Football is officially back in Cebu

(This is my Fair Play column for SunStar Cebu’s March 7 edition)

At around this time two years ago, the local football community was starting to feel the effect of the Covid-19 pandemic. The Thirsty Cup was moved, the games of the Aboitiz Football Cup, Cebu’s longest-running 11-a-side tournament, were canceled.

Some of us, naively, hoped things would return to normal in just a few weeks and I even thought that the Thirsty Cup’s new schedule in April was doable.

Everything changed of course. What followed the initial lockdown was two years where a lifetime of changes seemed to have happened. Companies closed, some downsized and tragically, a lot of people lost their lives to the virus. But we’re back and I hope this is for good.

DEAL. CVFA president Rodney Orale (right) during the signing of the MOA with DepEd Palarong Pambansa director Joel Erestain for the staging of the Palarong Pambansa football bubble.

Two years and two months after the final whistle in the last football game in Cebu was blown, the sport is finally making a comeback, thanks to the Department of Education (DepEd) and the Central Visayas Regional Football Association (CVRFA). Rather, thanks to an accidental meeting between CVRFA president Rodney Orale and Rufino Arellano, the football tournament manager of the Palaro in 2021. He was here for his granddaughter’s check-up.

On March 4, DepEd sealed the deal and Cebu will host the Palarong Pambansa football bubble tournament. Why a bubble? Baby steps. We can’t just rush head on to doing the DepEd events pre Covid-19. So, a bubble it’s going to be.

CVRFA will need a lot of help to make this successful, and I’m glad the football community is stepping in. Cebu City is also chipping in, thanks to Councilor Joel Garganera. I was with CVRFA officials when they met him in his famous Panday Cafe and the offer to help was quicker than the time it took me to consume the coffee. I think we spent more time talking about the early days of Covid than convincing Councilor Garganera to help make this possible.

A sportsman who saw sports take a sideline in the past two years, Councilor Garganera knew the value of having the football bubble here.

The local football community has always been a vibrant one. This bubble, I hope will usher in the return of a busy football calendar—following health safety protocols of course. I hope to see the Thirsty Cup and the Aboitiz Cup back. Not just football, I hope to see the busy basketball scene come alive again and the local running events.

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