BY BONG PEDRALVEZ
DON’T get discouraged and dragged down by the controversy. Instead, focus on the task at hand.
This was the advice given by national team veterans Chieffy Caligdong and Ian Araneta to four of their teammates–Anton del Rosario, Simon Greatwich, Jason Sabio and Neil Etheridge–who, according to an unverified tabloid report last Monday, allegedly raped a woman inside the home of national team manager Dan Palami last month.
In a television report, the alleged rape victim, whose identity is under wraps, is not yet ready to be interviewed, according to her lawyer.
"Ang sabi namin sa kanila huwag papadala sa kontrobersiya na wala namang katotohan at mag-focus sa training sa importanteng laban sa Kuwait," said co-skipper Caligdong, referring to the Azkals’ Asian World Cup qualifying second round clash against the Kuwaitis on July 23 in Kuwait City.
"All-out ang suporta naming sa kanila sapagka’t alam namin ‘yung pinanggalingan ng balitang ito," added Caligdong, 29, who has been with the nationals since 2000. "Di kapani-paniwala ‘yung sinabi niya."
He was referring to German national Paul Weiler, who circulated reports on the internet through the social networking site Facebook and Twitter that Del Rosario, Greatwich, Sbio and Etheridge had allegedly sexually abused a female fan in Palami’s house in Ayala Alabang before the team left for training in Germany.
Weiler used to be based in Cebu and is passing himself off as a "PFF consultant."
According to Sun Star sports editor Mike Limpag, Weiler was considered something of a "crackpot" in Cebu’s football circles during his stay there.
Palami had denied the allegations, although he added "if these are true, it will not be tolerated."
He claimed that Weiler had tried to wangle a job with the national team when it trained in Germany but was turned down "so this (accusation) seems to be his way of getting back at us."
The Philippine Football Federation also issued a statement yesterday in support of the beleaguered booters.
"We will not entertain tabloid news and we will take the word of the players," PFF general secretary Chito Manuel quoted PFF Mariano Araneta as saying.
Ian Araneta, 29, like Caligdong a native of Barotac Nuevo, Iloilo, also dismissed the allegations, saying: "Di namin pinapansin ‘yan dahil kilala namin ‘yung pinanggalingan ng balita. Ang importante, ‘yung focus namin sa training para sa laban namin sa Kuwait."
Caligdong said this is not the time to be distracted because the Azkals are facing their biggest challenge yet against the Kuwaitis.
"Dapat lahat nagkakaisa at tama na ang paninira kasi napakalaking laban ito ng mga Azkals laban sa Kuwait," he said.
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