Chance encounter leads to massive break for Cebu football

(This is my Fair Play column for SunStar Cebu’s Feb. 14 edition.)

This week marks two years since sports events in Cebu had to be canceled because of the Covid-19 pandemic. I still remember the events that had to be canned two years ago, just weeks before the country went into the world’s longest lockdown.

There was the Thirsty Cup, traditionally held every February but initially moved to April 2020 before it had to be canceled outright. The Aboitiz Cup, the country’s biggest and longest-running 11-a-side tournament was in its knockout phase before things turned for the worse.

PANDEMIC BREAK. The Cebu City Sports Center football field months into the Covid pandemic. The most-used football venue in Cebu City has been unused for close to two years and was able to recover. It will be the proposed venue for the Palarong Pambansa Football Bubble Tournament.

Since then, we haven’t had a football event in Cebu. Though boxing and basketball, thanks to the Games and Amusement Board, were able to hold bubble events. School-based sports hasn’t made a comeback.

Until now.

The Central Visayas Regional Football Association (CVFA) has been tapped to host the Palarong Pambansa bubble tournament in April, a massive undertaking that could see the local football community take the first step in the resumption of school sports in the country.

This one started innocently enough though. Last year, one of the Department of Education (DepEd) officials in charge of the Palarong Pambansa was in Cebu for a medical emergency. He met with the regional FA head, Rodney Orale, and one discussion led to another until the idea for a football bubble was formed.

The CVFA and local DepEd officials have had a series of discussions last year but that, too, had to be canned.

“We didn’t expect Odette to hit us,” said Orale.

The super typhoon left massive damage and some areas in Cebu still have no power or mobile phone coverage. Already suffering from the pandemic, the hospitality industry took another massive blow from Odette.

But this bubble could provide a much-needed lifeline for some struggling to survive. Athletes and officials will be housed in hotels, with meals provided for them. The lucky hotels and caterers chosen to serve the participants will get the much-needed income.

Though already experts in organizing football tournaments, the first bubble tournament will be a challenge for the CVFA, much so that they’ll have to fund the accommodation and the antigen tests of the participants from Metro Cebu and Cebu Province. I hope the response from the LGUs will be positive as their help is very much needed in making this one a success.

The local football community is honored to be tapped as host of this event and we, the Central Visayas Regional Football Association, are asking everyone to help us make sure this will be a successful event.

Rodney Orale, CVFA president

Orale said that this will be used as a blueprint in the resumption of the Palarong Pambansa, so the stakes are very high. High school athletes have spent the last two years away from the action and this could open the door for them to return to competition.

Mike T. Limpag
Mike T. Limpag

Mike T. Limpag has covered the Cebu sports scene for over 20 years, starting as an 18-year-old cub reporter for the Freeman in 1997 before moving to SunStar Cebu in 2001.

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