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.

Monday, August 17, 2020

2020-21 College Hoops Blue Chippers

2020-21 College Hoops Blue Chippers
by Rick Olivares

I was invited last Saturday evening on Benny Benitez’ show Bull by the Horn where we discussed college ball and in particular, my choices for the top incoming players for the next NCAA and UAAP seasons. When it happens just to be precise because we all know this raging pandemic that has placed everything up in the air.

Here are the 10 players I mentioned.

Dwight Ramos (Ateneo Blue Eagles).
If this 6’5” California native fill in the shoes of Thirdy Ravena in the three-spot (although I know they are trying to move him in another position); if he can assert himself and take some big time shots, he will give Tab Baldwin’s side a much needed closer to with Angelo Kouame and SJ Belangel. 

Mac Guadana (Lyceum Pirates)
That the LPU Pirates were able to keep Guadana and JP Barba is huge for their program. Not many of their high school stars move up to their senior squad. This shows continuity more so after their former center Erlan Umpad went to EAC. Guadana is in the mold of a CJ Perez where he can do everything from offense and defense, facilitating, taking the big shot, and making great reads on the court. You also have to like his being emotionless about the game. He just plays the game.

Kevin Quiambao (La Salle Green Archers)
A massive pick up for this squad that is hungry and seeking a return to glory. Quiambao gives La Salle size and with a terrific game inside the paint. He can score inside, stick the short range shot, play defense, and pass that rock. He played alongside Carl Tamayo and Gerry Abadiano with NU, but if you paid attention, it was him bringing home the individual trophies and accolades.

Add to that list Benjamin and Michael Phillips, that is one huge frontline that La Salle has.

Carl Tamayo, Gerry Abadiano & RC Calimag (UP Fighting Maroons)
Talk about an aggressive build up. Their addition to Bo Perasol’s arsenal means they will not only have a deep and talented team this coming season, but will ensure their competitiveness for the next several seasons. 

Carl will split time at the four and five and open up the lane for their centers as he can hit the outside shot. Abadiano and Calimag are also big shot players. The former gives UP a rock solid starter of a point guard while the latter gives UP a player who can drive to the hoop or stick that outside shot.

RJ Abarrientos (FEU Tamaraws)
His addition will greatly ease the pressure on LJ Gonzales. RJ can bring up the ball, shoot, penetrate, and more importantly, create. More than that, his ascendance continues the great program they have had in place for a while now with their high school stars moving up to the senior ranks. 

Off hand, they will have LJ, Royce Alforque, Brandrey Bienes, Xyrus Torres, Daniel Celzo, and now RJ.

Clint Escamis (UE Red Warriors)
Another of those do-it-all players in the mold of Guadana and Abarrientos. And this guy is tough. Try to knock him down he will hit right back while not changing his facial expression.

A blue chip recruit for UE. 

Justine Sanchez (San Bed Red Lions)
In the last 10 years, San Beda has paraded that sleek fighter jet of a swingman in Rome dela Rosa, Garvo Lanete, Jayvee Mocon, and Clint Doliguez. Justine Sanchez will inherit that. It will be on him to learn the ropes as quick as he can. But when he does, he will be a multi-faceted player just like those who paved the way. And you have to like that San Beda was able to bring up a lot of their Red Cubs in Sanchez, Yukien Andrada, and Rhayyan Amsali.

I’d say the biggest winners in this recruiting wars heading into next season are UP, La Salle, and Lyceum (by virtue of being able to keep two key players) while the biggest loser is National University. We can elaborate that for another time.

Monday, August 3, 2020

OPINION: What is up with the NU Bulldogs?

OPINION: What is up with the NU Bulldogs?
By Rick Olivares

One of the biggest stories in local sports in the last couple of days has been the high profile transfers of National University Bullpup stars Carl Tamayo, Gerry Abadiano, and Kevin Quiambao to other schools for their college careers.

Tamayo and Abadiano are going to the University of the Philippines and Quiambao is earmarked for De La Salle University.

Their move escalates the arms race to topple Ateneo de Manila University from their lofty perch while de-powers NU.

We tried asking some people involved and there have been no responses. So this is how we see it.

The players not going to NU for college means that something is amiss in the Sampaloc-based school. Obviously, these three players have been closely identified with their long-time coach Goldwyn Monteverde.  

Monteverde has tried to shield his team by being highly selective of what tournaments they participate in so as to avoid entreaties by other schools. Whether right or wrong is altogether another matter.

By their departure does that mean his hold on the college job is in doubt?


I am told that he is now preparing for a three-peat in the juniors division. No mention was made of the seniors. Whether unintentional or not, let me offer my thoughts.

I guess, he probably regrets not taking the job offer from the University of the East. And he has been so snake bit in the last few years first with the dissolution of the Tiong Lian league after other schools balked big time at the recruitment policies of Chiang Kai Shek College and Hope Christian High School. Now, that is debatable because there are no rules. And in the absence of rules... you know what that means. 

Then there was the boom levied at him while Monteverde was with the Adamson Baby Falcons. What was a sure Juniors crown was snatched away over so-called irregularities. To this day I think that Monteverde and Adamson were jobbed big time.

And there was the time when he was supposed to be Youth National Coach but had it taken away. Now there’s this “situation” with NU. What is it with the universe that seems to conspire with this man?

Let me just be clear about how I look at what Monteverde has achieved. I think he is a heckuva coach. Recruiting? That is part of his job; any coach’s job. And when I watched him, whether he has all-stars or not, I more often than not cannot fault his decisions. I think he is a damn good coach. 

On the other hand, what does this say about NU’s hoops program?

The three were supposed to be cornerstones in NU’s grand plan of nailing another UAAP title as they reload from the failure of the past several years. It would have even blunted Dave Ildefonso’s decamping back to Ateneo. And now… well. They face a huge setback. That is an understatement.

They aren’t short on stars so why have they underachieved in college hoops?

Let’s make no bones about this -- NU has moneyed programs in high school and other collegiate squads. And most schools do not have that. They have spent huge sums to make their teams competitive and champions. Men’s college basketball, unfortunately for them, is another animal. This is the playground of the big boys. Tycoons even.

If you look at that title in Season 77, that was won with a supposedly weaker team. But the emphasis must be placed on “team.” In a team lacking in real stars, they shone bright. It might have been one in a million. But the team concept must not be overlooked.

Looking laterally, it is easy to say that Ateneo has stars or the money. Do they? Years ago, they had cast-offs and underachievers. Unheralded players who have all achieved the incredible. Furthermore, they did it as a team. 

So, is all lost for NU at this point? They have to really re-think a lot of what they do over there. Take stock of how they run things and the people they have appointed. 

That title win in Season 77? That almost did not happen as then head coach Eric Altamirano tendered his resignation the season before. The stay of a hand of one person despite the pleas of others for change was in hindsight a stroke of genius. However, when the weight of expectations was levied on the team, they crashed and burned.

And look at the composition of their coaching staffs in recent years. Are they seamless? If you don’t understand this then I think you have to observe teams even more. 

Years ago, NU tried to fix its culture by improving its educational and sports program not to mention their facilities and infrastructure. It has worked by leaps and bounds. Whatever one says about the money they splashed – again, there are no rules against it – it has worked. They splashed money to help seed a homegrown program. And if it has also helped their regular student population then it is all good. It cannot all be the Ateneos, De La Salles, and UPs of this country. 

I asked one person related to one of their sports teams and he opined this perhaps isn’t over. There is hope that a last-minute resolution will be found and they will all be back on track. 

Now, if that happens… that’s another big story. 

As for Goldwyn Monteverde? 

You can’t keep a good coach down. He’ll find his place in the sun whether at NU or somewhere else. 

And that’s a big story as well. 

Thursday, July 30, 2020

OPINION: It is time for a Philippine football museum and HOF

OPINION: It is time for a Philippine football museum and HOF
By Rick Olivares

I think it would be marvelous to have these two things – a Philippine Football Museum and a Hall of Fame.

And if I may add hopefully both can be in conjunction with the Philippine Football Federation and no under it to maintain the spirit of fair play.

If we go by history, or as it is recorded, football was introduced by the British in 1895. By that count alone, this means the game has been played in this country for 125 years! This year, 2020, is also the 10thAnniversary of the historic 2010 Suzuki Cup where the Philippines announced itself as an emerging football nation.

So it’s the 125th year of football in this country and it is also the anniversary of the what helped turn the game around in this country. It is the best time to do this, pandemic, and all. You can start laying the groundwork.

Furthermore, since 1895, there have been milestones and giants in the game. 

The Philippine Football Museum
A Philippine Football Museum could perhaps be done in conjunction with some national museums – maybe a wing huge enough to accommodate the display cases with an eye towards expansion. This could also be a start for other sports that have their own history such as boxing or even Philippine Olympics. What a draw that would be for these museums! 

When you have a museum, you can do display cases and exhibit booths films that celebrate the game and its pioneers and movers. If you have been to Cooperstown, the home of Baseball, then you know what I mean. 

Imagine a “shrine” to Paulino Alcantara put together with the help of FC Barcelona. I have gone around Iloilo with the help of the Iloilo Football Association (care of the hard working Duffy Botavera) trying to trace his story, but no one really knows. Strange isn’t it? 

An exhibit featuring the 1991 Southeast Asian Games where the Philippines scored a stunning 1-nil upset of Malaysia care of a goal by Norman Fegidero would be nice. 

And of course, there is the 2010 Suzuki Cup.

Who wouldn’t want to know about the old leagues that were held at Ugarte Field? There’s so much!

When you have a museum, you will draw crowds and potential sponsors to the game. It would also be nice to receive a little assistance from FIFA.

A museum will allow its caretakers to freely collect not only information but also memorabilia. As a people, the Filipino isn’t very good at caretaking. It is sad. Nor are we good at remembering history which is why we are looped into a crazy cycle. Of what it is, I leave it to your imagination.

I find it hilarious that there have been attempts by other bodies to put up a certain music-style Hall of Fame and even sports. But it is oft self-serving as the people who are nominated are also the organizers. A joke isn’t it? And then that is it. You don’t hear from them until it is time again to further whatever agendas they have.

So it must be composed of members of the media with some help perhaps from officials from the museum. 

The Philippine Football Hall of Fame.
This is also to celebrate the greats who have helped grow the game. Criteria must be established with the facts to back them up. It shouldn’t be easy to enter the Hall of Fame. And it shouldn’t be difficult as well provided the criteria is followed to the letter.

This could be done around the time the PFF holds its annual Congress so it can be on their activity calendar. 

You can have two pioneers of the game, a club, a coach, two women’s football representatives, and two men’s players. That’s enough for the first year because you can do every year. And you know what – you do not need to meet this quota. Say for example, I do not think you can have a club celebrated every year. The criteria should be met. Now you can include college teams especially those that were dynasties. But definitely, not for the weekend warriors. 

For pioneers, this is where you can place someone like Alcantara.

For the men’s representative, you can have one from the yesteryears and one from the modern era provided he is retired (as to how long that has to be in the criteria) and deserving. 

And to make it really special, not only do these inductees have their own exhibits in the museum, but they also receive something whether it is some form of money to go with a plaque certifying their being in the Hall of Fame. 

In my opinion, this is worth doing as it will help a sport sorely in need of a push. Now we’re looking for some colleagues with NO AGENDAS to help this thing get off the ground and for people in the football community to talk and also push for it.

Tuesday, July 28, 2020

Leigh Gunn: The first Filipino born overseas to play for the Azkals

Leigh Gunn: The first Filipino born overseas to play for the Azkals
By Rick Olivares

When Filipino-Australian Leigh Gunn looks back at his stint with the Philippine Men’s Football National Team – 16 international caps – the result might have not been the best, but they remain fond memories.

“Good memories. Good friendships made. Hard battles on the pitch,” is how the Sydney-born Gunn sums up everything. 

Like many kids around the world, the dream was to play in the English Premier League. “After completing high school in Sydney, I wanted to pursue a career playing football,” Gunn recounted. “Back in those days – 1998 to be exact -- making contact with overseas clubs was done by the old landline phone and fax machine. With the help of my dad we sent out my resume to a few clubs in England that were willing to give me a trial. And we also sent one to the Philippine Football Federation through the late General Secretary Chris Monfort.”

Reaching out to Philippine football officials was part of the plan. His mother, Violeta, hails from Liloan, Cebu, and he had been to the Philippines on several occasions to visit relatives. 

“We would travel to the Philippines on holidays. ‘Growing up, mum would cook Filipino food for us and memories of parties were always Filipino food, friends, and even tinikling!”

Monfort received Gunn’s entreaties and then-national coach Juan Cutillas gave Leigh a long distance phone call before the Fil-Aussie flew in. “Juan Cutillas had called me prior to arriving and explained that he used to coach in Australia so he knew of the clubs that I had played for and had an idea of the level I was playing at.”

Gunn had just finished out his two-year contract suiting up for the Marconi Stallions in the National Youth League and was looking to take his talents abroad. 

Leigh first donned the national colors on the 12th of June 1999 with the Under-23 squad in the Olympic Qualifiers in Hong Kong and became the first Filipino born overseas to wear the national football team’s colors. And yet, the locals ran smack against a talented Japanese side that featured players competing in European leagues. The result was a 13-nil hiding. 

Despite the lopsided scores, the nationals played on valiantly; hoping to score even a goal or limit the opponents’ scores that would lift their collective spirits. 

“We went on to play seven matches in that tournament with my personal highlight being my first international goal scored in a 2-2 draw with Nepal,” recounted Gunn. “After that tournament, Coach Cutillas asked me to stay on for the senior team and play in the 1999 South East Asian Games held in Brunei where I played another three matches. We had a great game against Laos there where Norman Fegidero and Marlon Pinero both scored but we unfortunately lost 3-2.  There were three other players from the U-23s that came across also -- Freddy Gonzalez, Alvin Ocampo, and Wilson De La Cruz. Freddy, Alvin and I were great friends throughout as I was living with Freddy whilst I was in Manilla, the three of us would always travel to training together.”

Gunn’s next tournament with the nationals – yet to be nicknamed “the Azkals” – was the 2000 Tiger Cup (as today’s Suzuki Cup was then known). While the team was playing better, they still returned home without a win. 

“I returned in 2006 under Coach Aris Caslib for the AFC Challenge Cup in Bangladesh, but our two draws and one loss did not see us through. A young Chieffy Caligdong and Anto Gonzales were a part of this team and it was good to see them reach great heights later on.” 

“The last time I suited up was at Barotac Nuevo, Iloilo. With the World Cup Qualifying pool team under Coach Michael Weiss. I have such fond memories of this match against Central Philippines University where some 7,00 packed the grounds next to the old church. I was happy to go out like this and I believe it was also the send-off for Yanti Bersales who I played with back in 1999.”

After hanging up his boots, Gunn went into coaching and received his FFA C License where he was an assistant with the U23 PHL National Team under Jim Fraser and manager Jeff Cheng throughout 2014-15 AFC qualifiers Thailand as well as the Bolkiah Cup in Brunei.

“It was great to be involved with the PFF at a coaching level. It was also very pleasing to see many of my old national teammates who are coaches now,” added Gunn. “My friend, Andrew Fletcher, and I also started an academy program here in Australia for Filipinos called ‘the Azkalroos’ where we scouting local talent with Filipino heritage. I am very pleased to see one of our Azkalroos players in Joshua Grommen doing well in Asia now.”

Gunn lives today in the Sunshine Coast in Queensland where he is happily married with three girls. He owns a GPS communications company named Australia Wide GPS & Radio Installations. While he still follows the exploits of the Azkals, Leigh has taken a step back from football and is seriously into triathlon. 

“I spend my time now competing in triathlon with dreams of qualifying for the World Championships in Kona Hawaii (representing the Philippines of course),” he pointed out. 

Working through all the adversities the national team faced back in the early days only made us stronger and more grateful for what we received. To witness first-hand the changes and improvements over 20 years is remarkable. And I am happy to think that players of our generation had a small hand in where we are now as a footballing nation in Southeast Asia.”

Wednesday, July 22, 2020

Klopp: Reflecting on leading Mainz, Dortmund, and Liverpool to glory

Klopp: Reflecting on leading Mainz, Dortmund, and Liverpool to glory

By Rick Olivares


Ahead of Wednesday’s celebrations at Anfield Stadium in Liverpool, England, where Liverpool FC will be handed the Premier League trophy after their match against Chelsea regardless of the score, the club’s manager, Jurgen Klopp reflected on having led three clubs now to glory.


In an interview granted to through the assistance of the club’s main sponsor, Standard Chartered, the 53-year old German manager has led the Merseyside team to four trophies in five years including the 2018-19 UEFA Champions League, the 2019 UEFA Super Cub, and the 2019 FIFA Club World Cup. 


Shared the Liverpool manager, “My reflection on Mainz, Dortmund, and Liverpool -- three wonderful clubs. Two red and one yellow. I have enjoyed each second in these clubs and the best thing I can say is I have a lot of friends there.”


Upon Klopp’s retirement as a play from Mainz 05, he was appointed as the German second division squad’s manager. In his fourth year with Mainz, he guided the club to promotion to the Bundesliga. 


With Borussia Dortmund, he guided the team to two Bundesliga championships from 2010-11 and 2011-12, a DFB-Pokal trophy in 2011-12, and the DFL Supercup in 2013 and 2014.


As for the Premier League trophy, Liverpool’s first domestic championship in 30 years, the manager gleefully enthused that “it’s a little bit like Christmas if you know you are getting a specific present. Even before you have it, there is still some excitement. And we are very excited about that. I have never touched a Premier League trophy before for obvious reasons, and it will be special.”


“If I would go back now just to watch the game they (Mainz and Dortmund) wouldn’t close the doors. Which is nice to know. But I wasn’t back a lot. I never watched a Dortmund game in the stadium since I left. I watched exactly one Mainz game since I left and that was in the stadium and I was on my break. That is how I see it in our time we spent. We have to create relationships and that is what it is all about. And I have wonderful relationships with people in these clubs.”


“These are very very emotional clubs all three of them,” Klopp summed up. “Mainz needed a little bit of a kick in the beginning. And Dortmund and Liverpool. Are always emotional.”



Tuesday, July 21, 2020

English footballer seeks GAB help with Global FC row

English footballer seeks GAB help with Global FC row

By Rick Olivares


Ghanaian footballer, John Cofie, who is based in Manchester, England, has sought the assistance of the Games and Amusements Board in sorting out his problems with Global FC.


Cofie reached out to this writer about Global FC apparently did not fulfill their contract obligations when they signed him to play for the PFL squad. “I was approached in the middle of January, around the 15th to the 20thin regards to signing,” said the 27-year old Cofie. “I spoke to who at that time, I was made aware to be the owner of the club, Tamiswa Mazinyi, and my agent at that time, Graham Duffield.”


Cofie said that in preparation for his flight to Manila, he resigned from his job at Ocado; a food company in Manchester. “I had to leave my job due to Global making promises to fly me and my family over,” added Cofie who previously played for Hulme City in Australia. “I have a small child and am having a difficult time to provide for my family due to unfulfilled promises by Global.”


Cofie presented his contract as well as screen shots with Global management. He submitted a plea for help to the Games and Amusements Board this morning, July 21st


This writer also reached out to other players from the squad and they too confirmed similar experiences regarding unpaid salaries and unfulfilled promises. According to one player, Global FC management informed the squad this past Monday, July 20, about making payments within the next two days.


The players however remain wary because management has made numerous promises to remit money in previous months even before the Covid-19 pandemic hit. 


This writer reached out to Global FC ownership via text but as of press time, they have yet to respond. 


GAB said they will look into the matter.



Friday, July 17, 2020

Former V-League volleybelle Colleen Rossi getting ready for frontline duty

Former V-League volleybelle Colleen Rossi getting ready for frontline duty

By Rick Olivares


From one frontline to another frontline. 


Former Baguio Summer Spiker and St. Louis University Navigator middle blocker and opposite spiker Colleen Rossi is turning in her game spandex for hospital light blue and a white lab coat when she begins her post-graduate internship at the Baguio General Hospital this 1st of August. 


After that one-year internship, Rossi will prepare to take the physician licensure exams.


Rossi graduated this past June 2020 from SLU with the degree, Doctor of Medicine, and while waiting for her internship, has been working at her parents’ EET (Eye, Ear, Nose, and Throat) clinic. 


In the summer of 2016, Rossi and her club, the Baguio Summer Spikers joined the V-League’s Open Conference. While the team did not do well as a whole, they came away with loads of experience and smiles to last a lifetime. 


“It was our dream to play in the V-League,” enthused Rossi prior to their maiden game of that tournament. I even joined the Shakey’s summer volleyball camp under Coach Roger Gorayeb and players I looked up to like Sue Roces, Mary Jean Balse, Sasa Devanadera, and Lou Ann Latigay. They even gave us free tickets to the game! And never in my wildest dreams I would play in the V-League. It was a dream come true.”


During that tournament, Colleen had to follow her teammates who arrived the day before in Manila as she had an 8am match in the Inter-Collegiate League representing SLU. Right after the game, she took a bus to Manila and made it on time for the Summer Spikers’ match. “I’d do anything for volleyball,” she fessed up.


“For now, I am allotting my time and effort working as a secretary in my parents’ clinic and doing charity work with my SLU batchmates under the name ‘Emmetropia’s Vision.’ We gather donations and pack them for relief drives to indigent people from Baguio such as jeepney drivers, taho vendors, and the like. Hopefully, we can gather more donations and organize more relief efforts.”


When Rossi begins her internship, she will be doing a combination of hospital duties and online lecture series. 


“They want us to have on-hand hospital experiences as doctors-in-training while keeping our safety in mind,” she added. 


“If God wills it and I pass the board exams, I plan to take a residency program in orthopedics and hopefully sub-specialize in sports medicine that will cater to athletes. This way, I can combine the fields I am most passionate about which is sports and medicine.”


“At the moment, I cannot deny that I am nervous about the situation as we battling an invisible enemy,” Colleen bared, “but to be honest, the desire to help others prevails in me. It breaks my heart seeing our fellow Filipinos suffer from the effects of this pandemic. I do not want to sound like I want to be a hero or a martyr, but as a future doctor, I want to help my countrymen as long as I am capable.” 



Wednesday, July 15, 2020

Jürgen Klopp: Consistency in winning their finals three Premier League matches

Jürgen Klopp: Consistency in winning their finals three Premier League matches

By Rick Olivares


“I don’t ask for changes. I only ask for consistency.”


Thus declared Liverpool Football Club manager Jürgen Klopp in the pre-match press conference pitting the new champions of England against Arsenal when addressing ABS-CBN News’ question.


Liverpool played to a disappointing 1-1 draw with Burnley last Saturday, July 11th; it was their first draw in their home field of Anfield all season and stopped their 24-match win streak at home. The result gave them only a point that netted a total of 93 for the season and a 30-3-2 slate. The record for points in a single Premier League season is 98 that Manchester City achieved last season. 


With the matches to play – Arsenal on Wednesday evening then Chelsea on the 23rd at Stamford Bridge in London after which they end their season at home against Newcastle on the 26th of July, Liverpool hopes to gain a minimum of six to surpass Manchester City, and the maximum of nine points from all three matches to be the first club to gain over a hundred points. 


The author asked Klopp, who has won the UEFA Champions League, UEFA Super Cup, FIFA Club World Cup to go with the Premiership in his first five years in England, if he was looking at anything aside from wins be it team tactics, individual performances in this final three games. 


Said the German-born manager, “The Premier League is so demanding. So making changes (this late) is difficult. The most important thing is that we are competitive because our opponents play for everything. Arsenal, wants to qualify for Europe and we will feel that. It (consistency) is good for our development as well because we are making sure that we are ready in each game if we don’t play for anything apart from points which is the main thing. And the boys show me that all the time.”


Under the 53-year-old Klopp, Liverpool has posted a 116-41-22 record with his side scoring 382 goals while conceding 169. In all competitions including the FA Cup, League Cup, and the Champions League, Klopp has a 158-60-44 record; a 60.31% winning rate. 


Despite LFC not getting a win against Burnley, the Reds’ gaffer had this to say, “I am happy for the Burnley game because all the Burnley games we’ve played are one of the better ones for sure.  We just didn’t score the goals. We will always struggle against Burnley because they believe in that one chance and they got it. That’s why they got a point. That is what we have to show the attitude, the desire (against every opponent).”


As for any experimentation for tactics, Klopp bared that he wasn’t looking to do this at such a late stage in the campaign that has been stretched out due to the Covid-19 pandemic. “Football tactics, you change this and that but the timing is extremely important. You speak about them and ask for them in moments when the boys are ready for that. It is a difficult time with the lockdown and coming back. I was happy to play again as you try find your feet again. (Our) Physical status is great. It showed us that the boys when they were at home they did all the necessary stuff. And now we have to finish this league in a very difficult schedule with Arsenal and Chelsea next. The last game which against Newcastle it will be an intense game. So I don’t ask for changes I ask for consistency. I want to see us consistent, performing to the highest level.”

Monday, July 13, 2020

The Philippine Azkals' Magnificent Seven

The Magnificent Seven

Story and Photo By Rick Olivares


The December cold bit right through the jackets. The Philippine Men’s Football National Team was in some ways unprepared for the 2010 Suzuki Cup in Vietnam. With two positive results in the bag – a draw with Singapore that saw the Azkals net their first ever point against the Lions and a massive 2-nil win over the host country that was also the defending champions – had made the Philippines the story of the tournament.


If the team wanted to complete its historic stint, they need to at least finish with a draw against Myanmar. Except the Azkals would have to play in Nam Dinh that was an hour and 40-minute drive from Hanoi. Now that was fine because it was away from the 40,000-plus crowds that filled the My Dinh National Stadium. After the huge upset win against Vietnam, had the team played in Hanoi, the crowd’s jeers could have possibly fueled Myanmar. And history as we know it might have not happened.


The day before the match against Myanmar, the Azkals went jogging early in the morning. Before they headed back to the dingy Vhoang Hotel where they were booked, they posed for photographs right in front of the huge statue of Vietnamese hero Tran Quoc Tuan who defeated the Mongol hordes of Kublai Khan in 1283 and 1284.


“Who is this,” wondered then head coach Simon McMenemy of the statue. The team’s Vietnamese liaison explained the feats of the great Vietnamese general whose tactics were later used by the North Vietnamese during the Indochina Wars of 1946-75.


“Then we make our history here,” pronounced McMenemy.


The scoreless draw the following evening ultimately catapulted the Philippines to their first ever semi-finals slot. However, the morning before as the team posed for photos, a few of the Azkals separated for a group photo of their own.


“Let’s get a photo of our own,” enthused midfielder Chris Greatwich as he called out to some of his teammates. 


There were seven – Aly Borromeo, Roel Gener, Ian Araneta, Chieffy Caligdong, Anton del Rosario, Peter Jaugan, and Greatwich – who posed for that photo. They were the remaining members of the 2004 Azkals who competed in that year’s Suzuki Cup. Six years later, they were part of the core that was making Philippine football history.


That core would be aided and abetted over the years with the arrival of James and Phil Younghusband in 2005, Neil Etheridge in 2008, and Rob Gier and Ray Jonsson in 2009, and Jason de Jong in 2010.


If you look at that photo, all of them have their hands and arms around each other’s shoulders. It isn’t only for show, but it is also a bond that exists between these men who were these during the national team’s own Dark Ages right up to the light at the end of a very long tunnel. 


Of the seven in that photo, six played meaningful minutes during the 2010 Suzuki Cup.


Of the seven in that photo, five have left their mark on the game by either how they performed on the pitch, with some spectacular scoring feats, by coaching, or by being very active beyond the touchline.


Between them, they have a total of 226 international caps and a couple of thousand competitive domestic games. That not only speaks of their talent, but also what they mean to the game by their mere longevity and influence for their various clubs. 


Ten years after that photo, 16 years after their 2004 debut with the senior side, it is only del Rosario who still puts on his playing boots in top flight competition. Borromeo, aside from being a businessman is also a manager for his one and only club team, Kaya. Roel Gener is still with the Philippine Army. Araneta is close to finishing his professional career with the Philippine Air Force. Caligdong has migrated to Canada where he is a youth coach. Jaugan has moved back to his native Davao while Greatwich after retiring with Kaya in 2015 has coached the club and works with the academy. 


Reflecting upon how those seven have done for both the game and the country, their 2004 Azkals head coach, Aris Caslib, has this to say: “It is heart-warming to see their impact and how they all played key roles in Philippine Football from 2004 and beyond.”


“They,” summed up Caslib who helped put up the program by identifying Filipinos born overseas to complement the homegrown players, “made history.”



Sunday, July 12, 2020

PFF: A mission to put Philippine football back on its perch

PFF: A mission to put Philippine football back on its perch

By Rick Olivares


In December of 2009, then-Fifa president Sepp Blatter arrived in Manila and inaugurated the Philippine Football Federation’s House of Football in Oranbo, Pasig. It was the first ever real headquarters of local football’s governing body after holding a dilapidated office at the Philsports complex with its smelly toilets and whatnot.


A most eventful decade ensued in that time inside that House of Football most notably it was where the seeds of the ousting of a former federation president were sown, and the plotting of the ascent of the Azkals. Like peaks and valleys, Philippine football rose, and well, slid back down. Not however, to the pre-201 levels as the Azkals remain a force to be reckoned with. There is a professional domestic league in play although it has stopped much like everything else due to the pandemic. Much though remains to be fixed.


Just as what the House of Football meant to the past decade, the new PFF Headquarters in Carmona, Cavite will be to the new decade. Maybe a Launchpad to higher levels of success.


Current PFF President Mariano “Nonong” Araneta who was voted as its president in November of 2010 and is in his third term, is heading into the next decade holding on to hope.


Hope comes in the form of the Philippines Football League that has its own set of challenges that has him very much concerned.


“We are lucky that Qatar Airways has honored its commitment in this difficult time,” he added. “They are sponsors of a lot of teams and the next World Cup and they are coming to us. It is up to us to make the league run.”


Teams, corporate sponsors, and television carriers dropping out as well as the ongoing pandemic has left much cause for concern. 


“The IATF allowing the training for the clubs is very much a welcome development,” Araneta said with a mixture of relief and happiness. 


Never has the resuming the games signified such hope as everyone looks for traction in what is called “the new normal.” 


“There have been ups and downs but that is not going to stop us,” he adds. The aforementioned concerns will be dealt with, he promises. 


Araneta has lost 34 pounds since the time he first took on the hot seat. “It’s also because a change in diet,” he explained. The Iloilo native looks older, but his passion for the game of football has not waned one iota.


We spoke one-on-one via Zoom and bared each other’s position about the state of the game. He said as much and took as much. The PFF president did admit that the game since 2010 has been one of mountains and valleys – highs and lows if you will -- and while he understands that life and its fruits are there in cycles, he wants to end his service with the game once more atop its perch.


In addition to the PFL, Araneta cannot wait for the youth competitions to continue. “These

youth tournaments are the key,” he points out. “They will help the national teams, club teams, schools, and the entire system. Having them,” he pauses, “means every year these players have something to look forward.”


Good things come in threes and the last one Araneta cannot wait for to happen. It is that new headquarters in Carmona. The pitches are already there. The headquarters needs to be finished. 


The artificial pitch with its lights costs US 1.1 million. The land as well as the costs for building the six-story headquarters with its dormitories, offices, seminar rooms and conference hall, cafeteria, and a clinic are pegged at a US $5.9 million budget; the entire funding coursed through Fifa. 


“This was designed and is going to be built with full expansion in mind,” underscored Araneta. “When it is finally fixed, we will have a mini-stadium that will seat anywhere from two to three thousand people. It will be a world class facility Saturdays in Carmona. We plan to start construction by this October and move in by December of 2021.”


The distance between the current PFF offices in Oranbo, Pasig to the newer facility Carmona, Cavite is 36.1 km. Ideally through the South Luzon Expressway, it’s just a 45-minute drive.


The significance and even the distance between the two Houses of Football are not lost on Araneta. Peaks and valleys aside, he is excited. “We will make sure it will get better… one House has served its purpose,” he says. “The new one will take us to the next level.”




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.



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.



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.



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.