus and making it very intimidating, but they're still good mannered enough to clap us off at the end after seeing that we've worked really hard. That's what real fans are."