Let’s be better, not bitter

Graeme Mackinnon, the Cebu Hall of Fame football coach who’s now back in Australia, sent me this email yesterday: “I am confident that the Cebu Football Association (CFA) will handle it as it should be. There is no doubt it is not the publicity football in Cebu or anywhere for that matter wants. But it’s happened and lessons HAVE to be learned so that this problem is minimized in the future.

“I read about the call for police to be at every game. OMG, what a knee-jerk reaction. How many times has this happened in the last ten years? People in the football club or school have to be responsible for their own actions and accept the consequences of those actions.

“Here (Australia) in junior football, each club or school must provide some in-house security. I don’t mean guns. etc. but appointed club officials (usually some parents from the team that is playing) wear hi-vis vests with Security on it and they are the first line of subduing any CROWD problem. The referee looks after the players. The vest means they are appointed by the club/school to represent the CFA at games and ensure the PLAY FAIR edict just as we expect the players to. Every game from the very small to the seniors there has to be a visible calming influence. The CFA would hold an induction for clubs/schools so that they would understand their responsibilities to ensure that THEIR parents and friends of the players don’t cross the line.

“Even though it is a black eye at the moment if handled correctly CFA and Cebu football will move forward stronger from the experience.”

I agree. Let’s transform the negative into positive. The shocking incident seven days ago is the “talk of the town,” even by non-soccer followers. At Casino Español last Thursday night, I sat in between Spanish Consul Anton Perdices and Andre Borromeo and our discussion centered on the controversy.

The incident has happened. That, we can’t reverse. What’s most important today is tomorrow. Graeme’s suggestions are excellent. I’m sure Pres. Ricky Dakay and the CFA Board have plenty of additional inputs.

Football is a rough game. It’s the closest thing to “allowable” physical contact. There’s a lot of shoulder-pushing. Kicks are fired, intentionally or unintentionally. Bodies slam. A goalie dives and gets smothered with a rushing knee. Arms lock. There’s bumping. Players sprint and collide.

My brother Charlie, who has organized the Thirsty Football Cup for the past 11 years, has a poster of our event which reads: “If you can’t stand football, play tennis.”

Ouch. But it’s true: Football screams “ouch!” It’s physical. More than basketball. Surely more than volleyball or swimming or running. I can think of only a few more games that involve more contact than soccer. Boxing and mixed-martial arts top the list; ice-hockey is another slam-bang game; American football and rugby are very rough.

(As a side note, on that “Photo of the Year” by Allan Cuizon, my friend Fred Quilala made a good comment. Said Fred: “The subjects have been identified except for the good samaritan in black sleeveless who separated the protagonists at the risk of getting injured. Hope he gets recognized for his unselfish efforts.”)

In the aftermath of the melee, I hope that the afflicted and aggrieved parties, facilitated by the CFA and other highly-respected and neutral personalities, can get together. To talk. To air out grievances. To apologize. To show remorse. To seek forgiveness. To give forgiveness. As the great basketball coach John Wooden once said, “Sports do not build character. They reveal it.”

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