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

Monday, December 6, 2010

Philippines-Vietnam 2010 Suzuki Cup: Giant Killer

Giant killer
The Philippine Men’s National Football Team posted an amazing and historic win over the defending ASEAN Champions. In two games thus far, the Azkals, as the team is fondly nicknamed, have taken points and challenged the old order of football in the region. Rick Olivares was in the midst of the beauty and madness.
This also appears in Business Mirror December 7, 2010.

HANOI, VIETNAM -- Phil Younghusband had been rudely tackled at least four times. One of them was so vicious that the offending player that Philippines Men’s National Football team head coach Simon McMenemy was livid that no card was issued. But do you think that a referee or linesman was going to do such a thing? No way would he be able to leave this stadium alive.

Younghusband was kept up all night retching his guts out from something he ate. Even worse, Ian Araneta, his roommate, stayed up as well to attend to his ailing teammate. And so, a bad ingestion kept the team’s strike force up all night. To complicate matters, midfielder Emelio “Chieffy” Caligdong was out with a knee injury while defender Rob Gier bravely played the entire 94 minutes of the match against Singapore while running a fever. Weakened state or not, Gier and Younghusband were not going to miss the match for anything.

The former Chelsea reserve player was fighting for possession following a header from his brother James when Vietnamese defender Vu Nhu Thanh dumped him on the damp My Dinh National Stadium pitch. The home team immediately mounted a counter offensive but the Philippines’ Chris Greatwich intercepted a pass right down the middle.

The central midfielder passed to right wing Roel Gener who quickly sent it forward to Younghusband. With two Vietnamese defenders bearing down on him, the striker blasted a shot that Vietnam keeper Duong Hong Son stopped but could not control. Araneta corralled the rebound and sent it out to Greatwich who had raced forward to join the attack. As Greatwich drew a defender from the top of the box, he sent it back to Younghusband.

Once more up against Nhu Tranh, Younghusband ditched the defender when he moved to the left. Momentarily free, the striker smashed in a screamer in the 78th minute that blew underneath the lunging Vietnam keeper. Two-nil Philippines and a deafening hush descended upon the stunned crowd of 39,000 who as soon as they gathered their wits soon made a beeline for the exits.

The improbable has been accomplished. The Philippines, the long-time whipping boys described as tournament minnows by the Asean press have shaken the old order of football. The win, saw the country take full points – three of them for the win – against the defending Suzuki Cup champions who three days earlier so utterly demolished Myanmar 7-1 that no one gave the Philippines’ a snowball’s chance in hell in Hanoi. That is except for the team.

Gathered from the frosty fjords of Iceland (Ray Jonsson) to the football mad Germany (Mark Drinkuth) to the lowlands of Holland (Jason de Jong) to the Sceptered Isle of England (Phil and James Younghusband, Chris Greatwich, Neil Etheridge, and Rob Gier) to the United States (Aly Borromeo and Anton del Rosario) and to the southern Philippines (Emelio Caligdong and the rest of the squad), the team has battled an assortment of problems right up to the tournament proper to pull together and believe. Under English coach Simon McMenemy, they have put together a six match unbeaten streak and in the words of Greatwich, “are moving into uncharted territory.”

Greatwich, the affable Fil-Briton from Westminster, England, was a late addition to the squad because there were concerns about his fitness. Fortunately for one of the longest tenured national team players, he was and his imprint is all over the four points the Philippines has accrued in two matches. He scored that injury time goal against Singapore and against Vietnam, he took a well-placed cross from defender Anton del Rosario for a header that beat Duong Hong Son that seemed so inconceivable at that point as the home team had dominated possession and shots on goal.

With the Philippines unable to mount any semblance of an attack with Vietnam’s midfield choking any attempt, it was up to goalkeeper Neil Etheridge to hold the swarming attacks at bay while his flustered teammates tried to gather their wits about them.

When Greatwich’s goal in the 37th minute, his second in as many matches and fifth in international competition, the Philippines received a massive dose of confidence as they repeatedly turned back Vietnam’s desperate attacks.

The win sent repercussions throughout the Southeast Asian region where football is akin to a religion. The following day at the press conference for the match between Singapore and Vietnam where one team could possibly be sent packing depending on the result, much of the discussion centered on the Philippines’ fantastic run.

“This is so much a product of passion and pride,” gushed McMenemy after the historic win. “We just wanted to keep it tight, defend well, and try to beat them on the counterattack. We wanted to limit their numbers on their attacks and after Chris’ goal, we had them somewhat thinking twice. We were fortunate but that’s what football’s all about.

There was some controversy after the match when Vietnam head coach Henrique Calisto refused to shake the hand of McMenemy. “He called me ‘an unfair play coach,’” related the Englishman. During the match, McMenemy worked the officials over perceived non-calls that such as the hard tackle on Younghusband and a Vietnamese defender literally holding back Araneta just outside the box.

Added defender Rob Gier: “We don’t want to think too far ahead. As coach said, we want to be competitive in every match. So far we’ve accomplished that. But we have to come out and perform against Myanmar (Wednesday evening at 830 Manila time at the Thien Truong Stadium while Singapore and Vietnam battle at My Dinh National Stadium) or everything we’ve accomplished will be for nothing.”


  1. The Legendary Skyflakes25December 6, 2010 at 1:23 PM

    3 more wins, please!

  2. Calisto is a sore loser! he should go home to portugal and cry. can't accept the fact that he was outfoxed on the pitch.

  3. Calisto should resign not just for losing to PHILS, but for unsportsman behavior! Shaking hands at the end of the match, whether you win OR lose is the least you can do to show respect for the other team. The fact that he refused shows how UNsportsman he really is.

  4. how unprofessional for a foootball coach. Mr Calisto, you are an insult to football.