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.

Saturday, February 28, 2009

Thanks, Johnny & Norm!

It's hard to be a Chicago Bulls fan right now. They suck and seem to have no direction. They traded away my favorite player (Andres Nocioni) and will probably let go of my second fave it Kirk Hinrich.

Then they lose Johnny "Red" Kerr and Norm Van Lier both within days of each other to the basketball court in the sky.

The only good news this year is that Michael Jordan is going to the Basketball Hall of Fame.

Retro Brew: Notes on the 2006 World Cup festivities in Hong Kong

(I wrote this while in Hong Kong for the 2006 World Cup. This was post-SARS Hong Kong hence the title. This came out in my column in Business Mirror in August of 2006 but was never posted here in the blog version of Bleachers' Brew.

Just to clear things up, Bleachers' Brew is the name of my column in Business Mirror. That wasn't supposed to be the column's title. I was supposed to name it after my old files from my advertising work that went by the name: The View from the Big Chair; a nod towards the classic Tears For Fears' album and a reference to the tennis umpire's view.

But I was listening to a lot of Cannonball Adderly, John Coltrane, and Miles Davis at this period in time and my BM editor asked me if I had a title already. I actually submitted my first column under The View from the Big Chair but as we pushed it back a week, I had time to think and eventually change it.

The blog version which contains practically all my sports writings for various periodicals obviously has more. The title of the column and blog owes much to Miles Davis' album Bitches Brew and "Bleachers" was the place where every one used to sit.)

A Different Kind of Fever Hits Hong Kong
words and pictures by rick olivares (with mai ventura)
football fever by the people of Hong Kong

FIFA ranks Hong Kong #116 in the world. It’s more than a continent away from Germany yet when you touch down at Chek Lak Kop International Airport, you feel the World Cup fever in your bones.

In the middle of this fully modern airport is a large vid-screen with a life-sized cutout of France’s Thierry Henry telling travelers to “Fly Emirates.” The chains of Newslink Bookstores are likewise into the action with their stands decked with football magazines and paperbacks.

There’s a stall here that draws a queue as long as Immigration. And why not when it has kits of almost every famous football club and country in the world? A young Australian lad, eyes ablaze with wonder tugs his mum’s hand. Once his hands touch those red Umbro English tees with a “Lampard” on the back, it’s sold for HK $447. So much for being a Socceroo fan.

The island has gone soccer mad. If it isn’t the Netherlands’ Ruud Van Nistelrooy on the side of a Double Decker bus there are bus stops adverts of England’s Beckham, Brazil’s Ronaldinho, and France’s Zidane.

Prat Avenue is one of the few streets in the shopping paradise of Tsim Sha Tsui that doesn’t have tourist shops. Instead it’s arrayed with bars and restaurants. From the avenue’s tip where the 7-11 is filled to the ceiling with soccer buntings to its end where it intersects with busy Chatham Road, it’s like the United Nations as most shops are decked in the flags of the 32 nations competing in the World Cup.

Ironically the only establishment that provides a soccer-free haven is a German bar, Schurrbartt’s. “You’d be surprised that there are folks in this world who don’t like soccer,” says Rolf a bar regular. So how’s business lately? “Oh, they’re all next door watching the games,” he throws his hands up in cheerful defeat.

The nearby betting station, the Jockey Club, has been recalibrated to accommodate the World Cup games. The betting is fast and furious. It’s Italy vs. the USA. With the pre-game animosity between the two teams, you know that it’s going to be a battle. Game time is at 3am but there’s no doubt the bars will have full occupancy. Good thing it’s the weekend.

According to the South China Morning Post’s Tim Noonan, HK employers have decried the high absenteeism during World Cup season. Fortunately, it happens once every four years and employers are willing to concede that. Besides the employers themselves stumble into their swank offices the morning after with bloodshot eyes and seemingly jet-lagged albeit from an all-nighter of soccer action.

Even the ritzy inter-connecting malls of the Gateway to Harbour City are festooned in soccer regalia. The more affordable trendy stores like Bossini and Giordano have shown their true colors. “World Without Strangers” is Giordano’s new advertising campaign in reference to the global game. If you get three shirts (now there’s a retailer’s hat trick score if there was ever one), it comes at a more affordable price.

One outlet in Peking Road offers a concession: “We apologize for your having to endure your boyfriend’s soccer-mania. For that we are offering 20% off on your shopping needs.” Tres cool. Football for men; shopping for women.

Only the women are just as into it.

A pretty Chinese lass walks by. She’s wearing a Beckham. Methinks she’s proud of her country’s British heritage. “Yes, but also because he’s hot,” she adds with a wink.

Hong Kong is 95% Chinese with the remaining 5% made up of different nationalities. If you find the various ethnic cuisines of France, Portugal, or whatnot too pricey, then you might want to settle for the less expensive fare of that neighborhood carinderia that is McDonald’s. But as you descend the steps of the McDonald’s along Granville Road, there’s a huge poster of the in-store Fantastic World Cup Cards promo to greet you. Every HK $17 purchase gets you a card. If the team on the card wins that day then you get a free meal.

Back in your hotel room after a day of shopping and sight-seeing, you switch on the tube. If the hotel doesn’t have cable then you’re doomed to local programming. You only have the BBC and National Geographic to keep you company. But wait a minute. Football Planet on National Geographic is on.

Dirk Kurbjuweit’s writes in Der Spiegel’s World Cup special that soccer “isn’t just a game.” And in Hong Kong more than a continent away from Germany, he is so right. It’s a way of life.

Supplemental reading:
Whenever I travel, I make it a point to check out the local sports and football scene and write about it. Here's another piece on football in Southeast Asia:

Friday, February 27, 2009

We've got next!

Thanks for the five years, Tata! Playing with that foot injury showed the kind of courage and heart you've always displayed as a player. And this shot was taken when you were coming back from that injury.

Wish I could have helped more.

There are two times where I shed tears after a match: Season 70 Final Four Men's Basketball and the end of the Season 70 campaign for the Women's Football Team.

I guess it was because I saw how hard the team worked after years of disappointment only to fall short.

Enough of the true confessions. Thanks! And to Belay and Gel too!

And welcome to my new favorite player on the Ateneo Women's football team... Yvette Gaston!

Next year's gonna rock.

Breaking news... PFF's Pablito Araneta resigns!

The PFF's General Secretary Pablito Araneta just handed in his resignation letter to Mari Martinez. Araneta turned in his resignation yesterday Thursday, February 25 but was only able to speak with the president today.

This comes on the heels of the 5th Ordinary Congress of the PFF where Asian Football Confederation President Mohammed Bin Hammam "donated" Php 10 million to help out local football and a failed bid to oust Martinez.

But why go to Malaysia? If he needed a MOA signed then he could have sent it via Fed Ex or whatever. Why didn't Hammam do a signing in front of the Congress? The timing of the donation is terrible and sorry. However you look at it, it's bribery. Mahirap kasi kapag hindi mo pera gastos lang ng gastos.

Why do I have to explain that it was wrong? If someone accusses a Federation official of misappropriation of funds, I'd do everything in my power to prove that it wasn't so. Instead they throw things out on a technicality? But where was their proof of what they spent? It was all talk. They could not show the passbook! No charts nothing.

In the days leading up to the Congress, Martinez paid Poch Borromeo and Nonong Araneta the utang from previous expenses involving a tournament and the national team. The timing is suspicious don't you think?

More details and excuses to follow.

We heard that the PFF President flew to Kuala Lumpur today (Friday).
Word is that the shoes he was given was several sizes too small.

And he wanted to tell Hammam first hand about the new PFF jokes!

UAAP Women's Football Finals Game 1

Justify FullMaking History
UST 2 vs. DLSU 0
by rick olivares

February 26
Erenchun Field, Ateneo De Manila

The De La Salle University Women's Football Team has made the UAAP Finals 14 straight years. Head Coach Hans Smit can put his large fingers on the secrets of their success but in his humble way, he'll tell you that he's been blessed. "I've got good, bright, and talented kids with good attitudes," he explained. "And they are far easier to teach than the men."

He's not even sure how many titles his team has won. It's not false humility. He is just focused on the here and now. "After this season, I'm thinking about the next. Winning never gets old on you. But you become a slave to it."

For the record, La Salle has won it seven times while FEU has the other six. The only other squad other than the two to make it to the Finals was UP and this season UST finally crashed the party and they have good field position to notch their first championship.

Ironically, the UST men's team has 34 UAAP football championships, a ridiculous (in a good way) number that serves notice that for over-all sports greatness, it's just them and FEU.

The Lady Archers arrived around 7:00am at the Erenchun Field of the Ateneo De Manila University. A few chatted idly, some got their feet taped, and a few others were lost in their iPods.

They practically blew away the competition in two rounds of play. They scored 16 goals and surrendered only 1. And that was to UST in a 2-1 win in the first round. The Tigresses held them to a scoreless draw in the return match, a crucial point that together with the walk-over win over the Lady Tamaraws propelled them to the Finals.

In the days leading up to Game 1, the Lady Archers took nothing for granted. "You always remember what happened in the past," said Issa Camara, the La Salle team captain. "You just have to learn from it."

They remembered dealing Ateneo a heartbreaker en route to the finals only to have the same plate handed back to them when they lost to FEU in a penalty shoot out 3-1.

They were dealt another blow in the aftermath when Stephanie Pheasant hung up her boots after a stellar career. Anna Frumenti slipped into the central back position and hoped to repel attacks the way Steph did before.

But Frumenti missed the first two matches of the season and the team played a more cautious 5-3-2 formation. When she returned for the third match against Ateneo, it allowed them to be more flexible and switch to a more conventional 4-4-2 that allowed for an extra midfielder to marshal a quick counter.

However, it is still unlike the previous year's squad where even the defensive backs would regularly help out in the counters because they knew Pheasant was there to erase any mistakes. This year Frumenti and Martie Plaza often remain behind.

Even with Sumo Lazaro not 100% because of nagging injuries (she also helps on defense on the left midfield), the offense has plenty of punch with Jessica Ryon who is leading the league in scoring with five markers. In fact, four of the top six goals scorers are from La Salle: Lazaro and Sam Nierras have three each and Pia Bravo has two.

But the others top two scorers are from UST -- Mary Ignacio and Marianne Narciso who have three each.

Hans Smit's team takes nothing for granted. This season alone, they've developed a healthy rivalry with the España squad.

La Salle (which has made the finals of the University Games every year as well) beat the Tigresses 1-0 in the semi-finals en route to the championship. When they next met up it was in the Metro Manila Girls Football Association and UST returned the favor with a 4-3 win in penalty kicks.

If FEU made a mistake of concentrating too much on Ignacio, UST has other scorers like Narciso, Herlyn Salmon, and Prescila Rubio who are capable of finding the back of the net.

Camara said the team went into this year thinking of redemption for last year. But they also doubly worked hard on their penalty kicks and heading into the Finals, UST really had their attention.

The Tigresses left the España campus at 6am. They rode on the team bus and wanted to avoid all the rush hour traffic so they had time to relax and smooth any frayed nerves. The last time Assistant Coach JB Valenzuela stepped on to the Ateneo pitch in a championship game was in 2005 when his UST team was beaten in penalties by the home team from Loyola Heights. He was the goal keeper on that squad yet today works as an assistant to Bon Bon Estraban, his teammate who is now the Head Coach. Said Valenzuela, "The team is peaking at the right time and we know that we match up well against La Salle. We'd like to see them stand up to the pressure."

And from kick-off, UST stepped on the accelerator and never let up. In the first five minutes of the match, they already had three shots on goal.

In the meantime, La Salle's short game was thoroughly disrupted. Ryon and Nierras didn't have decent touches as they were swarmed by defenders every time out.

Towards the end of the first half, Estraban substituted Salmon for Narciso. Her entry was had an immediate impact because not only was she faster but she could create opportunities. On the opposite side of the field with Ignacio, they were a troublesome mix for La Salle.

Frumenti and keeper Haya Ibarra had a busy morning chasing down repeated attacks by UST. What the Tigresses were doing was outrunning the taller La Sallian defenders.

At the half, an irked Smit chided his team for their lack of hustle and patience. More often than not, the defense was caught watching the opponents waltz right through. Ibarra had 12 saves in the first half alone. If UST was allowed to continuously pepper the DLSU goal with shots, a few of them were bound to go in.

La Salle came out of the second half smoking as Lazaro, Ryon, and Nierras found themselves deep inside. But the shots were stopped or went wide.

After fulltime, the two sides were still at a scoreless draw but it was UST that still had plenty in the tank.

In the 9th minute of the first period of extra time, Ignacio gained entry inside the box and booted a powerful shot that Ibarra was able to corral. But it was a wicked shot that wormed itself out of the keeper's hands and trickled right in. Four minutes later, Narciso raced down the right flanks with Plaza on her heels. Narciso flicked the ball to the middle that April Reyes tapped in for UST's second goal.

And that was all she wrote. UST stripped the green and white of its aura of invincibility. "I'm not surprised," explained Valenzuela after the match. "We knew the girls could do it. And they went out and executed it. And that should help our confidence for Game Two."

With the La Salle team in tears, Smit straddled the sidelines and blurted out, "Why are you crying? It's not yet over! We have one more game to play. This one is over. We got beat. Let's get ready for the next game."

Now the past penalty kick debacles and that the first loss will weigh heavy on their minds.

Whatever happens, one team will add to their storied history or one will begin to make theirs.

Random Thoughts on Game 1 of the UAAP Men's Football Finals

FEU lost Game 1 because of two things:
1) they went back to playing one-on-one. Short game was non-existent maybe save for a few plays. They were mostly virtuoso moves like Jovanie Simpron's goal. Glester Sobremisana, Raymond Buensuceso, and Kristian Macaspac were mostly non-factors. Frank Gustilo was okay but FEU has to remember that they are a team first. If they'd rather play one-on-one then they should have taken up track and field.
2) the defense. the back four was in this formation:
defender - defender
defender - defender
Sorry if they think they can replicate the same success they had when Jason Cordova was playing then they are mistaken.

UP's formation was like this:

Nacho Mendezona
Gary Villame - Jed Rances - Allen Serna - Nate Octavio
Francis Liza - Andrei Mercader - Steve Permanes
Keith Mordeno - JJ Manlunas - Andoni Santos

That's a 4-3-3 right there and that means it's a more attack-minded offense. UP played like a team. The last time they won was in 2001-02 with Anto Gonzales, Kale Alvarez, and Ariel Zerrudo. The last time they were in the finals was 2003-04 when the Maroons lost to Ateneo (Zerrudo's final year). They also went to the Finals before that but lost to UE.

Kale awarded the Player of the Match to Allan Serna for his energy on defense and offense.
The second goal by the way was on own goal by FEU. Steve Permanes sent a cross from a right corner kick then four FEU rose in the air and by mistake one of them headed it in. The referee gave the goal to Permanes and Kale and I actually thought it curved inside. But the instant replay showed that the ball was headed in by an FEU player. Sorry I didn't get the name but I will on Tuesday.

So right here now, they'd like to win it as a gift to UP on their Centennial Year.

Good job, Coach Frank. Salamat din!

FEU Coach Adolfo Alicante did not play for FEU but Letran. In the National Team his Coach was the great Orlando Plagata. Alicante has also coached various national team squads as well. Coach Dolfo is one of the nicest guys in the game. Much respect to the man!

Coach Merlie (Hans' assistant was a teammate of Ateneo's Coach Buda in PUP). So the community is small and people know each other. It's nice to see how everyone has moved on to teams outside their own colleges.

I decided to become a stand up comedian. Laffapalooza here I come

I hear there's a sale at the PFF.
Yup. A lot of people are selling out.

I heard that the former RP Women's Futsal Team would sell personal items, their car, and stuff to fund their international competitions.
In the PFF, when they hold similar sales, they call it a "Congress."

There's a scandalous new talk show.
It's called the PFF Congress.

Only they weren't talking. They were yelling at each other.

Some of the Presidents of Football Associations were given new shoes by the AFC President the night before the Congress.
Hammam must have confused them with the Philippine Team that went to the Homeless World Cup.

Hey, Hammam. I wear a size 11, okay?

If Hammam handed out football boots, then they probably were distributed like this:
- adidas Predator to the managers who think they're coaches
- Nike Vapor to those who cannot explain certain money matters.
- Nike Air Legend to those who declare that "I am football in the Philippines." Unfortunately, that isn't good enough to pip Leonardo DiCaprio's "I'm the King of the World!"
- Nike Power Swerve to those who "reinvest" or re-allocate money because coaches do not submit their reports. Oo nga naman, coaches. Submit them early so you get paid na!
- Puma Konstrukt II to those who helped build the House of Football.
and lastly,
the Lotto Zhero Evolution to those who have no balls.

Next time, I will test a theory.
I'm going up to the microphone during the Congress and say, "I just wanted to tell you that I think that PFF stands for "Pera For Football."
Php 10 million bucks gets you that the next word you will hear is "noted."

On February 24, 1986, an aborted coup d'etat and a people power revolution was on the verge of being crushed except the following day, the dictator fled.
On February 24, 2009, a coup was crushed before it even got started.
How? It got Hammam-ed.

On February 24, a new word was entered into the dictionary: "Hammam-ed"
1) crushed or gifted
For those Football Association Presidents who received new shoes
2) sinapatos

Before the next Pera For Football Congress, I heard that some quarters will try their hand in ousting the president. Why? They want Hammam to come back and give another Php 10 million.

If you're getting married, I recommend that you get Mohammed Bin Hammam as your wedding godfather.
He will talk about solidarity (the union of husband and wife), working as one (there's no "I" in team but there is in "marriage") and when it hits the rocks, that you shouldn't complain but sweep it under the rug (woman! you must submit to your husband).
Don't worry, you can be sure he'll make a generous donation.

Mikey Romero is the godfather of amateur basketball.
Manny Pangilinan is the godfather of Ateneo and San Beda basketball.
Mohammed Bin Hammam is the godfather of Philippine football.

There was fighting, yelling, betrayal, selling out, temptation, and verbal jousting in the 5th PFF Ordinary Congress.
Makes me wonder what actually goes on in the Extraordinary (or Special) Congress.

It also made me wonder if I was watching an episode of Desperate House-wives.
House of... get it?

That's enough bad comedy for the day. Cocktails, anyone?

I posted as my facebook status that I'm going to join Laffapalooza and that they should check my blog on why (I also added the link). You know how sometime a facebook prompt will pop up and ask you to type in something for verification?

So when I did, the prompt read: type in "charge $5.6 mil"

Did facebook try to Hammam me? Bwahahahaha.

Born to play in Europe

I can feel the English Premier League slipping away from Liverpool as the hated Manchester United solidified their hold on first. And somehow, UEFA Champions League play is that balm on my Anfield heart in need of healing.

Once more, Liverpool, ailing and inconsistent Liverpool, showed the world that Europe is their playground. Where they pip the world's best squads and they mastermind some boggling victories.

And Yossi Benayoun, who along with Dirk Kuyt has picked up the slack for a largely ineffective Fernando Torres, headed home a Fabio Aurelio cross for a 1-nil win against Real Madrid at the Bernabeu. And I wore a Liverpool kit for the broadcast of the FEU vs. UP UAAP Finals not knowing who won. So how cool was that?

Anfield here we come and I dreaming of the Round of Eight.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Reel time and TV bloopers

When I was with Solar Sports, I thought that I'd get an opportunity to do some stuff for the channel on television. And I did.

You could say it was like getting bit by a bug.

During the second Pacquiao-Morales fight, I was at Mega Mall where most of our VIP guests were at. Our crew from Solar arrived and had no one to handle the interviews. Our crew folks said, "Sir, kayo na lang." But I was hesitant. You know naman how some people are so sensitive about getting their toes stepped on. I remember the late Commissioner Jun Bernardino who had become a confidant and mentor at that time pushing me to get that mike and do it. "Do it, pare. You might get discovered."

My cousin used to moonlight as a DJ at the old KISS-FM and one night, he gave me an op to spin stuff on the radio while he sat in the lounge with his girlfriend and that was so fun. I remembered that so I said, "Hell, yeah." I also once guested on John Lesaca's late night show on TV -- twice. Hahahaha. The first I was so nervous. The second was better. While in the US, I also applied for The Apprentice (one of my favorite shows). I was candidate #several thousand so nothing happened. I never went back. Hahahaha. But just going there and filling out forms was fun. Man, I can't believe the sheer number of people who want to get fired by Donald Trump!

I laughed then went on cam to interview more than a dozen celebrities and showbiz personalities. Soon after that, I helped produce a show that we shot at Power Books in Greenbelt, write and co-produce a two-hour boxing special titled Glory Road, write the script for a couple of sports in review specials. And there were the odd plugs or two.

Having come from the advertising industry, it only reminded me that I missed doing stuff like that. My first ever radio commercial was for Macintosh and I was a voice talent with Lito Pagayon. Then I also did a few cameo appearances in commercials for PLDT, Philippine Airlines, Mazda and a few others (including one for an instant noodles commercial). When you see me next time ask me about it. If I have my laptop with me I'll show it to you. Hahahaha.

When Studio 23 asked me to do the pre and post-game analysis for the past UAAP Basketball Finals, I said yes. Honestly, I got nervous because I do it so infrequently that it doesn't come as naturally. I guess it showed.

During Freshman Night in college, I was one of the five emcees for the night and during one spiel on stage -- in the midst of a joke -- I completely forgot the punchline! Bwahahaha. Of course my batchmates rained boos on me. Minutes later, I remembered what I had to say and rushed back up to deliver the punchline and everyone kept laughing. Kasi naman weird di ba?

I did the men's football finals with former UP Maroon Kale Alvarez today -- the women's and men's Game 1. Again, I got nervous on cam. Bwahahaha. I stayed up working on notes some of which got lost so sayang. During the pre-prod, I said, "This is cool. I get to be Boom Gonzales." Thanks for all the tips, Boom, but I'm still a long ways off from being as good as ya, buddy.

But the last few days, I had long talks and chats with FEU's Adolfo Alicante (sabagay coach lagi naman tayo naguusap), UST's BJ Valenzuela, DLSU's Hans Smit (who I considered a good friend), and UP's Frank Muescan who I truly appreciate for his honesty. It was fun talking about lots of stuff! Coach Hans -- grabe. We'v e had long long conversations over the years and I never get tired of it. My second favorite team outside the Ateneo Women's Team is DLSU's. Coach knows that. Bwahahaha. Why not? They're fun to watch.

Both me and Kale went into the day thinking... UEFA, EPL, La Liga... except we don't have an English accent. And as cool as we tried to be... hindi pala ganun dapat. Sila Direk Al and Abet (who I am indebted sobra) said we shouldn't think that way kasi iba naman audience natin. Point taken. We'll do better. Hahahaha.

Bea had a grand time laughing at me. Well, B, I had a fun laughing at myself too. Lalo na that opening spiel for the second match... take seven!

Thanks to my media friends for dropping by to show support... Ms. Cecille from Sports Radio, TJ Jurado, Cedelf Tupas, and Reuben Terrado. Wala kasi naman sina Chris Soler and Mike Abasolo. Vanna Lim... stop laughing! I saw you. Kasi naman hilarious kanina. Kale, sorry, dude. Syempre cut yun. Puro bloopers. I was trying not to get tongue tied. Yan kasi... too much information and dapat relax. Bwahahahaha. Buti na lang wala si Lia Cruz kung di kukulitin ako.

Will do better sa Game 2. Hahahaha. Game 2 for the Women's and Men's Finals is Tuesday. 10am for Women's and 2pm for Men's. I'll include my thoughts on the two matches today later tonight. I gotta bathe coz I smell of the sun. Thanks to Tito Poch Borromeo for the ride!

Hey, Anna Frumenti... bawi na lang.

So I was asked if I wanted to do this regularly. Yeah... why not. I've always wanted to do what Christiane Amanpour and Kevin Sites does. That is way cool. I know it's dangerous but what in the blue hell... you only live once.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Reactions on my rant vs. the (PFF) Pera For Football

I wrote this early in 2008 after having obtained a confidential document from FIFA. It came out in the Business Mirror. You should all read this. I have an updated version in the works.

And a friend from the Asian Football Confederation sent this some 20 minutes ago. Read it and weep:

From Ria Tanjangco, captain of the former RP Women's Futsal Team:

I know that you are all sad and disappointed with the turn of events. As am I. Not because the move to oust Mari Martinez was foiled but that it showed the character of the football leaders of our country.

I just want you all to know that this doesn't change anything. Yes, Mari Martinez is still PFF President, but our mass resignation was never an attempt to compel his ouster. It wasn't an attempt to get Coach Manny and Coach Paul reinstated. And it certainly wasn't an attempt to dictate to PFF how it should deal with its affairs. We will look back to this day in the future and remember it as the day when we stood up for something we believed to be an injustice. We will remember it as the day when we, as a team, were not for sale when everyone else was. We did not stand by the side of a leader who has no respect for the institution, the sport, its players and its coaches.

Yes, we are all frustrated and disillusioned. It is just normal after people you believed to be honorable turned out to be after their own interests. We were counting on the wrong people to do the right thing. That was never going to happen.

But what does this mean to US? Nothing. All it means is that once again, like it always has been, we are on our own. We did not need them then, we don't need them now.

Do you all realize that we have made history? WE were the first Philippine National Women's Futsal Team. WE participated in the first ever Asian Indoor games. WE were the first to compete for the Philippines in the SEA games for futsal. WE are the first to win a medal for PFF in the SEA games and certainly in recent history.

We made history...US...against all odds, we did that. All that with no financial support from PFF. Mari's ouster wouldn't have changed that and his continued hold on power doesn't change it. He can never take that from us. P10 million pesos doesn't take that from us.

Enough of history...CHINS UP! Be thankful that we are all still together as a team, just the way we started. Wherever we go from here, wherever we choose to compete, we are still A Philippine Team. We are no longer the NATIONAL team but we are still a team of Filipinos playing for the pride of our country. We will always be a team from the Philippines.

Look forward to the future and know that things can only look up from here. It can't possibly get worse than when we had to deal with PFF. At least now, we don't have them holding us back.

Thank you Rick for your support.
Thank you Senor Cutillas for giving us the time of day.
Thank you to the PSC Commissioners and staff for making us feel like you were actually proud to call us a National Team.

From my good friend Coach John Flores:
I followed your article on the PFF and found it very interesting. In the past, I was really bothered by the comments of coaches and players of other sports, particularly football on the type of support basketball has been enjoying all these years.

I started my coaching career in La Salle Bacolod, a place where basketball and of course football reign supreme. I always felt guilty about the tag they had on basketball, because I knew they were right. I would always tell the football coaches and players that no one is stopping them from taking action and make a difference in the sport scene.

That "embarrassed" attitude stayed with me when I went to Ateneo. I took the time to watch other sports when my schedule permitted. My attitude towards the most popular game in the world changed after reading your series.

These people would often blame basketball for all their short comings. They would say things like: "We should concentrate in football because we are short, quick and properly built for the game." "Basketball is for tall people." And "we don't have enough support and funds like the PBA teams."

Well, now I understand better. Philippine football deserves to be where it is right now in the National and International scene. I never knew that they were getting money from FIFA. Imagine what the women's national basketball team could do with that money!

They even have their own building!!! I see that place on my way to work, I thought that they were just renting space in the building. What lack of funds are they talking about?

Fucking moochers.

In Europe, football is the number one sport; same with South America and Latin America, but that didn't stop Greece from humiliating the US in basketball. We all know what Spain and Argentina did the last couple of years. So what is the PFF's excuse???

Take it easy.

From me:
Oh, by the way, when I was with Solar Sports, we entered into a deal with the PFF where we paid them Php 1 million (why we did I will never understand and for the record, I was against it) for tagging along with PFF activities in exchange for exposure for our World Cup telecasts. As if naman they brought it here. Geez! Way I look at it, we were doing them a favor. We did not need them.

What I did was shoot the entire Ateneo and La Salle men's football teams and use them for a plug to promote the World Cup. That was a fun shoot. If I could do it all over again I will! Thanks to Coaches Ompong and Hans.

PFF never paid us for the Bacolod telecast and the Php 1 million never showed up on their inflows for 2006 or 2007. Ca-ching!

No, I am not mad. I am disgusted. Sell out. Sell out. Sell out. Hey remember that song by Reel Big Fish?

NBA TV Top 10: February 22nd

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Six feet under. Feels like it. Do you have a price?

I attended the 5th PFF Congress today at the Discovery Suites.

I have been critical of the Philippine Football Federation. And I have with good reason what with all their follies. Nevertheless, I went to the Congress with an open mind and with hopes that some good may come out of it. Did that include an ouster? Not necessarily. I was hoping for some humility on everyone's part.

I left the same way I did the PFF House of Football three weeks ago... nauseated and maybe even more damning, with my reinforced belief that this country is fucking hopeless. And quite honestly, I will not finish the five-part series on the state of football in this country. I will write about the former women's national futsal team for my column next Monday but after that... I refuse to want to do anything with the sport on a national level. Kayo na lang.

That's how disgusted I am with what transpired.

People who I previously looked up to... well, I no longer do.

But I am getting ahead of myself.

If the President of the PFF had indeed the permission of AFC President Mohammed Bin Hammam to use the AID 27 funds for other matters then why was that not communicated before? In a previous meeting with Mariano Araneta and Mari Martinez, it was never brought up. Instead, Martinez said that they were not paid for non-submission of their reports. I have written about that previously and there's no need for me to recount that once more. So why was it only in the last few days that it was used as an excuse/reason why it was re-allocated? I asked Martinez up front about it when I met up with him at the PFF and he never mentioned it at all. And that was a four hour meeting.

When Hammam gave his opening remarks, he cast his vote and open support for Martinez. He said that during the time of Johnny Romualdez, there were a lot of politics. Yes he did say that. And during Martinez' term, there was more of the same. He has been reading what Cedelf Tupas and I have been writing about and he was disgusted that people went to the media to air their grievances. He even implied that those complaining are causing trouble and the stunt of football in the country. He trivialized the complaints!

Of course he can sympathize because member countries in the AFC are out to get him too. And the few times he's on ESPN, it's because there's a move to oust him.

Hammam and Martinez then pulled out their trump card: they are for football. Anyone with complaints, please shelve it because it's not helping.

Oh, I know of quite a few people who kill in the name of God. So please...... spare me the platitudes.

And so how are the complainants going to fight a system that is not working? I most recently had a boss like that; someone who was truly twisted and would lie as easily as he breathes.

Hammam: "Our leaders have been beset by politics. You have to be given the right platform, guidance, and support not for ourselves but for football. You are not in a position to defend yourselves. Save the nation. Save the youth. The youth have not been saved. I am a real friend of yours and am talking from my heart to your heart."

Then he pledged Php 5 million in help for 2009 and another Php 5 million for 2010 outside the usual aid that the PFF receives from the AFC and FIFA.

And he gestured towards Martinez, "Will you accept this gift, Mr. President?"

Jeez. Let me pause to insert my expletives here. What drama! What emotion!

Oh wait, the emotion was yet to come.

When Hammam retired for the morning session, the congress argued bitterly for about an hour over agenda, protocol, and legal stuff that a recess had to be called because tempers were flaring. I jokingly told Mayor Joselito Piñol of the North Cotobato Football Association, "Does it always get this exciting here?"

He smiled back and only nodded.

After the recess, Martinez gave the floor to the Chairman Emeritus Johnny Romualdez. "Tito Johnny" as I fondly call him was my dad's classmate in Ateneo and he has on occasion invited me for various stuff for the PFF even if he knew that I took potshots at the federation. It's work; nothing personal so wipe that goddam smirk off your face.

Two days before the Board of Governors meeting over the past weekend, we spoke on the phone for over an hour. He told me that he was leaning towards the side of the group that wanted to oust him. He recounted how Martinez that he needed his support and if he couldn't give it then...

Romualdez texted and called Martinez several times that day but the President did not reply or take any calls. Tito Johnny said that he was aware of all the wrong that was done and yet if Martinez didn't call him the following day then he would side with the opposition.

He texted me later that day and I told him "I hope you do the right thing."

The former PFF President replied, "I have done the right thing. It is the others who need to do so."

As he took the microphone, he was tearful and I am not sure if he shed any tears. But his voice was cracking. He spoke of how Mari was once against him yet now they were on the same side. And he reiterated the need for solidarity and that hopefully, everyone could work for football rather than fight one another. He said that he did not run for re-election because if he did, it would have cost the PFF Php30-50,000 a month just for legal fees as he was being sued by a member association. He said he did the honorable thing and let someone else continue his job.

After the tele-novela portion was over I knew that well... the day was done and it was all going to be talk, bullshit, and even more bullshit from here. I mean, how much bullshit can I take?

Apparently, the others couldn't too. In their own way.

Atty. Anlu Carpio of the Naga Football Association soon left telling me that he knew it was over and that the Php 10 million will no doubt swing the minds of others.

Even more shocking, Nonong Araneta told me too that ouster was now out of the question and that we had Php 10 million in return. He'll just work for amendments and checks and balances within the system.

Sorry sir, this is what you told me two days before the Congress when I wasn't sure if I should continue writing about what was going on: The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.

Now, I guess this is what William Wallace must have felt when Robert the Bruce allowed him get captured by the English.

Many people behind football asked if I could write about the sport's problems domestically and that they were glad that someone had the guts to write it.

Arriving at the 42nd floor of the Discovery Suites before the sessions started, I was welcomed like some wartime liberator. But I am not here for the glory, but that football may take it's rightful place as one of our top sports programs. Instead... it's right on top of my lists for incompetence, stupidity, and least desired organizations. You're looking for a reason why football will not grow? It's because we are divided by selfish interests and men with agendas. Joaqui Preysler said this, "Before when there was no money coming in from FIFA, no one gave a rat's ass about the PFF and football. When the money started coming in... ayan na."

There you go!

Back to the Congress. I was shocked at how casually Martinez dismissed many of the questions and allegations with a "noted.'

When one member mentioned that plight of the former RP Women's Futsal Team, Martinez casually tossed it away with a "noted." Twice.

One member went up to the microphone and said that the next time he visits the PFF office, hopefully the President will be nice enough not to yell at him. Martinez said --- you guessed it -- "Noted."

When the National Capital Region Football Association's Poch Borromeo got angry about Martinez' casual reply, as the General Secretariat has more often than not failed to provide the written minutes, proof etc that has always been requested during a congress, he said that he'd get it on March 7. But not after a lot of arguing.

When another questioned Martinez' reply of "We'll look into it," the President spelled it out: "L-O-O-K!" What childishness and obnoxiousness! Sesame Street is in session.

For a man who promised transparency and sincerity, he should look up the meaning of the word. And throw in some humility there.

Oh, yes. This was the man who said it three times to me in my long talk with him at the PFF: "I am the PFF. I am football in this country. I am friends with Hammam and Blatter and no one can touch me."

A regular MC Hammer he is, isn't he?

And what kind of Financial Report was that when there are no checkbooks, checks, and other real and hard proof that this money is here and this money was spent for such. It is all talk. That's why it is being questioned. If proper procedure had been followed or even transparency then maybe none of this will have happened.

When Financial Committee Chairman Bok Marty was asked if the budget for 2008 was not followed, he weakly admitted yes. Because some inflows didn't come in as expected and there were unforeseen expenses. Holy cow!

My pop taught me not to live beyond my means. Maybe these people don't know that.

If I were accused of such, I'd have all the proof in the world with me. As it is, with the PFF, it's all talk.

The Board of Governors threw out the ouster as part of the agenda because the complainants did not furnish proof or give it the mandatory time allowed. Technicalities daw. They were quick to dismiss that yet when those who were asking for proof of PFF's accounting, paperwork etc they had none!

Some in attendance could see what was wrong but they didn't want to complain. There are even a few on the General Secretariat who feel that way. Let Borromeo and company do the dirty work because they sound like bitter old men, say the others. That way, their reps are sullied while we stay clean.

But it is the blindness men wish for. Sigh.

Most people went into that Congress with an agenda whether personal or altruistic reasons. And I am not going to speculate on what their motivations were.

I just walked away knowing that money talks and that people in power can get away with a lot of things. Just look at our national government.

It shook my faith in a lot of people.

That's it. I'm done. Out like transparency and sincerity in this goddam world.

The State of Philippine Football: Part Three The 13th President

(In following the events in Philippine football the past three years I've conducted extensive interviews with the people working behind the scenes and have hundreds of facsimiles of documents that have beset the state of the game. What follows is the third installment of a five-part report.)

Part Three: The 13th President
by rick olivares

On November 24, 2007, members of the Philippine Football Federation gathered to elect the 13th President at the Bayview Hotel in Manila.

There were five candidates at the start of the campaign period but on the day of reckoning there were two – Mari Martinez whose dream was to be the top honcho of local football and the National Sports Association’s publicist, Ed Formoso.

There are 32 voting members of the PFF; one for each of the football associations that are scattered across the archipelago. But during the PFF Congress where there were 30 voting members present, only 29 voted. The 30th member, Carlos Cojuangco of the Negros Occidental Football Association, inexplicably walked out for reasons only known to himself.

During the campaign, Martinez pledge to unite the fractious federation and build on the momentum that his predecessor Juan Miguel Romualdez began – the significant 25-point jump up the FIFA rankings and the construction of the $220,000 House of Football.

Formoso sought to equally divide almost the whole pie of the annual $250,000 that comes from the Financial Assistance Program of FIFA while leaving enough for operational expenses and the national teams.

The voting went 15-14 and Martinez’ way. Only declaring him as the new President wasn’t easy.

The current by-laws of the National Sports Association that were ratified in 2007, state in Chapter IV Article 11.4 that “The PFF Congress may transact officials matters only if there is a 50% + 1 quorum. All votes shall be taken as the absolute majority of the entire voting membership of the PFF Congress.”

There were 30 present including Cojuangco who walked out. Based on the Constitution, 50% would equals 15 members and plus one to comprise the absolute majority, whoever the new president might be would need 16 votes.

Since there were only 29 who voted, 50% would be 14.5 and when you add one more vote for it to be construed as the absolute majority then that would total 15.5. The elected president would have been half a vote short.

Despite the impasse, Romualdez said he made a judgment call and declared Martinez the 13th President of the PFF. Explained the outgoing President, “Since there were 29 members who voted, it’s not mathematically possibly to have the two-vote margin.”

The elections for the PFF President are done through secret balloting. By the time it was discovered that there was a snag in the electoral process, some of the voting members had left. “To call for reelections would cost the federation another P300,000,” was Romualdez’ second reason for his judgment call.

Unfortunately, unlike a football referee’s call on the pitch which is absolute, inside the boardroom, an important and delicate matter such as that could affect the federation’s future.

Martinez, who promised an administration of transparency, dedication, sincerity, and zeal, is instead fending off even more criticism and an early move to oust him.

Romualdez left the PFF with Php 2.4 million. But to date, the Martinez administration in just over a year in office, has a debt of close to Php 6 million. “Investments,” he rationalized of those expenses to this writer. “They are welcome to audit us anytime. We’re an open book to all the members,” invited the President. “I am a Christian and I do not lie. And so is my accountant. He’d be the first to resign if there are any anomalies.”

When pressed about the non-payment” of the coaches that has become a thorny issue, Martinez first blamed their failure to submit reports. When informed that they had indeed submitted their programs for approval, he meekly replied, “Hindi ko nakita. Natabunan sa desk ko.”

Then in the meeting with the PFF Board of Governors on February 21, 2009, when the matter was brought up by Mariano Araneta, former Head of the Coaches Committee and President of the Iloilo Football Association, the embattled President said that Asian Football Confederation President Mohammed Bin Hammam gave him the authority to use the funds for other matters.

“Which isn’t possible by the rules of the AFC regarding the AID 27 Program which provides that financial assistance of coaches. Even if Hammam did, for such as huge amount of money, it should be authorized through writing not via word of mouth,” argued Araneta.

In the weeks leading up to the PFF Congress, Martinez declared all the committees void and vacant. “I cannot have the heads trying to oust me,” he explained of his decision. “We have to move forward.”

And move forward they did.

On February 24 (the significance of the date -- the anniversary of the EDSA I People Power Revolution -- was not lost on Martinez when an aide mentioned it to him as he re-scheduled the Congress to accommodate Hammam three weeks ago), the move to oust him was squashed in the Board of Governors meeting as well as a well-timed Php 10 million assist by the AFC President. Hammam's passionate speech about solidarity for broke some key people behind the opposition.

"Our leaders have been beset by politics. You have to be given the right platform, guidance, and support not for ourselves but for football. You are not in a position to defend yourselves. Save the nation. Save the youth. The youth have not been saved. I am a real friend of yours and am talking from my heart to your heart."

Then he pledged Php 5 million in help for 2009 and another Php 5 million for 2010 outside the usual aid that the PFF receives from the AFC and FIFA.

And he gestured towards Martinez, "Will you accept this gift, Mr. President?"

"I stand for football," said Martinez who was touched by the donation to Philippine football. "Thank you, Mr. Bin Hammam."

Monday, February 23, 2009

Hey, Zi! Where in the world are ya at?

Hey, bro. Here is the pic of my ABA team here. They're called TOWNSVILLE HEAT. ABA mens bball team, ABA is like PBL here.
-- Zion Laterre

My bud Zion Laterre sent me an update on what he's up to. If a trip to Australia pushes through sometime this year then I'll be dropping by. Thanks for the pic. And regards to Karla and the kid. And the new kid to come. Yee-haw!

Ateneo Men's Football Match #10 Blades of Grass

Blades of Grass

Ateneo 3 vs. UST 0
words by rick olivares football by the blue booters

February 22, 2009
Erenchun Field
The game was seconds away from getting underway. Gino Tongson took his customary place at the left side of midfield. He bent over, pulled a few blades of grass from the pitch then quickly scattered them in front of him.

It was hard to believe that in two hours' time his playing days for Ateneo would be all over.

Ten minutes earlier, Ompong Merida called out to his team for one last huddle. He didn’t say much. After all, what needed to be said was done in their final practice the day before. “I’m turning it over to Coach Jolo,” said the Blue Booters’ mentor of his graduating midfielder Jolo Peralta.

Merida does this in their final game of the year – turning over the inspirational speech to its graduating players.

“Coach Jolo,” repeated the player who was surprised yet pleased with his coach’s tribute. It took him a few seconds before he could collect himself then he thanked his teammates for the year that had taken so long to get to the football season and yet when it arrived, it ended all too quick. Suddenly unsure of what to say, he reminded everyone of the hard earned knowledge that they took for granted in the first round – that they needed to enjoy the game.

Then it was Tongson’s turn. He spoke deliberately to let the message sink in. And on the Ateneo side of the pitch, everyone would have heard a pin drop as those remaining behind listened intently. In five sentences, he reminded everybody of the responsibility that comes with wearing the blue and white. “Never forget,” he concluded as his voice trailed off.

Benedict Tady was next. He didn’t get too much playing time this past year but on the bench he continued to cheer his teammates on. Tady actually had one more playing year left but he was forgoing it for med school. He encouraged everyone to play their roles on the team to the hilt.

Then it was Alvin Perez’ turn.

It’s been a humbling experience for him. In his first four playing years for the team, he went to the Finals every time out. He won three as a member of the already fabled three-peat champions and then there was last year’s stinging loss to FEU. He wasn’t sure about coming back but Merida had prevailed upon him to captain a squad that needed a veteran leader. And now his team finished at the bottom of the heap after notching only one win and two scoreless draws in nine matches. “I think we can take nothing for granted,” he surmised. He too reminded everyone of what they’ve been through and that they needed to learn from this and make it better. How sweet would it be to go out with a win?

In their last four matches of the year, the Ateneo Men’s Football Team regained their touch and bearings. They battled UP to a controversial draw, reasserted their mastery over La Salle, drew scoreless versus UE, and against UST, they hoped to go out with a bang.

There were a couple of crucial moves that seemed so simple but they were the difference.

In place of starting central defender Miguel Tuason, Merida made a lateral move by putting Derrick Candelaria in the middle. And in the place of Paul Cheng, Ale Rivera was given the starting job as an attacking defensive back.

Rivera’s insertion was crucial because it gave the team three set piece threats with the other being Luigi Meer and Miko Manglapus.

And the rookie who is the grandson of the late Senator and Ateneo Cheerleader Raul Manglapus was the third big chess piece on the board in the final game of an almost forgettable year.

Manglapus was perhaps the revelation of the year. After coming off the bench in that now infamous first match against UE, he has played every game and more often than not started. The coaching staff was even intrigued with the idea of making him a part of the attacking third in the future but in the final game of the year, to show his versatility, he was starting at goalkeeper.

With Joel Faustino benched for missing practice, Manglapus who also played emergency keeper during the Palarong Pambansa was going to be the last line of Ateneo’s defense.

The Growling Tigers had always had problems with their short game against Ateneo so they liked to play the long ball and be aggressive. By constantly bombarding the goal from afar, they hoped that eventually the defense would commit a mistake and they could capitalize on it.

Manglapus was up to the test as a long strike by David Basa headed towards a gaggle of players who were fighting for air supremacy. But the keeper rose above everyone and snatched the ball away. It drew applause from everyone.

A few minutes into the match, the Blue Booters’ defense tightened as they forced UST midfielder Louie Brilliantes to cough up the ball. With the España squad’s attack discombobulated, Ateneo went on the quick counter.

The first hint of trouble for UST was when Gerard Cancio broke free on a scintillating run but his volley hit the crossbar. Minutes later, Gab Siojo fired away from 40 yards out and the ball skimmed the net above.

The third time was the proverbial charm when in the 13th minute, Rivera’s well-placed left side corner plummeted right in the middle of a bunch of UST and Ateneo players. Tigers keeper Kyle Arboleda tried his best to punch out the ball but it fell right in front of Peralta who slotted in his first goal of the season and in his final match at that.

Ten minutes later, after a foul on a UST player, Merida – in another timely call – instructed Manglapus to take a free kick some ten yards behind the midfield line instead of Kiko Meilly who was making his second start.

The midfielder-turned-keeper’s kick found Peralta who outfought his man in the air as he headed the ball towards Siojo who had the good sense to follow the ball right in. As a result of the pressure, Arboleda dropped the ball and the Atenean booted in the loose ball for his second of the year and a 2-0 lead.

Siojo tapped the front of his jersey then ran towards midfield with his index finger pointing towards the Blue Babble Battalion and the diehard supporters of the team who had remained steadfast even in a most trying season.

In the 35th minute, Siojo became the team’s unlikely scoring leader for the tournament when he netted his team’s (as well as his personal) third goal of the game match off a scramble in front of the UST goal.

The Tigers adjusted in the second half as they had numerous opportunities to pull a goal or two back, but shots were rushed and the defense held. Manglapus’ performance as net minder drew raves from just about everyone on the field including the technical committee.

With time running down, the Blue Booters had one last chance to add up to their tally and Derrick Candelaria’s textbook form bicycle kick even when the shot went straight to Arboleda got nearly everyone on the pitch up in excitement.

As fulltime was called, the entire team and the coaching staff went to the opposite side of the field to thank their supporters.

Jolo Peralta walked off the pitch and fought back his emotions. Since the age of seven he had played on the different pitches inside the campus. He got a nice parting gift – a win and a goal; and he had played well.

Tongson was the last player off the pitch as he clutched at the area above his left eye. “Naiwanan pa ako ng souvenir,” he said of a wayward elbow by a UST player that nailed him.

He touched the grass right at the line that marked the end of play. It didn’t end with a title run, but didn’t shake his head in dismay. He – the team in fact -- had fought the good fight.

Match Statistics
Shots on goals
Ateneo 15 (9)
UST 14 (5)

Ateneo 3

Ateneo 12

Ateneo 1

Ateneo 8

Thanks Alvin, Benedict, Gino, and Jolo.
pic by brossi gonzales

From Gino Tongson:
thanks for all the support rick! you've been with us through the good and bad...pero you never left the blue and white. nice touch in bleachers brew, nice touch indeed. see you in the next uaap, we'll watch (and/or heckle) from the sidelines! hahahha! pero from the ateneo men's football team, WE SALUTE YOU! :)

Now that the college sports season is almost over... thanks to the following!

The college sports season is over. Whew! What a year huh? These are the folks who were extremely helpful in covering sports this year and there are those in the pro ranks as well.

Tried to follow several teams for Ateneo: men's hoops, football, baseball, track, volleyball, baseball, and the Blue Babble Battalion. Those that I were not able to follow... sorry! Don't worry, I'll pilfer that clone machine from the Empire.

Huge shout outs to the following for all the help, kind words, constructive criticism, and praise from the following:
Fr. Ben, Joe Santos, Mr. Eddie Go, Sonia Araneta, Jun Dalandan, Jun Jun Capistrano, Ricky Palou, Em Fernandez, Benjo Afuang, Ric Du, Jon Aguilar, and the other UAO folks.

Coach Norman, Paolo Trillo and Debbie Tan. Coaches Sandy, Gene, Jamike, Gabby, and Jon.

Coach Ompong, Bobman, and Jerwin. Mick Perez (totally awesome), Roger Gorayeb (my jogging partner!), Oliver Almadro, Mic Mic Laborte, Coaches Buda and Karen, Randy Dizer and Emer Barandoc for allowing me to sit with the team during a game, and of course the players! And my girls: Bea, Steph, Misha, Kara, Belay, Tata, Cesca, and Nikki.

And the ball boys and utility folks at the Blue Eagle Gym. Rudy Allayban and his staff at the University Archives. And my friends at the Guidon -- Favian and Martin (I'm doing a guest column in the Guidon for their final issue of the year -- my first since I was in school!). Thanks for the invite! Yee-haw!

Sa BBB: there's coaches Ivan, Al, and Ralph (bro, you rock!). and the captains.... JR, Toons, Mary, and Cesar. Mas mahirap pa mga trabaho ng mga 'to kesyo sa akin. Saludo tayo diyan!

Fellow alums who were sounding boards for ideas and debate: Miko Samson, Joseph Nocos, Martin Lichauco, Nonoy Chuatico, Mhel Garrido, Ding Camua, Domeka Garamendi, Mickee Gimarino, Pat Ozaeta, and Paul Arcenas. Chito Loyzaga, my ABL teammate who I have yet to help also sa Philippine baseball.

To the Ateneans in New York, Chicago, and SanFo who wrote regularly. Even that tone alum from Alaska (the state not the milk product, dumbass). Those alums in Hong Kong, Thailand, and Singapore.

And to our friends at the US Embassy. And to the non-Filipinos who wrote intrigued by Ateneo, UAAP, and Philippine sports -- there's Nady from South Africa, Zeljko from Serbia, Gary, Edward (good luck to Portsmouth!), and Jack from England. Hey Jack, I will give you an Ateneo football jersey in exchange for a Steven Gerrard Liverpool kit! Aldrin from Verona, Italy. Repeat after me, "One Big Fight!"

Wish I was there for swimming. I tried to follow women's football but well... it was difficult to write what with all those issues in the team. Not the way anyone wanted the year to turn out and it will come back to haunt them as Mia Sumulong has transferred to Taft.

The biggest treat was being allowed inside the dugouts, huddles, film viewing sessions, and team meets. Unprecedented yung sa men's football, volleyball, track, and baseball. It was a revelation.

To the parents: the Señorens, Parejas, Cancios, the Reyeses (Jai), the Austrias, the Peraltas, the Banzons, syempre me family -- the Olivareses-Caluags-Cunanans who always pounded me for updates and info. Even tickets. As if I was a scalper!

And there were the other schools too! They graciously allowed me access to a lot including huddles, the locker rooms, practices, game situations etc.

Thanks to National University: Dr. Arline Royo, Tito Bam Paguia, Coach Manny Dandan, Coach Junel Baculi, Coach Johnny Candoy, Neil Ocampo, and Mr. Hans Sy!

Far Eastern University: Mark Molina, Belay Ripoll, Jens Knuttel and his brother Marc, and the staff at SPARC. Coach Glenn Capacio and Bert Flores! And in football Coach Adolfo Alicante.

The University of the Philippines Fighting Maroons especially to Coach Aboy Castro and my ABL teammates Jay Castro and Bert Mendoza. Jerry Codinera. In volleyball, Coach Ronald Dulay.

University of Santo Tomas: Fr. De Sagon and Mrs. Francisco, Coach Pido, and the players (salamat sa fishballs!). Sa mga estudyante ko sa Social Entrepreneurship, great times we had in our project.

Adamson University: Mr. De La Rosa and Coach Leo Austria, and Leo Canuday.

De La Salle University: Football's Hans Smit, Kim Smit, and Steph Pheasant. Mon Jose for the lecture on DLSU football (gracias, señor!). Coach Ramil of the volleyball team. Simon Atkins, PJ Walsham, and Marko Batricevic of the basketball team.

San Beda College: Frankie Lim, Fr. Anselm, their Library folks, and Ogie Menor. Hey, there's Ares Gutierrez and Mike Abasolo (Mr. Red Simba!).

Jose Rizal University: Coach Ariel Vanguardia and the team. Shoutout to Mark Cagoco.

And there's Letran College and Louie Alas (this is the story you all never read). Next year na lang.

STI: Mhel Garrido and Arnel.

Adidas... well to the folks who are no longer there like Joey Singian, Odette Velarde and Goody Custodio. And hi to Mike, Kath, Toti, and Pam!

My colleagues in the media:
Solar Sports: Vitto Lazatin, Rely San Agustin, Martin David, and Jude Turcuato.
ABS CBN/Studio 23 -- Direk Abet Ramos and Al Neri, Kenneth Ti, and the prod peeps you know who you are. Boom Gonzales who I've had many an interesting conversations with as we exchanged insights and info.
Inboundpass: eto mga bro and damn good buddies: Mike, Chris Soler, and Sid Ventura (tara Countryside ulit!)
Theo Jurado, Reuben Terrado, Tessa Jazmines, Jun Lomibao, Cedelf Tupas, and Jasmine Payo.

Sev Sarmenta, a mentor of sorts who has kept me on the path.

Jess De la Fuente, Mike Valencia, Frankie Varona at the Ateneo Alumni Association!

Jimmy Araneta at PS Bank.

Loudette Guevarra at Blueblood. Joanna Ruiz at the Loyola School Bulletin. Vlad Bunoan at Maxim and Business Mirror.

Robin Tong.......... geez. What a guy! What support beyond the call of duty. Unbelievable! Tito Jimmy Alabanza who was always a wealth of info and a great sounding board. The Zalameas. Me old boss... Meckoy Quiogue! And Rudy Ang of the JGSOM. Salamat, sir!

Coach Ronnie Magsanoc. Sana maka-trabaho ko kayo, Coach!

Coach Chot Reyes. Great advice and insights. And yes, I will do that long delayed TNT story na!

Coach Nash Racela. Bong Ravena, my old neighbor and friend who I used to hang out with in the old neighborhood. O, si Kiefer ha?

My band of brothers and two sisters in the trenches and the pit... the Ateneo Sports Shooters. You all know who you are!

And lastly: Brian Zialcita, Carlo Ricohermoso, and Mai Ventura.

Thanks for reading here at Bleachers' Brew, Business Mirror,, and the other stuff where ya see me. And sign up as a fan in facebook. Check out Bleachers' Brew there. Me old classmate Eric Roa set it up there. Gracias, Eric.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

The State of Philippine Football Part 2: National Team. National Problem.

(In following the events in Philippine football the past three years I've conducted extensive interviews with the people working behind the scenes and have hundreds of facsimiles of documents that have beset the state of the game. What follows is the second installment of a five-part report.)

Part Two: National Team. National Problem.
by rick olivares

After a successful campaign in the 2007 ASEAN Football Championship-Qualifying Round in Panaad, Bacolod, eight members of the Philippine Men’s Football Team went straight from the airport to the hastily organized press conference held at the penthouse of the Mizuno Headquarters at the BMG Centre at the Paseo de Magallanes Commercial Center, Makati City. Since it was close to Christmas time, the other members of the squad were allowed to go home to their respective provinces.

Of the players present, six of them were Fil-foreigners. The only locals were goalkeeper Louie Casas and defender Japeth Sablon.

The press conference was a snafu. There were only seven writers on hand and only one television crew present – Solar Sports, which broadcast the entire tournament live on its cable channel; an unprecedented feat for Philippine football.

There were no press kits handed out during the press conference. Not even nameplates to introduce the players who were largely unknown to the media. The question and answer portion was another unmitigated disaster. The sports writers asked an assortment of insipid questions like “what was their favorite color” all the way to their “favorite Filipino food.”

And it was over in 20 minutes.

It was actually a telling of the state of football in the country. Aside from one reporter who asked football-related questions, most were more akin to a slum book-type or in this day, for facebook. Truly the sport was nowhere near the rarefied air accorded to basketball and its men’s national team whose fortunes would affect the country’s mood in a way only a Manny Pacquiao fight can.

Most of the talking was done by the jovial Chris Greatwich, the former Brighton and Hove Albion player who was on his third tour of duty with the national team. The Younghusband brothers, Phil and James, who were youth team players for Chelsea in the English Premier League, contributed their fair share of answers while Casas and Sablon were the relegated to token questions such as “how was it to play with the Fil-British?” and “what is the future of Philippine football?”

In a separate interview three days later at the Erenchun Field of Ateneo De Manila for an Ang Liga match, the two teammates from San Beda College casually mentioned the dissent among the other homegrown players that stemmed from the proliferation of the reinforcements from Europe and the United States.

The addition of foreigners to beef up the national team is nothing new. In its earliest days, the great Paulino Alcantara alternated between FC Barcelona and tours of duty with the Spanish and Philippine National Teams.

But it was during the tenure of Andres Soriano Jr. that the infusion of foreign technology and know-how to a moribund football scene. Soriano and his General Secretary Fernando Alvarez first brought in British coaches and Spanish nationals to beef up national team. His gambit was to bring back the excitement of football that was fast giving way to basketball as the national sport.

It was of course a vastly different time when migration, naturalization, and the global village were subject to different laws. Nowadays, it seems almost every national squad save for the Philippines has their own cadre of naturalized players, dual citizens or Brazilians to make them more competitive.

The Spanish contingent that was brought in was notable for it included a former player for Atletico Madrid who would later trade in his boots for a doctor’s garb -- Dr. Juan Cutillas. It was Cutillas who later recruited Tomas Lozano, Manuel Cuenca, Julio Roxas, and Juan Gutierrez to play in the country.

With financial muscle provided by the Sorianos, Elizaldes, Rochas, and Hagedorns among others, the Philippine selection – the four Spaniards together with Armed Forces and top collegiate players – beat some of the best teams in the region including Thailand, Singapore, Burma, and South Korea. It seemed that football was on its way up as a major sport. There were several semi-pro football leagues going on and some played to packed crowds at the old Ugarte Field in Makati.

As the pro Philippine Basketball Association grew in stature, the crowds that trooped to watch football games began to dwindle. The support eventually died down and the leagues folded or consolidated into a few. Roxas and Gutierrez went back home to Spain while Lozano and Cuenca stayed and grew roots in the country.

The national team, the bulwark of the state of the game in the country, floundered and it would take more than three decades before the team shook off the stigma of repeated pummelings on the international stage.

The concept of rebuilding a national team this time with reinforcements of Filipino ancestry was began during the time of PFF President Rene Adad and its General Secretary, the late Christopher Monfort. With the Spanish players having moved on to club competition and the decline of the popularity of football, the national team was primarily stocked with players from the Armed Forces because it was with the military squads where one could continue their career after their collegiate days were over.

Cutillas, who holds a Spanish and Australian passport but married a Filipina, was invited back to oversee creation of a competitive the national team. Together with Juan Miguel Romualdez, the chief proponent for the Kasibulan (grassroots) development, they pushed for the inclusion of a larger but limited number of players of Philippine ancestry without compromising the home grown players. Monfort at the same time, introduced a micro version of that in the Ateneo Football Center and its benefits on the pitch were later hailed in the Vision Asia report.

Cutillas defended the move: “These Fil-foreigners were there to not only add expertise but to help in the transfer of technology. But football officials have to be careful that it does not harm the grassroots program because continued dependence on the Filipino-foreigners will not help local football.

Domeka Garamendi, who served as Gen-Sec during Romualdez’ tenure as PFF President elaborated that point: “The internal problem is the fact that most of the Fil-foreigners arrive around a week or two days before the competition and that they were selected in place of local players who have been in the team longer. I know this doesn’t sound quite fair but given the unique situation back then these Fil-fors performed better than some of the local players during training camp. And it wasn’t like they didn’t want to come earlier; it was because they couldn’t due to club/team/school commitments. The coaching staff should explain this to the players and made them understand that practicing and attending the training camp are not sure-fire ways of getting into the team. It’s part of it but performance also plays an integral role. And not all the Fil-fors that have tried out made the team. There were several that the coaching staff did not take because there are better local players.

Cutillas, Romualdez, and Garamendi all agree that the Fil-foreigners are part of the short and medium terms solutions. What is paramount is to create an environment that will nurture and develop local talents to be at par with Fil-fors.

Summed up Garamendi, “We can only blame ourselves for not being able to keep up.”

Ariston Caslib, who was national coach from 2003 to 2007, insisted that Fil-foreigners submit themselves anywhere from two weeks to a month for testing and inspection before they were included in the team roster. Said Caslib, “A national coach must challenge local players to lift the levels of their game. If we constantly go up against the best and are tested by the best, then only then can we raise the level of our game.”

It was during this period when the Azkals, as the national team is nicknamed, vaulted from a low #195 in the FIFA rankings to its all-time high at #157 (the Philippines is currently at #164).

However, it is curious to note that after every major competition, the national team is disbanded and only put back together sometimes perilously close to an important international competition. Why the team is disbanded isn’t clear and it deprives its players of the allowances provided by the Philippine Sports Commission.

With the AFC Challenge Cup Qualifiers fast approaching (April 14-18, 2009 in the Maldives where the Philippines is bracketed with the host country, Bhutan, and Turkmenistan), the national team hasn’t even been called in for training.

The recent resignation of Cutillas as Head Coach of the National Team and Head of the Technical Committee over a row with current PFF President Jose Mari Martinez regarding the non-payment of coaches as well as the interference of team managers in the duties of other national team coaches has also thrown exacerbated the situation.

Regarding the latter complaint, Cutillas was referring to reports by coaches Casper Ngo, Joel Villarin, and Lloyd Lim over Team Manager Ernie Nierras usurping their authority and relegating them to the bench during tournaments in Malaysia (2009 AFC Under-19 Women’s Championship Qualification from October 28-November 7, 2008 and the 2009 AFC Under-16 Women’s Championship Qualification from November 10-18, 2008) and Vietnam (2009 AFC Senior Women’s Championship Qualification from October 1-13, 2008).

Mahirap ‘to,” said one player who requested anonymity for fear of sanctions and non-inclusion with the squad. “Papalit palit ng coach. Paiba iba ng sistema. Tapos sisihin kami sa laro.”

Then there are the Younghusbands who have gone on record to say that they refuse to play anymore for the team as long as Martinez is PFF President. Joyce Ramirez who represents the Fil-British brothers said that this stemmed over unfulfilled promises over expenses incurred during their last national stint. Said Ramirez, “He (Martinez) told us to pay first for our own airfare and other expenses after which he would reimburse us after. When we tried to hold him to his commitment, he said he made no such promises.

When this writer asked Martinez for his side regarding the coaches and Younghusbands’ cases, he declined to comment. But for the National Team, he said, “We will have a team ready. And I have a back-up. This is what I call my baby. There’s this team of Filipino-British footballers called Philippine United and they’re based in England.

All I can tell you is that under my watch, we’d had continued success in the international field. And we will address those concerns and compete.

Ateneo Men's Volleyball Match #16 Endings and Beginnings

Endings and Beginnings
by rick olivares
Ateneo vs. UST Final Four
19-25, 23-25, 20-25

February 21, 2009
The Arena
You have to wonder what was going through Timmy Sto. Tomas' mind in those last few minutes of the third set during Ateneo's Final Four match-up with UST.

A 21-13, it looked to be all over. The Blue Spikers lost the first two sets 19-25 and 23-25 and each time they came close to snatching a set or even drawing level but unforced errors and mis-receives told heavy on them. That One Big Fight was evident in the first two sets as they battled back from what had the makings of a blowout yet still they fell short.

The second set in particular nearly knocked the fight out in the early goings of the third set, but Sto. Tomas would have none of it.

And 21-13, he yelled out at his team: "Let's go!"

Sto. Tomas received a sharp serve that went to setter Ed Ortega who dropped it in on an unsuspecting Tigers team 21-14.

On the receiving end, UST's Reno Roque found an empty space in front of Sto. Tomas to inch closer to the first Finals seat 22-14. The graduating Atenean pulled himself up and smiled.

JR Intal, who has risen to the occasion in the big games, hammered down his patented dunk shots this one to the backline that fell right in front of UST Captain Rey Dimaculangan 23-15.

After a check ball off Xavier Señoren to make it 24-15, Ateneo rattled off five straight point to force UST to call time. The Blue Spikers' captain AJ Pareja had been shuttling back and forth in the game to get a moment's valuable rest. He was downed by a bad case of food poisoning the night of the loss to UP (for the third and fourth seeding) yet he found a reservoir of energy and courage to help his team's cause. His trademark power spike had punctured the UST defense to make a game of it 20-24.

But on the next play, UST returned the favor, this time in front of Timmy Sto. Tomas to give them the win.

The team immediately swarmed around their former captain.

As the victorious España team sang their alma mater, Sto. Tomas raised his hand too to join in. After all, he did go there for his early school years before transferring to Loyola Heights on his own volition for college (even if he was asked to play for their Seniors Volleyball Team).

It was ironic. Maybe a little bittersweet that after five playing years, he had played a huge role in getting the once downtrodden Ateneo Men's Volleyball Team to be a power only to have its gallant run cut short by the school he spurned.

At the end, it was a love fest unlike the game against UP where the Maroons taunted and talked trash every step of the way. The UST coaches gave their "wayward" son a warm hug.

Inside the dugout, there were none of the tears that flowed freely after the UP game. There were smiles and speeches of hope and gratitude.

All season long, Head Coach Oliver Almadro spoke of enjoying the journey and not the destination. Making it to their dream destination would have been fine -- mighty fine -- but not everyone gets there so it was important to cherish and enjoy it for it isn't every year that Ateneo books a semis seat.

At least not yet. "Pagpatuloy natin ang sinimulan natin," challenged Almadro. "Ang sinimula nila Timmy at AJ. At kayo (the remaining players) ang makakapaggawa nito."

Ateneo had lost all nine sets it played against UST. The second loss was the only walk in the park for the title favorites whose third win over the blue and white gave them a spotless 15-0 for Season 71. But as in many cases in sports, the numbers do not begin to tell the whole story.

The Blue Spikers came and conquered. They had beaten every team save for UST. Now everyone prepared for them and did not take them lightly.

In a disappointing second semester for Ateneo sports, the spotlight shone brightly on them and the Men's Baseball Team whose stirring run gave them its best ever finish in UAAP play at third that was also a masterstroke for its first year coach Emer Barandoc.

"You have nothing to be ashamed of," pronounced Almadro who also coached his first men's team ever and if you had seen the games even on TV would have noted that he is the only mentor during timeouts who diagrams plays and helpful tips while others recite a litany of their players' mistakes.

In the dugout after the game, the team emerged like they were the winning team. They posed for pictures and laughed. And that night, they had a team dinner at Saisaki (in EDSA that was sponsored by the Señorens). During the dinner, the team and its family and friends reminisced the past season. They watched tape of the game against UP and re-lived Sto. Tomas' facial to an opponent.

What a way to go out.

For Timmy Sto. Tomas.

And Rey Africa.

photos taken by mike de joya

Friday, February 20, 2009

It's Out

Jessica Gomes has dethroned Ana Beatriz Barros as my favorite super model.

The State of Philippine Football Part 1
(In trying to closely monitor the events surrounding Philippine football for the last three years, I've conducted extensive interviews with the people working behind the scenes and have obtained hundreds of facsimiles of documents that have beset the state of the game. What follows is a five-part report based on that.)

Part One: A House Divided
by rick olivares

The House of Football stands at the corner of Danny Floro and Henry Javier Streets in Oranbo, Pasig City where the two streets jut out in a “V formation with motels lined up on either side of a heavy traffic area.

Built at a cost of Php 16 million through Fédération Internationale de Football Association’s (FIFA) Goal Project, it took almost a year to complete before it was formally inaugurated during the Philippine Football Federation’s Centenary Anniversary in December of 2008 by Joseph Blatter, President of football’s world governing body.

The stylish three-story headquarters designed by architect Baltazar Avelino is a stark contrast to all the buildings in the surrounding motel row that reveal nothing of the secret if not forbidden intimacy within; hence the closed doors, garage doors, and blackened windows.

The old PFF Headquarters was housed in the nearby Philsports Complex (Room 405 Building B) and had all the feel of a public school administration office. The grey paint on worktables chipped off. Videotapes of football matches piled atop one another without cases. The bathroom also doubled as a janitor’s stockroom. The headquarters resembled the state of football in the country – not enough support and in a state of disrepair.

The new swank digs have the look of a glass house that will not look out of place in chic Miami. There are dozens of oil paintings of football scenes including a huge one of Brazilian star Ronaldinho that line its walls. Along with the spaciousness of the offices, it gives the new offices a 21st Century cosmopolitan feel. More importantly, it signifies how serious the National Sports Association is with lifting up the state of the sport in a country where everything else is a distant second to basketball.

The House of Football is the only headquarters by any sport in the country that is housed outside a government building. Yet critics of the new PFF administration point out that the stately settings belie the rotting state of the beautiful game in the Philippines.

Rife with infighting and accusations of corruption and mismanagement, the headquarters of the Philippine Football Federation has become more and more a refuge for its president Jose Mari C. Martinez. “Like Big Brother,” used one disgruntled longtime football figure to describe the Orwellian setting where Martinez’ room has a view of everything that goes on in the third floor which houses the executive offices as well an upper deck view of the pedestrian streets below where people at best try to scurry about with anonymity and utmost secrecy.

An 86-page report made by Vision Asia, a think tank accredited by the Asian Football Confederation, was submitted to the PFF officials at the time of the inauguration and provided an assessment report and strategic development plan for the growth of soccer in the Philippines.

A four-man panel headed by Vision Asia Director Brendan Menton conducted a study and exhaustive interviews from September 20-23, 2008 involving a field of coaches, referees, administrators, clubs, and journalists from the National Capital Region and Cebu. The report not only acknowledged the strained relations between the NSA and its member football associations (particularly the National Capital Region Football Association) but also the need for better organization and planning.

Martinez, who is in his mid-50’s, proclaims his passion for the sport that he believes would be a perfect showcase for Filipino talent on a global stage. A former footballer himself having played for San Beda College and the National Team, he chides himself for the poundage he has put on over the years but his eyes reveal a weariness to the problems he faces barely a year into his four-year term as the PFF’s President. “I was not fully aware of what (former PFF head Johnny) Romualdez left behind but I inherited them and solved them. Unfortunately, it put some of the things I wanted to implement on the back burner. But now we can move full steam ahead.

An assistant knocks on his glass door and he motions for her to come in. She has brought in a memo that needs his imprimatur. They will need to send it out at the soonest because he is moving the Congress, the annual meeting of the board of governors and member associations that is supposed to be held every November of the year but was pushed back to February 22, 2009.

Martinez invited Mohammed Bin Hammam, President of the Asian Football Confederation, to attend the proceedings.

Critics of Martinez have scored the invite as a means to checkmate an internal move to oust the incumbent who will bank on the Filipino custom of hiya in front of guests so as to postpone the matter to another date.

That’s exactly what we fear,” said one head of a football association who refused to be named. “And the next time everyone will all convene will be another what – eight months from now?

Ironically, Martinez ran for PFF President under the pledge of uniting the fractious football community. Yet, in a year's time, it is far more messy and divided than it ever was.

The PFF has been besieged lately by the furor of the resignation of the entire Philippine Women’s Futsal Team that won a bronze medal in the 2007 South East Asian games in Thailand because of the poor treatment by its head coach Manny Batungbacal. Martinez also began the day by declaring all positions in all 17 committees null and void. “I have to reorganize things,’ said Martinez that afternoon to this writer. “I cannot have people in positions demanding my ouster all the time. We need to move forward with our plans for football.”

The compound matters, the PFF has been at loggerheads with the Technical and Coaches Committee over the non-payment of its coaches for half a year. The AFC, through its AID 27 Project (which designed to provide financial assistance for coaches and local developmental programs), sent monies over the last half of the year for the coach's allowances.

The coaches have not submitted any monthly reports,” argued Martinez. “Why should we pay them?”

The committee’s former chairman Mariano “Nonong” Araneta debunked the PFF’s answer by saying that they have submitted their program recommendations and plans early last year and were awaiting the green light to proceed but no word was heard.

Martinez responded to Araneta’s counter by meekly stating that the report was probably buried underneath all the paperwork on his desk.

That does not excuse the PFF from paying the coaches,” riposted Araneta. “Yet ironically, the PFF submitted the same list of coaches to the AFC for renewal of their allowances this 2009! So tell me what’s wrong with that picture?”

Amidst all of this, the Men’s National Team, the torchbearer for the state of football in the country and FIFA rankings, has been inactive and some of its mainstays – particularly the Filipino-foreigner reinforcements brought in the last several tournaments – have refused to play for a various reasons; some of its over unfulfilled promises. The three coaches who have had a huge hand in developing the national team -- Dr. Juan Cutillas, Aris Caslib, and Norman Fegidero are no longer with the team for a variety of reasons.

As the afternoon sun gave way to the dark clouds that hinted of rain on a February afternoon, Martinez pensively looked outside his window. The room had cleared out of his guests. He pondered the move to oust him and said without looking in my direction. “See what I have to deal with?”

And like the Emperor Palpatine in the Star Wars mythos, he concluded: “Now I have to deal with these rebels.”

Next: Part Two: National Team. National Problem.

Read this: Birds of the same feather flock together.