CEBU CITY – The Cebu Football Association is set to hand out sanctions to spectators, officials, and players involved in a free-for-all that marred an Under-18 game between Sacred Heart School-Ateneo de Cebu and Alcoy FC on Sunday in the 16th Aboitiz Football Cup.
The Cebu FA said it is looking into the culpability of coaches and officials in the brawl that sparked widespead outrage online after pictures of an adult assaulting the Alco FC goalkeeper shared by Sun.Star Cebu went viral on social networking sites.
“It is most unfortunate that it happened. We fear some kids will lose interest in football because of this incident,” lawyer Julius Entise, the head of the investigation committee formed by the Cebu FA, said in a press conference held on Tuesday afternoon.
The CFA board was still meeting at posting time. The sanctions will be announced on Wednesday afternoon.
SHS-AdC athletic director Rico Navarro said they will respect whatever punishment will be given to their team amid a threat from Alco FC officials to file child abuse charges against the spectators who assaulted the teen players during the commotion.
At the same time, Entise's committee released its official findings, saying the brawl started in the 37th minute of the game after an SHS-AdC player reacted to a foul by an Alcoy FC rival by making a "provocative verbal gesture."
After the two were reprimanded by the referee, the Alcoy player then punched the SHS-AdC player, triggering the brawl only stopped when police and Aboitiz security personnel stepped in.
Curiously, sources with knowledge of the situation said the spectator that was caught on camera hitting the Alcoy FC goalkeeper was not the father of the SHS-AdC player that the he was wrestling with, contrary to popular belief on social media.
Entise said the Cebu FA is also looking to impose new security measures to avert a repeat of the incident, including a ban on non-team personnel from roaming the field and its vicinity during games.
“Certainly, there will be changes on how the tournaments will be done, not just for the Aboitiz Cup. The bigger responsibility ultimately lies in the coaches," he said. "We have to focus on character development and values formation, not just skills.”
“We are also looking into the culpability of the coaches and the officials. This opened our eyes to the fact that we cannot let people walk around at the venue. Only those with IDs can sit on the bench.”
The Cebu FA, Entise said, will also talk with the coaches and encourage them to talk to the parents of the football players and make them understand what their roles are especially during the game.