You couldn’t ask for a perfect home game. After trailing 1-0, Mert Altinoz scored a stunning equalizer just outside the box and just after half-time, caught a sleepy Kaya defense flat-footed to make it 2-1. A few minutes later, Arda Cinkir, who is aiming for 30 goals this season, scored off a beautiful back-heel, sending the ball to the bottom corner with his left after a sneaky pass and sending the fans in the stands into frenzy.
But behind the scenes though, it was far from perfect. When I got to the media row, I knew I couldn’t see a thing. We were placed just behind the Ultras and the only thing you could see was the part of the field directly in front of you. I met Icko de Guzman earlier as I left the parking spot and after just a second on media row, I left. I found fellow columnist Noel S. Villaflor and told him of the situation and said it was better for us to be with the PFL’s camera crew. In fairness, the CFC media officer wasn’t involved in planning where the media row would be and said she would try to find us better seats.
However, I didn’t insist since the venue was packed 10 minutes before kickoff and the only vacant seats were for the VIPs.
I thought there would be a remote team from Manila who’ll handle the commentary and I was surprised when I got to the booth and heard my friend Chad Songalia say, “And look who just got here.”
Chad knows his football and in games I cover, I normally turn to him for the time or things that I’ve missed. I’m sure Chad would be the No. 1 critic of his performance that day as he missed even the most basic stuff. Five minutes into the game, Chad’s partner left. He asked me to accompany Chad in the booth but I told him, “Pasuwata rako, ayaw pa-storya.”
That explains the sketchy first half commentary. Jhojo Partosa tried to help and identified the players for Chad, while I helped with some background info. Thankfully, the arrival of Nimrod Quiñones at half-time saved the day.
That, I later learned, was just one of the mishaps of the host. There’s a lot of room for improvement. I told officials post-match. They didn’t seem satisfied with that, so I said, “A house for improvement?”
I think you can blame it on CFC’s experience in away games, when they didn’t see the things the PFL did that it is now requiring them. There was the location of the locker rooms (the teams crossed paths at half-time), ticketing, security and seating. Heck, even how the substitutes were announced was wrong.
In hindsight, those temporary bleachers was not a good idea. Designed for people to sit in neat rows, it ended up hosting fans who rushed to the railings. Thankfully, it was engineered to withstand the rush. Mayhaps (pardon the GOT fan in me), it would have been better had CFC provided a big screen just outside the venue, where the food booths were located, so fans who couldn’t be accommodated in the stands could experience and hear a home game, while enjoying the food. (Post match, I overheard a fan how she didn’t get to eat the food she bought. “How can you eat with all the cheering and standing?”)
While getting some feedback, some officials were concerned that focusing on the negatives might not be good but I told them, “I have to do this because Cebu FC’s success is Cebu football’s success and Cebu FC’s failure is Cebu football’s failure.”
Noel got it as I met him at the parking area, “Maka-tagam man ni.” By the way, while Altinoz made history by scoring the first home goal, Noel also made his own mark by being the first to tailgate party.
Ugur Tasci is a trailblazer in Philippine football. He has done what no one else has done. We all want him and the club to succeed. But a lot of adjustments will be needed for future home games of Cebu FC. Let’s hope the club is amenable to suggestions from insiders, outsiders, and those who know what they are doing.