Batuhan: Level playing field

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By Allan S. B. Batuhan

Foreign Exchange

Friday, August 1, 2014

DURING the last FIFA World Cup in Brazil, Filipinos were finally properly introduced to the game that has mesmerized and captivated the rest of the world for decades now, but has left the Philippines rather blissfully ignorant of its significance.

We, not unlike our former colonial masters, of course, are rather used to games where the ball is dribbled with the hands and shot through small overhanging hoops, rather than with the feet, to be kicked into large rectangular goals.

I remember during my years in absentia from the Philippines, how I would come home for extended vacations, love every minute of my stay here, but yet somehow long for the day I return to the UK, so I could watch my favorite Premier League teams play. Back then, you see, the country did not even feature the top football leagues in action.


All you could catch were the Lakers and the Bulls besting each other, but Manchester United and Real Madrid games were nowhere to be seen.

Then came the game-changer, in the shape of a famous personality by the name of David Beckham. Becks was probably not as great a player as his reputation suggests him to be, dare I say this, even as an ardent Manchester United supporter. But David’s star attraction was undeniable—his pulling power no doubt magnified by his union to equally famous Victoria Adams of the Spice Girls fame.

Today, of course, it is a different thing. We have our very own Philippine Azkals, who though not very good by world standards yet, certainly offer our maturing football aficionados something local to root for and admire. There is even a fledgling football league of sorts, though I doubt its players make even the fraction of what their countrymen in the PBA earn. But, it’s a start.

Elsewhere, it is big money.

Liverpool alone, one of the English Premier league’s marquee names, and certainly one of Europe’s and the world’s finest football teams, has done business in the magnitude that would rival the capital expenditure allocation of a Fortune 500 corporation.

After selling its star player Luis Suarez to Barcelona for close to $120 million, they then proceeded to acquire the services of the world’s top talents for just over the amount they got for their prized asset.

In fact, soccer has got so insanely over-the-top in money terms, all commercial logic has now seemed to go out the window. Enter the egotistical and megalomaniac oil sheiks and Russian oligarchs, and football has become the sporting equivalent of monopoly. Steve Ballmer—he of former Microsoft fame—may be in the process of acquiring the Los Angeles Clippers as his own plaything, but Russian oil billionaire Roman Abramovich, and Sheikh Mansour of Abu Dhabi have already had Chelsea and Manchester City as their real-life “Football Manager” teams for a while now.

All to the dismay of pure footballing fans – myself included – over the game’s bastardization. And why do I say this? Well, does anyone really fancy watching a high school basketball team get annihilated by the Miami Heat? Would real basketball fans enjoy this? And yet, this is what soccer has become, as teams funded by rich kids who never grew up types, now just buy up the world’s best players, and the rest of the competition be damned.

I say football should be run like a business, and totally support UEFA’s Financial Fair Play regulation to be strictly enforced. Briefly, the FFP rules ensure that teams spend only what their financial earnings allow in terms of what they can allot for player purchases. Meaning, their spoiled rich-kid owners cannot just dip into their personal pockets and buy up the other team’s best player the next time they beat their own.

No pun intended, but only through total enforcement of Financial Fair Play rules would the beautiful game be finally played, as it should be, on a level playing field.

Belated greetings to my beloved in-laws, Fernando and Linda Arguelles, who celebrated the happy occasion of their 55th wedding anniversary last Aug. 1 in Bacolod City. Long may your blissful union continue!

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Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on August 02, 2014.


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