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.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Street Heroes

Caption: Erica Inocencio, Roberto Orlandez, John Robert “Blueshark” Gaerlan, Raymond Elona, and Mario Titoy of the Philippine team that beat host South Africa 2-1 in the 1st Deloitte Street Child World Cup in Durban, South Africa pose with the Shield trophy and the medals they received outside the Amici Restaurant in Don Bosco, Makati. During the 12-day competition, the Philippines upset superpower Brazil 6-2 before they prevailed over the hosts. The Philippine team is one of two countries – the other being India that won the World Cup – that brought home a trophy.

This story appears in the Friday March 26, 2010 edition of the Business Mirror.

Street Heroes
story and photo by rick olivares

The Philippine team to the Deloitte Street Child World Cup capped a smashing two weeks of athletic achievement on the international stage when they beat host country South Africa 2-1 in the tournament's inaugural edition for the Shield trophy.

The long and arduous 15-hour flight from the African continent notwithstanding, the Filipinos were clearly excited to be back on home soil in front of an adoring crowd of countrymen and media people during a press conference held at the Amici Restaurant just outside Don Bosco, Makati.

The Street Child World Cup is an international football competition for players from 14-16 years of age (boys and girls) who must have lived on the streets at one time in their lives. The Philippines was one of eight countries invited to compete in this tournament that was held in South Africa. The participation of the team from the Philippines was coordinated by team manager Craig Burrows and Ed Formoso, coordinator of the football program of the Henry V. Moran Foundation. The team was selected and trained by Henry V. Moran Foundation with support from Tuloy sa Don Bosco, Gawad Kalinga, and Nayon ng Kabataan.

In Team Philippines' first assignment, they played the United Kingdom. They got off to a good start with three shots on goal being stopped by only the post and the crossbar. After a scoreless first half, the Filipinos were so excited about notching their first goal that they failed to get back on defense. The British were superb in the counter-attack and felled the Filipinos 4-2. During the match, one of the British players viciously elbowed team captain Erica Inocencio in the face. Undaunted, she retaliated and got the rest of the other teams cheering for the Philippine side.

Said the Philippines striker Noriel Pineones, who notched five goals in the tournament, "Even if we lost, we came away very confident that we could beat them. First time kasi."

After a second 2-0 loss to eventual finalist Tanzania, the Philippines rebounded mightily by shocking Brazil 6-2. They went on to face host South Africa for the Shield trophy, the only other prize that was being handed out in the competition. Midfielder Mario Titoy, unmarked in the third minute of extra time, headed home a corner shot from Pineones for a 2-1 win.

Ever gracious in victory, the Filipinos picked up a South African flag and ran around the pitch in jubilation as the crowd and other participating teams cheered on. "They played with a lot of heart and because of that, they were the crowd favorites," marveled coach Jess Landagan who hopes to see some of his wards suit up for his team at the Rizal Technoligical University.

Members of the Philippine team and delegation include: Erica Mae Inocencio, Raymond Elona, Jayson Simangan, Ladylyn Ampe, Lorelyn Cabanayan, Roberto Orlandez, Noriel Peneones, Mario Titoy, John Robert Gaerlan, and Gerry Boy Joaquino. Aside from Landagan and Burrows, also on hand were team assistant James Gates and social worker Marivi San Juan.

So much thanks to my good friend Ed Formoso -- you should have won the PFF Presidency and not that guy who won no thanks to the former Prexy. To People's Tonight's Bong Pedralvez for the mention during the press con. Essentially, he said that I've been writing about this team as well as the Homeless World Cup team before and that I write a lot of football. There's another colleague who does the same -- PDI's Cedelf Tupas (who we joke around as the manager of Nonoy Baclao since they are both from Bacolod and dorm mates in Cervini). And Bong... it's L-I-V-E-R-P-O-O-L not those goddam Mancs. Say it again, Liverpool FC.

To Peter Amores and the Futkaleros and my man, Hamed who should be playing for Ateneo but is now in San Beda. To Bill and Deb Shaw! Hope to finally contribute to The Jeepney and help out with the Homeless World Cup Team. And to former national player Rudy del Rosario. Thanks to the Street Child World Cup Team for giving me a souvenir from South Africa -- the post-tourney Championship book. I will treasure that! So Noriel, what say you to playing for my alma mater Ateneo de Manila? Hahaha. I asked that during the press con and everyone doubled up. That was after the earthquake, okay?

Traveling to see other countries and experience new things is something that moneyed people take for granted. It can be such a common even pedestrian thing. For these kids, hearing them talk about the long trip. Seeing different kinds of birds and animals. A different life; a different world. It can be really touching. They talk about making new friends but perhaps the most important thing is that they have a renewed sense of hope. "Kaya ko pala magbago," said Noriel. "Kaya ko pala mayroon magawa na importante."

As we all ate at Amici, one of those working there as a waiter, was a former member of the first ever Philippine Team to the Homeless World Cup. He feels good about having money in his pocket. That he can eat three meals a day. That he has good shoes to protect his feet.

As Bill Shaw likes to say, "Who would have thought that a ball, a simple ball, can make so much of a difference?"

Amen. See ya up in Antipolo with Jeff Long, Bill. Now here's hoping I get to go with you guys to Rio.

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