The 12th Man

I finally got to watch a local football game again for two years and it was great to be reminded how different the Cebu crowd is. Color me biased but I’ve been to football matches in Manila, Bacolod, Cagayan, Dumaguete and Barotac Nuevo, and save for the crowd from the country’s football hotbed, the Cebu crowd stands out for not only being knowledgeable but for trying to get involved in the game.

The real 12th man.

12TH MAN. Some members of the crowd wait to be allowed to meet the players after CVFA’s 3-1 win over Kaya FC-Iloilo in the PFF U19 Visayas qualifiers. (Photo by Joycril Alcoseba of Lokality)

Take the Central Visayas Football Association vs. Kaya FC-Iloilo U19 match for example, the officials and the visiting team surely felt the presence of the crowd. I was with CVFA president Rodney Orale and marketing director Jose Guy Ceniza after the match and we talked about how the crowd showed its knowledge of the game by cheering not only the goal scoring chances but the great defensive moves or the nifty passes. I really love when a crowd appreciates great defensive play. It also reminds me of cringey moments when I was in a crowd that yelled basketball’s classic, “Defense! Defense!” cheer whenever the opposing team had the ball on the home team’s box.

Having seen the CCSC pitch in all conditions, from bald, to green, to pristine during the Azkals’ home matches to the usual wet and barely playable during the rainy season, you could also hear a vocal reaction whenever the visiting team’s passing play was interrupted by a puddle or a muddy section of the pitch.

We have to play here. They are so noisy and they react to the slightest things.

Thomas Dooley to Dan Palami after watching Global vs. Meralco at CCSC on Sept. 15, 2017

Some players and members of the coaching staff of the Cebu Football Club were there and I’m sure they could envision a crowd like that in their home matches. The Dynamic Herb football stadium can host as many as 500, and the crowd during the CVFA vs Kaya match was at least thrice that.

And mind you, all of them paid at least P15 to get in, those who brought their cars had to shell out an additional P20. I’m mentioning that because let’s face it, the previous reiteration of the PFL learned that paying to watch a football match was an alien experience for Pinoy fans.

In Cebu, I guess it helped that all Cebuanos know that whenever they have to go to the Cebu City Sports Center, they have to pay P15, P35 if they have a car. That practice translated to a nice surprise when Cebu finally had a team in the previous PFL and the then Cebu Football Association said the pricier P200 tickets, not the general admission seats, sold out first during Global Cebu’s home matches.

We also talked about that post-match and I could just imagine what a refreshing change it would be for this year’s PFL to telecast a match with such a home crowd.

CHALLENGE. The Cebu City Sports Center field, commonly referred as Abellana, is a challenge for those unfamiliar with its wet conditions. (Photo by Joycirl Alcoseba of Lokality)

But, a warning to the Cebu Football Club, the home crowd won’t hesitate to turn on you if they think you deserve it. Global Cebu learned this. I will never forget the date and the game, it was Nov. 28, 2017 against Ceres Negros. We were supposed to hold our SunStar Cup two days before that match and everyone in the crowd knew it. Two weeks before our event, the coordinator for Global Cebu asked that we canceled it, it was him and not the PFL who got in touch.

So we did. It wouldn’t be nice to have a field divided into four mini pitches for a PFL game. All the players, coaches and officials too had to revise their schedule because of the change. But our efforts weren’t rewarded as Global and Ceres, both assured of a semis spot by then, played it safe and instead of a match between rivals, the home crowd was treated to a glorified training session.

Late in the first half, when it was obvious that neither team would take any risk, a large section of the crowd started booing both teams and I joined in. We surely didn’t deserve that.

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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