Limpag: Take a bow, Cebu

Chosen as host for the Palarong Pambansa football bubble tournament due to a chance encounter close to two years ago, Cebu — thanks to the Central Visayas Football Association (CVFA) and the local Department of Education (DepEd) officials — has just successfully staged the four-day tournament, passing an initial test that might see Cebu host a bigger event come August.“From my point of view, the tournament was a success considering it was the first time for us to host a bubble. We followed all procedures and protocols and even though there were some tiny loopholes that we couldn’t control, we were able to make adjustments and solve those problems,” said DepEd Cebu sports coordinator Francis Ramirez.A few months ago, Ramirez told me the story of why Cebu was chosen. Rufino Arellano, the football tournament manager of the Palarong Pambansa, had to bring his granddaughter to Cebu for a medical procedure at the height of the pandemic. While in Cebu, he met Rodney Orale, the president of CVFA, and the idea to have a bubble tournament in Cebu was borne.Orale, too, shared the difficulties in preparing for the tournament and it’s a good thing the football community helped them and that’s despite Cebu going through the horrors of a Super Typhoon.What’s next for Cebu? The U19 Visayas eliminations in June.I hope some of the new partnerships formed for the Palaro bubble, especially between CVFA and Cebu City, will continue for the U19 tournament. I remember joining the CVFA delegation in a meeting with Cebu City Councilor Joel Garganera to solicit the city’s support.We spent more time laughing about stories about common friends than actually pitching for help because Joel readily said, “Wala’y problema, ato ning tabangan.” He even volunteered the use of the Cebu City buses for the event.Of course, aside from the organizers, all four participant teams deserve a thank you too. It’s not easy preparing for a tournament after two years of inactivity and with new protocols to be dealt with.Don Bosco Technical College Cebu Inc. added another trophy to its growing collection after winning the crown, while Sacred Heart School-Ateneo de Cebu, unsurprisingly, won the Fair Play award.A combined team from Ateneo and Labogon National High School also beat Team Cebu City in a girls’ match on the first day of the bubble. That was significant because as a demo event now, DepEd hopes to have girls’ football as a regular event in future Palaro.In previous Palaro, girls only have futsal and should the move to have girls football in the step-ladder tournament push through, I think we will have an exponential increase in the number of girl players starting in 2023, which is significant because that is also the year our women’s national team make its debut in the Fifa World Cup.