SEA Games footballers from 4 countries get messy reception in Manila

Football players from Timor-Leste had to wait for three hours at the airport for their shuttle service when they arrived. When it did, the driver took them to the wrong hotel. PHOTO: ASEAN FOOTBALL NEWS/FACEBOOK

MANILA - National football teams from four countries received a messy reception after landing in Manila this weekend, prompting red-faced organisers of the 30th South-east Asian Games to apologise on Sunday (Nov 24).

Football players from Timor-Leste had to wait for three hours at the airport when they arrived at 5am on Saturday.

When their shuttle service arrived, the driver took them to the wrong hotel.

Myanmar's under-22 football team also had to wait for hours at the airport.

They were then picked up by a bus that their online supporters commented looked small, cramped and worse than the trucks they had back home.

The delay also cost the players a day's practice.

Photos of members of Cambodia's team sleeping on the floor and on chairs at a hotel's conference room went viral on social media.

They apparently arrived at their hotel hours before their scheduled check-in on Friday and were told to wait.

It also took Thailand's football players hours to exit the airport due to problems with securing their IDs and the accreditation of their support staff.

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The players also had to cancel their practise session on Saturday because the organisers scheduled the venue 30km from where they were staying, which would take at least three hours to traverse, taking into consideration Manila's traffic.

They were told that the sports complex where the official football matches would be held starting on Monday was still being renovated.

Organisers had to issue an apology on Sunday.

"We sincerely apologise to our athlete guests from Timor-Leste, Myanmar and Cambodia for the inconvenience caused to them by the confusion regarding their transportation and hotel arrangements," the Philippine Sea Games Organising Committee (Phisgoc) said in a statement.

It said it acknowledges "our shortcomings in this particular incident and vow to do better".

Phisgoc said it had to attend to 34 arrivals of athletes and technical and sports officials on Friday, and 43 more on Saturday.

Most "have gone off without a hitch", it said.

But it added that the inconvenience that Myanmar and Cambodia's football players had to endure "remain a constant reminder for us as organisers to be more diligent".

President Rodrigo Duterte's spokesman Salvador Panelo also weighed in.

"Incidents in the delays in transport and checking-in at hotels happen in international sports and games by reason of the number of countries and athletes involved.

"We can no longer undo what has been done. The Office of the President will not offer any excuses," he said.

Mr Panelo said the Philippines was "not promising that the Games will run without a hitch".

"But we will exercise due diligence in making sure everyone will have a pleasant, productive and memorable stay in the Philippines," he said.

Philippine sports officials last week gave the assurance that everything would be set by the time the Games opens next Saturday, despite persistent reports of staff shortage, unfinished venues and technical glitches.

Phisgoc head Alan Peter Cayetano told reporters on Friday: "I can tell you, we are ready."

But he conceded that with more than 11,000 athletes and their staff, and 9,000 volunteers to manage, there would be "day-to-day crisis management, day-to-day problems".

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