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The PFF Presidential Election Series (Part 1): What makes a great Philippine Football Federation President?

It’s that time again that leaders of the football associations of the Philippines convene together and elect the president who will steer Philippine Football to greater heights and this year’s drama couldn’t be better.

The future of Philippine Football will be in the hands of the leaders of several football associations in the country on the 29th of November as they will be putting in their votes for their favoured candidate.

This year, two friends will be going at each other’s throat for the seat of power. It will be the incumbent Philippine Football President Mariano “Nonong Araneta, going up against the President of the Negros Occidental Football Association, Ricky Yanson. In this opinion article, we’ll be looking into who deserves the seat more.

For what it’s worth, we the fans, could impact the decision of the FA leaders as to how we see both candidates and what we think about them. So without further ado, let’s get to it!

1) A great leader must have a long-term plan for Philippine Football

Putting this as the most important point of the article, we tackle what these two have done for the betterment of the sport in the country. This might involve their track record and involvement in grassroots football over the last nine years since the resurrection of Philippine Football scene.

Looking on what the incumbent president has done over the last nine years of service, numbers don’t lie as the PFF has already produced quality coaches through its coaching certification which gives the coaches the badges they need in order to conduct football clinics, organized football academies as well as to join several tournaments.

Also, for those who were asking, the PFF might not have a lot of tournaments under their name or under their direct supervision but all tournaments or football festival in the country should undergo some type of clearance from the federation itself.

They can either get it from their local/regional FA. How else would you think the games get their referees that underwent training and courses with the PFF, FIFA and AFC?

Using his opponent’s famous NOFA Cup as an example, the referees that they had in that tournament were FIFA certified referees and are also doing their stint with the Philippines Football League.

If we list here all the things the PFF has done for the improvement of the sport in the country, one article wouldn’t be enough. Why? Because it is the federation’s job to work on the grassroots program for the future Azkals or members of the Philippine Women’s National Football Team. The only question is, how do you, fans, rate the success the PFF has had over the last nine years under Nonong’s reign?

On the other hand, Ricky’s cause is spearheaded by his program called #FootballParaSaLahat. This indicates the involvement of everyone in the beautiful game.

This writer personally experienced how good NOFA handles their grassroots competition. From the 2019 Allianz National Youth Futsal Invitational-Visayas Leg to the 2019 NOFA Cup, we’ve seen how the organizers work tirelessly just to provide a vibrant atmosphere to the matches.

They also worked hand-in-hand with the people who brought the games closer to the ones away from Negros through Facebook live streaming which this writer got involved with as well just to make sure everything will go smoothly for everyone.

The Negros Occidental Football Association has done a lot of great things for the improvement of grassroots football in the region as well as in the country.

If you look into the number of players they produced and are now playing with the top clubs in the country, you’ll have a hard time to count them.

Just to point out some names that came out of that program, Tristan Kit Robles, a player who was born and raised on the other side of Western Visayas, has just scored in the finale of the 2019 Copa Paulino Alcantara to steer his club, Ceres-Negros FC to an amazing domestic cup-double.

Robles plied his trades with University of St. La Salle and was able to join Ceres FC when they were originally called Ceres-La Salle FC. Look where that program got him now.

Two contrasting accomplishments, who do you have as the winner for round one? We still have four more to come.

2) The main intention for running for the highest seat in Philippine Football Federation

Of course, another thing that is more important than their achievements is their real intentions on why they wanted to run for the presidency of the PFF.

We look first at the challenger, Ricky Yanson Jr. He announced late in September that he’ll be running for the PFF presidency with Nonong as his running mate.

He announced his candidacy before 15 leaders from Mindanao’s regional FAs in Seda Hotel in Davao as part of the launch of the 2019 Mindanao Cup where he said, ” Football is my passion. I would like to serve. I would like to ask for your support for my presidency of the Philippine Football Federation.”

By the looks of it, Yanson’s main propaganda is raising the level of grassroots football in the country, just like how they did with NOFA. Everything seems to be on course Yanson towards his bid for the highest seat of power in Philippine football until the tides have changed.

On the eve of the historic match between the Azkals and China, Nonong Araneta got the support of 25 of the 32 provincial football associations after he announced his desire for re-election on the 29th of November.

Regarding his intentions, Araneta said “There’s been unity in the last eight years. We have achieved a united organization and that’s what’s important to us right now to continue moving forward.”

Another thing that made Araneta run again for president is the possibility of having a rift amongst the federation and the country’s most successful club Ceres-Negros FC.

As we all know, Leo Rey Yanson, the owner of the three-time PFL champions and newly-crowned Copa Paulino Alcantara winners and Ricky Yanson, president of the Negros Occidental Football Association and candidate for PFF president, with his three other siblings are still dealing with an ongoing dispute about their bus company.

“I was thinking of not running anymore as I have served football for a long time but because of the circumstances right now, then I am forced to run again to protect football from infighting,” said Araneta.

On the other hand, Araneta’s opponent has this to say regarding the ongoing family feud.

3) A great President should have his agendas in place

We’ve already seen the intentions of both sides as to why they would like to go for the highest position in football administration in the country but what are their plans once they get there?

Starting off with Araneta, it’s all about sustainability and continuation of the ongoing programs of the federation. Over the last eight years of his reign, the Philippines have reached its highest FIFA Ranking of 111 and have qualified for the first time in the AFC Asian Cup.

The country has been recognized as well by the Asian Football Confederation for its grassroots program for the last three years. His administration had also made sure that the Philippines Football League will be up and running.

Before the league’s conclusion, Araneta proudly announced that they’ve sealed a sponsorship deal from Qatar Airways, known sponsor for huge clubs like FC Barcelona, AS Roma and Boca Juniors, for the next three years.

From this sponsorship, they will be able to get the funding that the league needs as well as to allow some allocation for the country’s grassroots program.

Most recently, Mr. Araneta has shown his intentions of conducting a national u-17 tournament if he will be re-elected as president. He’s confident enough that the injection of Qatar Airways’ sponsorship to the PFL can heavily impact his drive to conduct the said tournament.

“We have to keep the momentum going for Philippine football. Most of the PFF’s programs are already in place, including the Philippines Football League which is about to gain a new sponsor. More sponsorships will allow us to give more to grassroots as well.”

Araneta might’ve brought the national team and Philippine club football scene to greater heights but it was also at the expense of the youth programs. We’ve seen the age-group teams getting pummeled in some regional tournaments like the AFF U-16 and U-19 Championships.

Should Araneta gets re-elected, this should be on top of his priority list as this is where our future in the sport lies. Next comes the sustainability of the league and the continuous improvement of the country’s top-flight football league.

Now we move to the other side of the table. Yanson’s main agenda once he wins the election was to focus more on the grassroots program of the country.

“Sorry for the term, but napabayaan (neglected) ang grassroots,” said Yanson during his most recent appearance in the Philippine Sportswriters Association (PSA) Forum last Tuesday, 19th of November 2019.

He also said, “The PFF has not invested enough resources, to grow the game, especially in the regions. For a time, there was no regional football tournament that involved all the regional FAs in Mindanao. There was a ‘lag’ for a long time.”

He promised that if he’ll be lucky enough to win the presidency, he’ll make sure there will be a lot of time allotted for the said programs.

“Under a new administration, there will be deeper involvement by the football associations, in the plans and programs of the PFF,” said by Yanson.

He also said, ” We envision more age-group tournaments for boys and girls in the coming years… We intend to support this with more training programs for coaches, trainers, referees, and other match officials. And we will work for the construction of more football and futsal fields, to give our children opportunities to play more and better football.”

It sounds like a great agenda but it seems like we’re having a little disconnect here. Let it be known that Ricky Yanson is the current chairman of the PFF Grassroots committee since 2015 this is what his opponent, Nonong, has to say.

“If I trusted Ricky enough, I would not have ran for president again. We have programs for the grassroots, but it was not crafted by the committee that (Ricky) heads because he has not even called a single meeting for his committee.”

Now, should Yanson wants to change the landscape of Philippine grassroots football, he was already in the position to do so over the last four years yet we haven’t seen any movement from him to give the regional tournaments a boost not until his bid for the presidency.

Nevertheless, it will be a tall order for him to continue what Araneta has already contributed to the country’s football program be it of the grassroots or the national and club level.

So that wraps up our first part of the #PFFElectionSerye. In the next coming days, we will bring you the interviews that we will be having with both candidates.

We will squeeze the most out of them for our regional FA leaders to ponder on their votes this upcoming November 29 during the PFF Congress. We hope this would help them as well as to allow our fans to see what’s happening in the football administration in the country.

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions of this writer do not reflect the views and opinions of his colleague as well as this publication. Furthermore, research has been done and this writer consulted his reliable sources regarding some allegations/statements in this article.

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