BLEACHERS BREW EST. MAY 2006

Someone asked me how my blog and newspaper column came to be titled "Bleachers Brew". It's like this, it's an amalgam of sorts of two things: The bleachers area in the stadium/arena where I used to sit when I would watch baseball, football, and basketball games and Miles Davis' great jazz album Bitches Brew. That's how it got culled together. I originally planned on calling it "The View from the Big Chair" that is a nod to Tears For Fear's second album, Songs from the Big Chair. So there.

Thursday, July 9, 2020

My All-Azkals Team 2010-2019



My All-Azkals Team 2010-2019

By Rick Olivares

 

I have keenly followed the fortunes and exploits of the Philippine Men’s Football National Team since 2004 and it has been a treat to see how the Azkals, as the nationals are nicknamed, have grown since.

 

That the Azkals have moved from #195 in the Fifa rankings to #111 in May of 2018 says a lot. That’s 84 spots they jumped ahead. And they do not look to stop there.

 

Having followed the team and served as media officer for eight years, here are my personal selections for the Azkals’ All-Decade squad plus the seven substitutes (named to a proper match day roster).

 

Take note that the numbers I cite – caps and goals -- are only from 2010-2019 including friendlies, and I also selected them for their impact.

 

Goalkeeper: Neil Etheridge. Manned the sticks for 59 matches.

 

Defenders: 

Simone Rota – 40 matches and scored 2 goals.

Juani Guirado – Shored up that defense post-2010. Played in 36 matches and scored one goal.

Amani Aguinaldo – Suited up for 38 matches. 

Daisuke Sato – 49 matches and gave the team speed up that left side. Scored three goals too.

 

Midfield 

James Younghusband – added some scoring sock from the midfield in addition to his slick passing. Scored 13 goals.

 

Stephan Schrock – The moment this Teutonic import hit the pitch, he made an impact. The fact that he is recognized as one of the best in Asia means something. Scored six thunderous goals for the country.

 

Chieffy Caligdong – Provided speed on the wings and scoring sock in which case he could score with either foot. He has scored some of the most dramatic goals in Azkals history. Knocked in 14 of his 16 goals in this decade.

 

Patrick Reichelt – Greased lightning as well on the flanks. One of those who came up after the 2010 Suzuki Cup and made his presence felt especially during the Suzuki Cup. And he still does to this day. Has 10 goals to his name to go with 61 caps. After Phil Younghusband, no other played has had more caps since 2010.

 

Forwards

Phil Younghusband – Easily the best to wear an Azkals jersey. So many highlights. From playing sick against Vietnam in 2010 where he scored the insurance goal to – there’s so much. Scored 49 international goals in this decade. The best ever.

 

Misagh Bahadoran – Exciting. Crafty. Damn good. He makes my list because he could play in the midfield or up front. Either way, he was a creative force. Has 56 caps and eight goals to his name during this span.

 

Reserves: Chris Greatwich, Roland Muller, Carli de Murga, Kevin Ingreso, Manny Ott, Iain Ramsay, and Angel Guirado.

 

Head coach: Thomas Dooley (18-11-13). Led the Philippines to a semis berth in the 2014 Suzuki Cup as well as to its first Asian Cup. However, his side in the 2016 Suzuki Cup did not get out of the group stages. Nevertheless, that is the best record by any Philippines head coach.

 

Tuesday, July 7, 2020

Accountability in Philippine regional football

Accountability in Philippine regional football

By Rick Olivares

 

One of the huge problems in Philippine sports is how many officials are entrenched on their perches. This is one country I know no matter how bad the charges of corruption, scandal, or ineptitude these officials still cling on to their positions as if it is their divine right. They use words like “for the good of the game”, “for the people or constituents”, or “for unity”. 

 

I have followed Philippine football for quite some time and have written about it – both in exhilarating manner or even bad when I have trumped out cases of corruption or exposes. There is good and bad, but the one that is sorely lacking is accountability.

 

All the more there should be checks and balances along the way.

 

Through the years, we have heard and learned about non-performing football associations. These are the regional organizations in charge of the game in their respective locales. They all have their leaders and charts and plans. When they put up an event, many request for budgets then submit a report that includes attendance, pictures, programs, and others.

 

In my opinion, each and every FA should be asked to submit a three-year plan – short and long term goals -- complete right down to the detail. They should receive marks from their constituents and from an independent body that will review everything. It is like in school, or at least when I was teaching where the students rate their professors. But more checks and balances should be in place. An independent review board consisting of non-federation personnel should also review everything at the end of the year. 

 

This way, people can keep tabs on what has been accomplished and what is not going well. It keeps people on their toes. And if they receive failing marks at the end of their term, they should not be allowed to run for re-election. Officials should provide leadership, counsel, and support and not hide behind positions or security of tenure. People should be reminded that they serve the game and its constituents and it is not the other way around.

 

Having said that, I would like to recommend that these regional officials be equipped with certain teachings. I think our national football officials should look into the NBA’s Rookie Transition Program. 

 

Yes, if you can learn from other sports, why not? 

 

The NBA’s Rookie Transition Program was put together by the NBA and the Players Association. It is a mandatory four-day interactive seminar where these kids are given crash courses in financial literacy, career development, media training, diversity and inclusion, league history, stress management, nutrition and hydration, and social media responsibilities.

 

Most local football officials are former players or coaches with lack of training in many of those aspects. They rely on the federation for funding and sundry. And that isn’t fair to the federation because there is a finite amount of money.

 

And you can see this across the board including clubs who think putting up a team is easy as 1-2-3. Yes, slap the sponsor’s logo on the kit and all is fine. Post the pictures on social media and tag some folks and that is fine. They do not know that it is even harder to find your space in the traffic-lined paths of cyberspace.

 

Hence, the need for such a program like the NBA’s Rookie Transition Program. And in the end, it should filter those who grow the game and those who cannot.

 

The proof should not only be in the number of tournaments or festivals. It should be in the quality of those programs as defined by the players who move up from the school system to the clubs and the various national teams. It should be in the quality of coaches and the quality of referees. It should be the growth of the game where one can tap into regional sponsors as opposed to national sponsors.

 

In my observation, many thought the money would pour right in after 2010. It did for some, but not for most. As it is, a lot of what came in was either disposable income or ad-spend. And the question is – where are those sponsors now? Some of those sponsors consider the budgets they invested in as expenses. And when you put it in that term, when it comes to belt tightening more so in this time of pandemic, you cut down on expenses.

 

I found it funny how some 12 years ago, a collegiate league official asked that they be cut some slack from criticism because they are only learning their running a league. And that smacked of incompetence and a startling lack of capability. The leagues have been around for decades and they are still trying to learn how to run it? Granted that some school officials move around after a few years and yet, it still is not an excuse. No wonder there are problems and controversies year after year. 

 

Much must be done for grassroots football for it to thrive. For the longest time, people did their own thing to survive or to grow the game. And when the game got popular, everyone held on to their turf and asked for more. 

 

The sport is at a crucial stage in my opinion. What is done at this point will tell how we fare in the future. It is funny how some people pray for another “Miracle of Hanoi” to give the sport another shot in the arm. I guess what people forget is you don’t just pray for it; you work for it.

 


Sunday, July 5, 2020

A Reflection on Philippine Football

A Reflection on Philippine Football

By Rick Olivares

 

The dissolution of Ceres Football Club whether due to internal concerns and the ongoing pandemic should give Philippine Football officials pause to reflect on the state of the Beautiful Game in this country.

 

How many clubs have hung up their boots whether due to finances, unkept promises, a poor understanding of the importance of marketing, ill-equipped managers whose only credential was they were either a former player or coach, and a messy infrastructure? Add the Covid-19 pandemic to the situation and it sets football back farther than it was before the 2010 Suzuki Cup of which we are celebrating its 10th anniversary.

 

So in the last three years, we’ve seen the Loyola Meralco Sparks, Green Archers United, JP Voltes Marikina, Davao Aguilas, Mendiola, Philippine Air Force, and now Ceres in various states whether they folded up or are on hiatus.

 

That is a tragedy. 

 

When the 2011 UFL Cup kicked off in October of that year, there were 26 participating clubs. Twenty-six. Granted most of them were operating with not much opex or capex and hence, weren’t very good, but still… 26?

 

Grassroots and club football will ensure the survival and growth of the game in this country and not entirely the national team’s fortunes. You cannot keep getting Filipinos born overseas because you will have to compete with their club duties. 

 

When the UFL received all that money from TV5 during its landmark (some may even say foolhardy) deal in 2011, I recall asking officially and professionally, “How can some of that money trickle down to the smaller clubs?” You need to make the league competitive and not leave its fate to a handful of rich clubs who were using disposable income to fund their operations. A healthy and competitive league will bring in more fans and corporate support. 

 

I recall how I also wrote about exploring a draft system to ensure that national players as well as top collegians were distributed equitably somewhere down the line. 

 

But no. What happened then was an arms race. Ceres, well, when you have all these national players on your roster, you are going to win. They picked up the baton from Global, the previous domestic club power. 

 

Who was left behind? Perhaps more prominently… the military teams. Long the bastion of club football and the national teams, they were left out in the cold. 

 

Previously, if one wanted to continue their football career, they went into the military. That option wasn’t there following the events of 2010. The military was solely now a profession. Philippine Air Force’s thrilling UFL Cup title win over Loyola in 2011? That was the last hurrah of the military squads. After that, they were seen as roughhousing nuisances who did not adapt to the modern club game.

 

The UFL – aside from the national team -- that was the beneficiary of the success of the Suzuki Cup, was popular. But it was killed off in favor of the Philippines Football League. 

 

Am not saying the PFL was bad. It is good, but I thought to myself then as it was being put up… why was the process being rushed? Regional competition is fantastic. But haven’t they learned anything from the Metropolitan Basketball Association and the Maharlika Pilipinas Basketball League?

 

That scene from the film Falling Down (starring Michael Douglas) comes to mind where a man says – before being taken away by the police – that he is not economically viable. Economically viable. Chew on that.

 

I can postulate so many other theories here but I am not here to bury people. Why are we trying to fast track the process? But then again, what is the process? Can someone show it to me in some form? Is there even a plan?

 

During this pandemic, there remain opportunities to do something for the game. With the rise of applications such as Facetime, Messenger, and Zoom, one can still conduct a form of training and conditioning. Or even coaching clinics, or even discussions on how to push the game during this pandemic or post-pandemic.

 

As it is, it is back to doing what one can. To survive. The fiefdoms that have been so prevalent in Philippine football have remained and have exacerbated in this situation. 

 

I remember when the late Chris Monfort was alive and working as the General Secretary of the Philippine Football Federation, he told me that all he needed was one or two month’s budget of one professional basketball team then he could put up as professional or even semi-pro football league in the country that will run for a year.  

 

I recall how during the early 2000s how club players were lucky if they received P500 for their practices. I am not suggesting we return to paying that amount to players. Inflation and a sustainable income need to be in place for youngsters to want to continue their football career.

 

I also recall how some success in the Gothia Cup gave rise to the theory that Filipinos can compete at younger age groups, but as they get older when they are forced to think about their education and their future careers, the game doesn’t receive as much focus; hence, a dip in skill, desire, or even ambition. 

 

Many have said that after the events that unfolded in Vietnam and Indonesia in 2010, the potential of football was in full color view for all Filipinos. Instead the game had back slid. 

 

Didn’t the NCAA say that there will be no football played the next season while there will be competitions for basketball and volleyball? That stings! Like the game isn’t that important. What signals does that send?

 

Volleyball has vaulted into the number two sport in terms of popularity and growth – right behind basketball. 

 

In the past seven months, in addition to clubs, the Younghusband brothers have retired. Their impact on the local game is massive. On par to the events of 2010. I lament the passing of Ceres (I am told that some other entity might pick up the franchise but not its current or previous owner/s). I also mourn for Loyola, GAU, the military teams, and the others. 

 

What is the legacy of 2010? To quote Azkals team manager Dan Palami in an insightful interview I conducted last Friday, it is the potential for the game in the Philippines.”

 

However, potential is also a dangerous word. If not realized, then it remains that way… potential. 

 

I am not here to bury people. I am here to lament and hope. Covid has given us time to reassess and reflect. Let’s make this time count. 

 

 

Saturday, July 4, 2020

Former Loyola Sparks players reminisce about landmark 2012 Singapore Cup



Former Loyola Sparks players reminisce about landmark 2012 Singapore Cup

By Rick Olivares

 

Last Thursday evening, July 2, former players from the Loyola Meralco Sparks reminisced about the landmark 2012 Singapore Cup in which they participated in.

 

According to former team president Randy Roxas, the Singapore Cup was the first time a Filipino club participated in any regional football tournament. 

 

The Sparks defeated Singapore squad Geylang United, 2-1, in the Round of 16, then outscored Myanmar side Kanbawza, 5-3 on aggregate in the quarterfinals, before bowing out in the semi-finals to eventual champion, Tampines Rovers, 5-0.

 

In attendance for the Zoom webcast were team captain Patrick Ozaeta, midfielders Jake Morallo and Anto Gonzales, defender Alex Elnar, goalkeeper Ref Cuaresma, and team manager Belay Fernando. Other players of note on that Sparks team include James and Phil Younghusband, Matt and Mark Hartmann, Simon Greatwich, PJ Fadrigalan, Jayson Cutamora, Roxy Dorlas, Davide Cortina, Park Min-Ho, Chad Gould, and Jang Jowon. The team was coached by Kim Chul-So, Vincent Santos, Gil Talavera, and Dang Cecilio. 

 

There was excitement across the team as they departed for the Singapore Cup upon the invitation of the S.League. “It was the first time for a lot of players,” shared Cuaresma of the tournament and the trip. “When we knew we were flying everyone got excited. We bought new boots.”

 

“It was a test of how our club would perform,” succinctly added Cuaresma. 

 

“Para siyang national team as we were representing the club and the Philippines,” added Ozaeta. “So we were raring to go and show what we can do in a tournament like this.”

 

It was also an opportunity for others on the bench to shine. Prior to the tournament, Morallo had not seen much playing time, but in this tournament, he scored a huge goal versus Kanbawza that helped the Sparks advance to the semi-finals.

 

For Alex Elnar, he shared a hilarious story that has been hitherto unknown to most. “My natural position is striker, but with Phil and James there, if I could get minutes, it would be about for minutes. So before the Singapore Cup, I told Master Kim, ‘I can play defense too.’ So when we got to Singapore, I was surprised to see myself in the starting eleven and at right back. I told Ref, ‘Don’t pass the ball to me. Just pass the ball to Roxy.’”

 

The club’s coach was the man they call, “Mr. Kim” who was in the process of making a name for himself as the FEU high school squad’s head coach and bagging UAAP titles. “He is very professional and has an old style of coaching where you stick to the basics and the small details. The timing that he implies to everyone is crucial. If you pass that ball a second too early you might not get that goal. You go early, you might not get that interception. But Master Kim was a professional. Even in the heat in the Philippines or in Singapore, he would always wear a suit.”

 

Added Gonzales who went up against the Korean in the UAAP, “Master Kim focuses on the non-negotiables such as the work ethic. Everyone has to defend. There were times minsan hindi nagstart si Mark because Master Kim felt he wasn’t defending enough. And I appreciated that. He rarely adjusts to the opponent. He wants it the other way around. But there are moments when we cannot impose our style of play you have to adjust. He is a very caring person. Once you’re his player you will forever care and be there for you.”

 

“I couldn’t feel there was a barrier (in terms of the Korean being able to express himself,” ventured Ozaeta. “Very natural yung instructions and how he explains the drills. Very logical steps to get the slightest advantage against the opponent. When you’re defending against the striker, you have to look at the man and the ball and when he is ready to pass or kick, you lean to one side and get ready to pounce. If you do that, you have about a second for that spring in your step in going for the ball.”

 

Speaking of Master Kim, the Sparks’ Korean contingent saw some talented players. “Park Min-Ho and Jang Je-Won” are very talented,” observed Ozaeta. “They can play any position and are very reliable. Very easy going. I am happy to have played with them.”

 

It was Min-Ho’s goal in the 95th minute (during extra time) against Geylang United that allowed Loyola to advance to the next round. That was a resounding win as it was the first ever by a Philippine club in international club competition.

 

During that game, LMSFC battled not only the extreme humidity but also the hard-artificial turf. Many a player were left cramping. Furthermore, Matt Hartmann was not allowed to play as he was in the midst of a suspension levied on him by the Philippine Football Federation. And Italian midfielder Davide Cortina was still not yet back from injury.

 

And in a thrilling two-leg quarterfinals series where Loyola defeated KBZ, the Sparks moved on to the semis where the Tampines Rovers of Aleksandar Duric and Noh Alam Shah awaited them. Loyola was bounced in a highly physical two-leg series, 5-0, with the wheels finally coming off in a 4-nil loss to Gombak United for third place.

 

The Sparks finished the 2012 Singapore Cup with a 2-3 record finishing fourth in a field of 16 and they brought home Singapore $10,000 (roughly P356,000). The Sparks packed the Jalan Besar Stadium drawing more fans than away and local clubs (Kanbawza had a sizeable audience too).

 

The impact of the Sparks’ involvement? By the next year, Global FC participated. And later other clubs like Kaya and Ceres began venturing outside taking up the cause for Philippine football and country.

 

As for the players, the takeaways go deeper.

 

“It’s like a family (the Sparks),” said Morallo. “How many years ako sa Meralco? Ang daming experiences and memorable games. Sa Singapore Cup, doon ko na-feel na kaya natin makipagsabayan.”

 

“The Sparks will never leave my heart as they helped boost my career,” offered Cuaresma. “The experience knowing we were the first team to play abroad and me being on top of my game at that time made it really fun. It was an honor for me. If I didn’t play for the Sparks in the semi-finals, my future wife would have not seen me.”

 

For her part, acting team manager Belay Fernando gave tribute to the true roots to the squad that was a merger between Loyola Agila and San Beda FC. She also underscored the closeness everyone developed over years of participating in the Singapore Cup.  “When I look at any of these guys, it’s not just good times, but am blessed a lot of these guys are really good friends to this day. There is a big hug when everyone sees each other to this day. And like it provided a good opportunity not only with Meralco but later with Ceres.”

 

Summed up Elnar, “Masaya ako kasi nag-start ako from Loyola Agila with Coach Ompong Merida and Carlo Rodriguez hanggang sa Loyola Meralco na palaki ng palaki yung family. At naging coach ko si Master Kim at nagtuloy tuloy ang career ko. Hanggang ngayon may nagtatanong, ‘Uy kumusta ang Meralco?’”

 

For me, the Singapore Cup gave me the realization na kaya natin makipagsabayan sa ibang teams sa region,” said Ozaeta.  I am proud to be a part of this team and to have played with these guys.”

 

“My main takeaway is the bond we established, closed Gonzales. “In Manila, we do not get to spend time together. In this time (collectively for almost a month in Singapore), we got to know each other better. We’ve establish life-long friendships. Magagandang memories from the management down to teammates everything was in place. Like Jake said, it felt like a big family. When I moved to Meralco, I felt the warm welcome.”

 

 

 

Wednesday, July 1, 2020

Klopp’s Liverpool blueprint can be traced to his first press conference



Klopp’s Liverpool blueprint can be traced to his first press conference

By Rick Olivares

 

Is Jurgen Klopp a prophet?

 

The blueprint for Klopp’s success with Liverpool Football Club can be traced to his very first press conference for the Mersey-side club on the 9th of October 2015.

 

The 53-year-old German completed the arduous task of bringing home the storied football team’s first premier League title and 19th domestic league championship; a wait that took 30 years. And this is in addition to the other three pieces of silverware he has won – the 2019 UEFA Champions League, the UEFA Super Cup, the FIFA Club World Cup, and now the Premier League.

 

And here are some quotes that foreshadowed all his efforts for Liverpool dating back from that first presser.

 

“The most important is development. And it is a good moment for a re-start. It is only important we only play our own game.”

 

That refers to the pace-changing tactical innovations brought by Klopp to Liverpool.

Among the tactical innovations Klopp brought into Liverpool was the development of previous underwhelming players into world-class players.

 

Mohammad Salah scored 15 goals for AS Roma but 32 in his first year with Liverpool.

Sadio Mane managed 11 with Southampton and doubled it to 22 in his first year in Anfield.  

In his first two years, we saw some of the game Klopp introduced to Dortmund with its gegenpressing. But they still coughed up a lot of goals and were vulnerable to set pieces.

 

Playing a 4-3-3 with high-pressing and attacking wing backs.

 

In Dortmund, Klopp used a 4-2-3-1 formation on offense and during his first year at Liverpool.

 

On defense, he played 4-1-4-1.

 

He had players playing from box-to-box like Gini Wijnaldum, Jordan Henderson, and James Milner.

 

He utilized Roberto Firmino in a way where he could play alongside Mane and Salah on top or drop deep where his 1v1 skills allowed his to beat the press and slip balls through for Mane or Salah.

 

He found the right chemistry as Dejan Lovren played well alongside Virgil Van Dijk with Trent Alexander-Arnold and Andy Robertson playing exceptional roles as attacking wingbacks. Their ability to bring up the ball and feed teammates with their destructive crosses gave Liverpool a frightening attack.

 

Klopp infused a lot of speed, flexibility into his players that allowed them to start the attack or even finish it off or defend higher and use their speed to track back.

 

He unveiled his ideas as manager at Mainz. Improved it while at Borussia Dortmund then perfected it in Liverpool.

 

He recruited players and brought up academy players who complemented the first team.

The sale of Philippe Coutinho brought in goalkeeper Allison Becker from AS Roma and Virgil Van Dijk from Southampton. Their addition transformed the team and they now had dependable players in both goal and central defense. They picked up Robertson from a relegated Hull squad and brought up Alexander-Arnold from the Academy. 

 

Klopp made full use of his academy players as he brought up Curtis Jones, Neco Williams, and Rhian Brewster who have impressed as well. 

 

“If somebody wants to help LFC they have to change from doubter to believer.”

There was the match against West Brom in 2018 where Liverpool equalized very late in the game for a 2-2 draw. After the match, he brought the team over to the Kop and saluted the fans. It was a gesture that many did not understand and the German was roundly criticized for that. Said Klopp after, “In football, people always say it – that supporters are important – but then you don’t treat them like that so you have to make sure it’s really a healthy relationship. We know without them we wouldn’t play on our highest level, no chance. You have to appreciate that and it’s very easy for me, but it’s still very different routines in England and in Germany.”

 

“There was a big misunderstanding against West Brom. I wanted to say thank you to the supporters after that game so I took my team towards the Kop to do it and there was a discussion everywhere about it. For me, it was ‘why should we even discuss that? But I had to learn that English people are not used to that kind of thing.”

 

And after the loss to Real Madrid in the Champions League, he joined some Liverpool fans in singing about doing it and winning it again. At this time, people were wondering if Klopp was indeed the Man who could get them over the hump. He was now 0-3 in title competitions for Liverpool.

 

Well, Liverpool did win the Champions League the next season. And after falling short by one point to Manchester City in the 2018-19 Premier League season, they won it now to go with the UEFA Super Cup and the FIFA Club World Cup 

 

Said Klopp in 2015, “Twenty-five years ago is a long time and the people try to get better and improve and take the next title.  Let’s try to start a new way. This is the perfect moment to do this because now everything is new. Try to start very emotional football. This is important for Anfield. We have to do together. We have to feel together.” 

 

“I need the other people to get perfect information.”

Jurgen mentioned this in his introductory presser. Aside from the usual coaches, Klopp has brought in specialists who have made a huge impact in Liverpool’s fortunes.

 

Klopp has hailed Liverpool’s head of nutrition Mona Nemmer as his only world-class signing in July of 2016. And true enough, the improved food and diet has helped the players from the club burst out of the gates and perform the demands that Klopp’s game requires. 

 

Nemmer began her work with Germany’s Under-21 squads before she was brought into Bayern Munich. After Pep Guardiola left Bayern for Man City, Liverpool poached her away.

 

However, it isn’t only Nemmer who has made an impact off the field. There is strength and conditioning coach Andreas Kornmayer who has really whipped the team into superb shape as well. 

 

And there is Ian Graham who crunches data for Liverpool’s coaches to chew on. And they even have a throw-in coach Thomas Gronnemark. And quite remarkably, Liverpool has gone from the Premier League’s third-worst throw-in-retain-possession rate to the best. 

 

“If I sit here in four years, we won title in this time. if not, the next one, maybe Switzerland.”

This one elicited a laugh from the assembly of reporters during that first press conference. Klopp won the Champions League in his fourth year then added the UEFA Super Cup, the FIFA Club World Cup, and the much-coveted Premier League title in his fifth year. The man is now a legend.

 

And that brings us to his last quote.

 

“When I left Dortmund, my last sentence maybe were, ‘It is not so important what people think when you come in. It is much more important what people think when you leave.’”

 

The man is a hero and while he dismissed the idea of a statue outside Anfield Stadium, for sure, one will be erected. Furthermore, you bet every club with the money to burn will try and poach him after 2022 when his contract with Liverpool expires. 

 

Friday, June 26, 2020

Reflecting on Liverpool's Premier League title after 30 years



I am in tears as I write this.

 

It’s 30 years of hope in my heart that has been fulfilled and I am sure for the other millions out there. It’s 30 years I had to take stick from fans of other clubs about never winning it again and only re-living past glory. 

 

Even after all this time, I cannot get my head wrapped around the fact the Liverpool are finally English champions once more. Exactly 30 years after their last. We’ve had so many false starts and good runs only to come grinding to a halt and extending the agonizing wait.

 

I woke up, saw the news, and tears began to stream my face. Someone asked, “Why are you crying?”

 

I guess some people will never understand.

 

I am crying for joy. For that Jurgen Klopp came over to Liverpool and revitalized the club. I am crying for the players who nearly won it the previous year and had to go out and not only do it again, but in smashing style and panache that has set them apart from their competition. They did so too in the Champions League.

 

I am crying for the players who didn’t win it. I began watching the club in 1979 but can only say that I followed them in earnest when Robbie Fowler suited up. I am crying for Steven Gerrard who came so close but slipped up. I am crying for Gerard Houliier, Rafa Benitez, and Brendan Rogers who gave us so many great moments and won some silverware, but not the Premier League. I think of Luis Suarez who wept when the title slipped away. I think of my friend in Liverpool, Jeff Goulding, a lifelong fan who has written books about his favorite club (and yes, I have them). 

 

I am crying because even if I am thousands of miles away, I did what I could for the club – organizing the sympathy run for the 96 who lost their lives in the Hillsborough Disaster with a run in the UP oval, helping make the new kits available to Filipino fans, traveling to England to watch the team and interview the coaches and the players. It is an honor to write for This Is Anfield; in fact, am the only non-English writer in a staff of Liverpudians.

 

I am crying because… this is probably the best feeling in the world… of being champions.

 

My first year with my new company meant I could have availed of leaves come the first week of May. I planned on booking a flight to Liverpool in the last week or so of the season; just around the time there would be that parade around the city that I have visited on several occasions and have to come to love. The pandemic ended any hope of being a part of an historic parade and celebration.

 

At least there is still the championship to enjoy and savor for a lifetime.

 

Let me wipe now these tears of joy and smile that toothy grin just like St. Jurgen.

 

YNWA.

 

We are Liverpool. This means more.

 

 

Sunday, May 17, 2020

My NINE favorite kicks!



Lemme start something different. Show your NINE favorite kicks. Kicks that you bought and wore and aren't on some wish list. Stuff you actually had.
These are my NINE absolute favorites that I had.
Asics Gel Lyte III that I bought in Kuwait with Azkals player Yannick Tuason, the walang kamatayang Adidas Pro Model, Uptempo Pippen that I bought at Footlocker, Nike Air Presto black and white, Kobe Bryant Huarache at a Nike Store in TST, Kowloon, Air Jordan I blue that we got in Hong Kong, Reebok Ex-O-Fit that I also got in Hong Kong, K-Swiss Classic, Air Jordan XI that I bought here in Manila 
The Pippen Uptempo is a super fave of mine and I must have bought it three times through the years. K-Swiss, of course. I must have owned four pairs. I remember when Kevin Anderson was wearing KSwiss kicks in the film Sleeping With the Enemy (starring Julia Roberts) that was so awesome. The original blue and black Huarache was a favorite but the Kobe version was awesome.

Monday, April 13, 2020

Dissecting the 1990s Chicago Bulls Part 1

Dissecting the 1990s Chicago Bulls
By Rick Olivares

By April 20, The Last Dance, the 10-episode documentary of the Chicago Bulls’ 1997-98 season will be on Netflix for all to watch.

During this lockdown, I took the time to watch all seven documentaries of the Chicago Bulls (the six championships and the 1988 video, Higher Ground) and all 35 games they played in the NBA Finals of the 1990s. That took me a little over three days to finish. After that, my brain was mush. 

It did, however, refresh my memory, validate some notions, and dispelled others.

Let me share a few of them.

Who needs rivals when the NBA was littered with stars and legends?
It was said that the Bulls had no true rival in the way the 1980s Boston Celtics were defined by their Los Angeles Lakers counterparts and vice versa. I beg to disagree. The Eastern Conference was the best in the NBA at that time. It wasn’t until the new millennium that we saw the balance of power shift to the West.

From 1947-1998, the East won 32 times while the West took home the Larry O’Brien trophy 21 times.

Since the new millennium, its reversed. The West has won 13 while the East bagged the trophy seven times.

The Bulls’ nemesis included the Cleveland Cavaliers (helped by Magic Johnson anointing them as the “team of the future” in the 1990s), the Detroit Pistons, the New York Knicks, and the Miami Heat. 

When the Lakers won five NBA titles in the 80s, they defeated Boston twice, Philadelphia twice, and Detroit once.

The Bulls went through some very good teams beating the Lakers in 1991, the Portland Trailblazers in 1992, and the Phoenix Suns in 1993. The took two years off before taking down the Seattle Supersonics in 1996 and the Utah Jazz twice from 1997-98. Five opponents. They defeated all challengers that had Hall of Famers and Dream Team members.

The Lakers had Magic Johnson, James Worthy, and Vlade Divac. Portland had Clyde Drexler while the Suns had Charles Barkley. Seattle had Gary Payton while the Utah Jazz had the duo of John Stockton and Karl Malone.

Of the coaches they faced in the Finals, Utah’s Jerry Sloan made it to the Basketball Hall of Fame as a coach (not as a player for the Bulls). If you want to include the play-offs during Chicago’s 90s dominance, you can add Detroit’s Chuck Daly, Cleveland’s Lenny Wilkens, New York’s and Miami’s Pat Riley as Hall of Fame coaches.

The Bulls got huge contributions from draft day picks and trades.
In the 1980s, the acquisition of the Boston Celtics of former Los Angeles Clipper and Portland great Bill Walton propelled them to the 1986 title. The next year, the Lakers countered by grabbing Portland star Mychal Thompson who was an integral part of back to back titles from 1987-88. When Detroit won it in 1988-89, they tabbed the Dallas Mavericks’ Mark Aguirre. 

The Bulls built the first three-peat team with draft picks and draft day trades.

Their draft picks included Michael Jordan, Horace Grant, BJ Armstrong, Stacey King, Will Perdue, and Scott Williams. Scottie Pippen arrived on a draft day trade. 

The second three-peat wave saw draft picks Toni Kukoc, Jason Caffey, Dickie Simpkins, and Jack Haley join Jordan and Pippen as players acquired through the draft. Of course, the second wave saw key free agents like Dennis Rodman, Luc Longley, Ron Harper, Steve Kerr, Randy Brown, and Jud Buechler come in.

In contrast, the Lakers’ draftees included Johnson, Worthy, Norm Nixon, Michael Cooper, and AC Green. Byron Scott arrived on a draft day trade. Nixon was there for the first two titles before he was traded. 

Boston’s draftees included Larry Bird, Kevin McHale, Cedric Maxwell, Danny Ainge, Greg Kite, and Sam Vincent.

The 2017-18 NBA champions Golden State Warriors had only two players come up via the draft in Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, and Draymond Green.

This is of course not to put down trades or free agent acquisitions that are vital to any ball club’s success. But knowing whom to select through the draft pays off without initially having to pay big bucks. The Warriors’ trio of Curry, Thompson, and Green have been huge selections for G-State that has seen them massively successful in recent years.

Rodman should have been the 1996 NBA Finals MVP.
I thought Dennis Rodman should have been the 1996 NBA Finals Most Valuable Player.
Preposterous? Not really. The Finals MVP has no particular criteria. It depends on the votes of 11 designated members of the NBA media.

We all know Jordan was awarded the trophy. In my opinion, Rodman should have at the very least been given co-MVP awardee. The least, okay? He could have been named so.

Here’s why.



Player
Points
Rebounds
Assists
FG%
Steals
Jordan
27.3
5.3
4.2
.415#
1.7
Rodman
7.5
14.7
2.5
.486%
0.8

Of the Bulls’ four wins, here is how we break it down.

Player
Game 1
Game 2
Game 3
Game 6
Jordan
28 points, 7 rebounds, 2 assists, 1 block

36 points, 3 rebounds, 5 assists, 2 steals

Rodman

10 points & 20 rebounds

9 points, 19 rebounds, 5 assists, 3 steals, 1 block

Rodman won two games for the Bulls and his contributions were significant especially during crunch time. The Supersonics themselves from head coach George Karl to Hersey Hawkins and David Wingate pointed out to media that Rodman was the MVP of the series. 

So that is why at the very least, Rodman should have been co-MVP.

Monday, April 6, 2020

Reflections during this Lockdown

Reflections during this Lockdown
By Rick Olivares

When this lockdown, this pandemic is all done, I know it will change the way we live. It will change our world forever. Now, hopefully, for the better.

We have seen how much of the world is not prepared to handle a pandemic like this. Even China, Hong Kong, Korea, Singapore, and Japan, that have been previously hit by certain viruses have still been knocked for a loop. 

Does this change the way we look at healthcare and public health? Does this teach the Filipino patience as well as the unknown art of queueing? Does this make us take a long hard look at how we earn and save money and what we buy in the future? Does this change our rules about travel? When I was a youngster, I recall that you have to take certain shots before you went abroad. Furthermore, will the manner of how our food is handled and eaten (especially in China) change? 

The last time I felt like our world has been rocked and tilted off its axis was 9-11 and I was living in New York back then. To date, the horrific terrorist attack on the United States has had an effect on our world from how we take to air travel, how we view Muslims, how we handle our security, and how geopolitics is played to name a few.

To be honest… this pandemic – we are sailing into unchartered waters. Some say the Philippine economy was doing well; others, not. Some say that how we are dealing with pandemic is bad; others say it is better than other countries. Whatever the answer to both, I think it is immaterial. We are in the middle of the great unknown and sailing into a sea of uncertainty with guarded optimism while expecting the worst.

In the last several years, I would joke at home about stocking up in the event of a zombie apocalypse. No doubt, the result of an imagination gone wild after watching one too many episodes of The Walking Dead and films such as 28 Days Later and Z Nation.

My late grandfather – whenever someone would open, say, a can of corn beef -- would go out and buy two. He never allowed their stocks of food and canned goods to be depleted. Saving for a rainy and difficult day, he once told me. I thought it was hilarious and a tad ridiculous. And yet, decades later, I find myself during this time of lockdown – not to mention this bizarre fear of a zombie apocalypse – constantly replacing our stock.

I figure the lockdown will be extended for another two weeks. I think our economy can still take that hit, but for how long? If it extends even further, there will be bigger damage. I can only surmise what the effect on employment will be. I myself am scared I could lose my job. What more the graduates of a shortened school year? What can they look forward to with an economy that has taken a battering? 

We have seen a capacity to help on a large scale. And I think it is good. But is there a scarcity of food? Feeding the poor is one thing, but are there enough people going to work to produce food and even raise and grow them? The balance has been upset after all. I have seen reports about importing rice as a back-up. It is well and good, but that sends signs that we are reaching a certain threshold of tolerance. 

It’s funny how I ruminate while lying down in bed – with a hearty laugh I must add – that the biggest winners of the lockdown are not only the front liners who will be replaced by many a younger generation who will see the profession as something more than noble – but also Netflix, YouTube, Zoom, cable television, Facebook and social media. Humor during a dark time. It is a coping mechanism.

In reality, this sends a signal to the human race. Not since World War II has the entire world been affected by an event of this magnitude. Yes, the Cold War reshaped the map of the world as it was divided by the superpowers. But in this pandemic, the nuclear weapons and military strength hasn’t protected the populace. 

There is this famous quote by Mohandas K. Ghandi that I have kept close to my heart since I first came upon it as a youngster, “There is sufficiency in the world for man’s need; not man’s greed.”

And it’s so true at this point in time. Even in the midst of this pandemic, some folks still have nefarious intentions. 

There is one thing I have learned is to always look at things from another perspective. And while we see positives amidst the chaos and inefficiency, one can still see the goodness in man. Now, let’s hope that the learnings stay with us and continue. Or else, we will be doomed to repeat them because you know these pandemics come in cycles.