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

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Terminal blues (Or on to Davao with the members of the Philippine Men's Football National Team)

Terminal blues
Flying to Davao for the PFF Suzuki U-23 National Cup turns out to be a reunion among old friends.
by rick olivares

I hate delayed flights. The worst I ever experienced was a five-hour delay. That was in JFK in New York. Actually what happened was it was really a one-hour delay and then we got stuck at the tarmac for four miserable hours because a snowstorm slammed the Big Apple. By the time I disembarked hours and hours later I was ready to kill the first cretin to piss me off.

Our flight to Davao was delayed by almost an hour. Only I didn’t seem to notice. If I was alone I’d be restless and a tad pissed. But on this flight, I was with members of the Philippine Men’s Football National Team. We were on our way to Davao for the Mindanao Regionals of the PFF Suzuki U-23 National Cup.

The last time I was with these guys in an airport I got left behind owing to a defective passport (I did leave the following day). No such bad luck today maybe save for the delay.

But it did afford me the chance to really catch up with many of these guys. Although we did in Panaad, it seems like a lifetime ago.

We reminisced about Vietnam, Indonesia, and Panaad.

We talked about the trips I missed – Japan, Mongolia and Myanmar. What stories I could have told had I been there (I was sick during prior to the Myanmar trip so I didn’t make it)? I should pick up the slack in the next trip.

We talked about the newbies from Angel Guirado (on how he makes football so easy) to the Fil-Germans even to coach Michael Weiss (being a stickler for order and discipline and his efforts to whip the team into superb shape).

Some of the guys field calls from fans. Incredible isn’t it? Some try to catch up on their sleep. And team security officer Richard Pacana keeps our fellow passengers in stitches with his magic tricks. One Air Philippines official let out a yelp when Chaddy turned a P20 bill into a Ninoy Aquino.

Hungry, we each slurp a Lucky Me Supreme bowl.

What has changed in the lives of these men?

Lots. Nestor Margarse quips that he’s going to open a new account because he’s got 5,000 fans – at the bank. Thought it was Facebook, huh? Yep.

Nestor (to fan): So nag-aaral ka pa?
Fan: Oo. First year med school. Sa UP Manila.
Nestor: Wow. Ang galing. (pauses) Ano ang med school? 

The military guys are now recognizable. Even generals salute them and they feel somewhat sheepish by that fact. The biggest benefit for these military guys – no more red tape when it comes to securing their release for national duty. Before it took a couple of weeks.

Yanti Bersales tells me that at the time of the Azkals’ loss to Mongolia, the online chatter became so nasty that even his son was waging war with these people online. “Wag mo na lang pansinin,” he cautioned. “Wala naman tayo magagawa diyan.”

The chatter tonight is about the coming training camp in Germany as the team preps for the coming World Cup Qualifying match with Sri Lanka. There’s the thrill of crossing borders on the travel sense as well as in football. “We have a chance of advancing,” says Ian Araneta. His words are laced with confidence not false bravado.

When he scored against Bangladesh that broke an 11-match drought where his shots hit the cross bar, both sides of the goal or went straight to the keeper. Araneta confided that he was worried about being demoted to the bench. The goal in his words was welcome relief. “Parang nabunutan ako ng tinik,” he exhaled.

The end of the road on national duty is something they all know will come someday. There is no shortage of players wanting to tryout and play for the national side now. The team no longer toils in anonymity. Every move is a news event. The beautiful game, even if played all over the archipelago, was an under the radar sport. Now it’s so popular.

The Ayala Malls Events Group is considering doing a football clinic in its malls. The Ateneo Football Center has been around for almost two decades. If it has long a popular camp for kids the current summer figure shows that registration has doubled.

The misconception about the Ateneo Football League (that I organized with a good friend) is that it was an offshoot of the success of the national squad. Not exactly true. For one, it has been in the pipeline for three years now. It was really scheduled for this summer. The fact that we have 33 teams and some 500-plus players competing is no surprise. Ateneans after all, are passionate about their sports. The Ateneo Basketball League alone has over 200 teams. That is way more than any other school-based alumni league (and to think that Ateneo has a smaller population than most universities.

“At least sikat na ang football,” remarked Bersales as the bored folk began to recognize the Pinoy football players.

Then at a few minutes past 730pm, we boarded Air Philippines 2P 987 bound for Davao.


Dinner at Dencio’s Hilltop
And we’re (Chieffy Caligdong, Ian Araneta, Roel Gener, Yanti Bersales, Nestor Margase, Paolo Pascual, Ric Becite, Chad Pacana, Wally Javier, Josef Malinay, and myself) staying at the Plaza Luna Dormitel where we arrived past midnight.

Music during the flight: The Boxer Rebellion, Pink Floyd, Coheed and Cambria, Broken Social Scene, and 30 Seconds to Mars.

1 comment:

  1. Nice update. Always a welcome surprise to find people you know when being stranded at the airport.

    Could not be happier about the football buzz around the Philippines right now. Especially happy that these guys are finally being recognized and respected. They have committed so much to football and received so little in return up until now.