APOLOGY. The Philippine Southeast Asian Games Organization Committee chair Alan Peter Cayetano shakes hands Myanmar coach Velizar Popov (left) as he expressed apology for the inconveniences encountered by the football teams on Sunday (Nov. 26, 2019). The House Speaker promised that the Philippine hosting will be great and meaningful for everyone. (SEA Games photo)

MANILA -- For the football coaches of the 30th Southeast Asian Games, the inconveniences that their teams encountered upon their arrival in the country actually happen in an event involving thousands of people.

“It wasn’t ideal… but things happen. It’s time to move on and just focus on the soccer,” Cambodia head coach Felix Dalmas said.

For his part, Myanmar coach Velizar Popov belittled the problem they encountered upon their arrival in the country but expresses hope that everything will be better.

“That’s small issue for me. It is not a big deal and I don’t want to talk more about it because it is not the main thing in this tournament,” Popov said in a media interview.

The football teams of Cambodia, Myanmar and Timor-Leste reportedly waited for hours for the shuttle buses to pick them up from the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) to the respective hotels.

The Philippine Southeast Asian Games Organization Committee (Phisgoc) has ‘sincerely’ apologized for the inconvenience and confusion regarding the football teams’ transportation and hotel arrangements.

The confusion with the Timor-Leste football team happened when some of their members were initially brought to the Century Park Hotel along with the rest of the team, according to Phisgoc.

“However, the Timor-Leste coordinator pointed out that some were actually billeted at the nearby Hotel Jen. Phisgoc was able to arrange the delegates’ shuttle to the other hotel,” it added.

The Century Park Hotel also issued a statement to explain that details of the change in the arrival of the football team were related late to the organizers.

Despite the sudden change, they were immediately transported to the Century Park Hotel, but the team’s hotel rooms were not yet available because the standard check-in time was 2 p.m.

“However, as early as 8:25 a.m., some members were given an early check-in due to availability of rooms,” the hotel added in its statement on Sunday.

The team was even offered the hotel’s function rooms as their temporary holding area after their breakfast, and they were asked if they needed more chairs.

The team, however, declined, saying they preferred to use the floors so they could lie down instead.

Phisgoc chair Alan Peter Cayetano personally visited the affected foreign athletes to express his apology on Sunday night.

Cayetano, also House Speaker, assured that “the Philippine hosting will be great and meaningful for everyone."

In previous days, after all, the 75 international arrivals of SEA Games participants that include technical officials and representatives of the respective National Olympic Committees went ahead without any hitch. The bulk of the 75 arrived at NAIA, while five arrived at the Clark International Airport.

Amid problems, many on social media have called on fellow Filipinos to throw their support to the hosting of the SEA Games instead of blowing up the issues which have immediately been resolved.

Even 1-PacMan Rep. Mikee Romero, a SEA Games participant, has defended the organizers and hotels from the uncalled-for criticisms against them.

He said people should point at the delay in the passage of the budget for the conduct of the sporting event if they were looking for someone to blame.

"Unfortunately, the Senate had a lot of problems and na-delay ng five to six months yung budget. Lahat ‘to was caused by that delay (the budget was delayed by five to six months. This was caused by that delay),” said Romero, a member of the Philippines polo team.

“If they have approved it and the budget was already available last January, all these mishaps might not have happened,” he added.

In any case, SEA Games organizers have already vowed to do better, urging the public to stop bickering for the country’s sake and for the success of the SEA Games which the Philippines will host for the fourth time from November 30 to December 11.

The football competition has actually started on Monday with the Group A opening match between Malaysia and Myanmar ending to a 1-all standoff while Vietnam got off to a sizzling start in Group B in swamping Brunei, 6-0.

In the other Group A match, Dennis Chung came off the bench to lift the Philippines to a face-saving 1-all draw against Cambodia.

With the hopes of the Junior Azkals fading away, Chung, who subbed for Dylan de Bruycker in the 88th minute, struck the tying goal in the 93rd, much to the delight and relief of the 2,980 hometown fans who trooped at the newly-renovated Rizal Memorial Stadium.

In women’s play, the Malditas were scheduled to play Myanmar last night (Tuesday) at the Biñan Stadium following the game between defending women’s champion Vietnam and Thailand. (PR)