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, October 7, 2011

Five compelling subplots to watch out for this UFL Cup

This appears in

Five compelling subplots to watch out for this UFL Cup
by rick olivares

The third season of the United Football League kicks off this Saturday October 10, 2011 to great fanfare as the UFL Cup gets underway. Following the massive success of the Philippine Men’s Football National Team, interest in the sport is at an all-time high and the UFL finds itself a winner in the windfall of the Azkals.

What looked to be a simple weekend league has now the makings of a real professional football league for the country.

For this competition, a total of twenty-eight clubs will vie for the cup that Global Smartmatic FC won in dramatic fashion over Air Force Rider in last year’s finals. Also at stake are two slots in the UFL’s First Division that places even more pressure on second division teams Pasargad FC and Stallions FC who are on the cusp of promotion.

Before the season gets underway, there are subplots galore as there are new signings and players trading places. There are also new coaches on the sidelines who will add their expertise if not colorful background to the scheme of things. And these five are perhaps the most asked questions for this Cup competition.

Can the Younghusband and Hartmann brothers lead Loyola Meralco Sparks FC to the UFL Cup title?
The biggest noise in the off-season was the signing of Phil and James Younghusband. When the brothers joined Rizal-Smart San Beda for the Smart Club Championships, they towed the controversial club to the Finals. Were it not perhaps for the one-game suspension of the brothers in the first game of the finals, the championship could have been theirs and not Teknika’s.

The national team regulars also join another set of brothers – the Hartmanns (Matthew, Darren, and Mark) in Loyola sparking questions on how that ball will be shared amongst them.

Team manager Rafael Evangelista believes that it will not be an issue. The team’s concern is working on their team chemistry as the team has not practiced just yet with its entire roster.

With the Younghusbands and the Hartmanns drawing the attention of opposing defenders, that will create opportunities for players like Roxy Dorlas, JP Merida, or Jake Morallo to score.

A second concern regarding Loyola is their defense but Evangelista believes that the addition of Jake Morallo (who last played with Navy) and Roxy Dorlas should shore up their back four. The two are plenty good enough to be called up to the national side as well.

Also lost in the news of the Younghusbands’ joining Loyola is the signing of new coach Kim Chul, who is best known as the controversial and hot-headed coach of the FEU-FERN Baby Tamaraws that clinched their first ever UAAP Juniors Football crown last year.

It’s an explosive mix that Loyola has overnight. Whether it’s on the offensive end or in the locker room, we’ll just have to wait and see. For now, the heavy favorites are Global FC and Air Force FC. Should Loyola make it to the finals, I don’t see anyone stopping them.

Can Philippine Air Force FC continue its dominance?
In the previous two year’s of UFL league competition, Air Force FC is the only one to have won the title. Although they were defeated in the UFL Cup by Global Smartmatic FC, this team, a perennial football power and champion is expected to be once more in the thick of things.

For decades, Air Force has been the home of many a national players but no one is hotter at the moment that Chieffy Caligdong, the Golden Boot winner of the 2011 Long Teng Cup. Pachanga FC assistant coach and former national player Alvin Ocampo says as good as Caligdong is, his continued exposure to international competition and strong play with the national team has become all the more apparent in local competitions. “He is so much better than before,” said Ocampo who once played alongside Caligdong in the Azkals under Aris Caslib.

To football analysts, Air Force in some ways resembles Italian giants AC Milan – they’ve got a cast of very good players who are however long in their years.

As good as Caligdong has become, one cannot take this line up lightly. The team also boasts of current and former nationals in Ian Araneta, Joebel Bermejo, Yanti Bersales, Mark Anthony Ferrer, Peter Jaugan, Reymark Palmes, and Neckson Leonora. Save for the ageless Bersales who recently retired from international duty, Ferrer, Jaugan, and Palmes are no slouches despite their lack of ceiling.

And of equal concern is the moving on of longtime head coach Edwin Cabalida who retired to concentrate on the national team. In his place is former national striker and current Azkals assistant Edzel Bracamonte who recently acquired his coaching license. There is no questioning Cabalida’s competence as a coach but right now the jury is out on how Bracamonte can bring the most out of this squad.

If Bracamonte can inspire his charges and Caligdong remains healthy, look for the Airmen to be among the top in this competition. This Cup however will be much more competitive.

Can Global FC repeat as Cup champions?
Let it be said that Global FC is the best club in the land. In two years, they’ve won the UFL Cup as well as the Smart Club Championships (under the name Teknika). And they have been breathing down the necks of Air Force.

They’ve got quite a lot of talent in their lineup with Misagh Bahadoran, the tireless (and underrated) Jerry Barbaso, rock solid defender David Basa, new Azkal Jeffrey Christiaens and William Gueridonn, and Fil-Spanish striker Angel Guirado will be making his debut in local club football. And they have dangerous scorers in Ayi Aryee and the El-Habbib brothers Badrelin and Izo.

If there is any concern regarding this club it’s how Australian Graeme MacKinnon will get this powerhouse team going without really having followed them. MacKinnon, who once played and coached in the Philippines as an expat will arrive next week after undergoing rehabilitation for a knee injury.

In last year’s UFL competition, Global started like a house on fire before they mysteriously began to play a little more defensive football that saw them finish the league with several draws that ultimately cost them a chance at unseating Air Force. The Dan Palami-backed club is at its best when they attack. The addition of Guirado adds another stud up front.

The other concern is at goal where national pool goalkeeper Paolo Pascual takes over from Kenneth Dollosa (who is now with Pachanga FC). But the experience gained in joining the Azkals should help Pascual in his net minding. How he holds up will also depend on how far Global will go in this UFL Cup.

What teams will get the two slots to the UFL’s First Division?
Right now, on track for promotion are Pasargad FC and Stallions FC since they placed behind Nomads in the Second Division. But the Cup format doesn’t make it any less kind in getting promoted as this tournament is open to other clubs (they do have to meet Stallions in a playoff for the promotion) to move up to where the big boys are.

And if any other teams can give them a run for their money, some bets could be Pachanga FC and Diliman FC.

Pachanga has an interesting mix of the Bacolod and Iloilo teams that battled in last summer’s Suzuki Under-23 National Cup. They also have former Azkals coach and the multi-titled West Negros University mentor Norman Fegidero Jr. who will be ably assisted by Marjo Allado.

Diliman FC, coached by Bob Salvacion, will have many of the players who comprise the University of the Philippines champion team in the UAAP. Their chemistry and system will make them a force to be reckoned with.

The presence of many a national player and infusion of foreign talent will improve local football and club competition. But what does this mean for the league with almost every club having licensed coaches?
Overnight, the signing up of licensed coaches also raises the quality of play in the UFL. Global FC has Graeme MacKinnon taking over from Frank Muescan. Adolfo Alicante will be calling the shots for Green Archers while the timeless Hans Smit is team consultant. Pachanga signed up Fegidero. Kaya FC has the returning Juan Cutillas. Loyola has Master Kim. Diliman has Bob Salvacion. And Navy will receive a massive shot in the arm with Marlon Maro returning to the sidelines. Maro should get this team playing harder.


Thanks to Woowee Evangelista, Jojo Rodriguez, and Ritchie Gannaban.


  1. Sir, what are your thoughts on each UFL club having a "home" city just like most football leagues? Do you think it would lead to a more passionate fanbase since it would be something they could truly call their "own" team?

    All the football leagues I know of (or leagues of any other sport actually) and their clubs usually have geographic ties to their fanbase: Barcelona, Madrid, United, Liverpool, Arsenal etc.

    Do you think it would give fans a more concrete connection with the club they choose to support? Kind of like the school pride in the UAAP.

  2. footballer, although ok sana na ganon yung setup kaso hirap gawin yan dito sa pilipinas. archipelago tayo and it would be expensive to play home and away games. lalo na sa mga teams taga mindanao or visayas. better siguro if meron divisions for visayas and mindanao.

  3. Having a home team gives some sense of pride to the players and the supporters as well. Mas lalo nilang gagalingan mag football to bring home the trophy not only to their team but also for their fellow kababayans. And for the supporters, mas lalo silang maaattach sa football when they get to cheer for their team right in their very own provinces. Although this idea is very promising, let's face the fact na these games are and should be fueled by money in order to run smoothly. As of now, I don't think kaya ng organization na mag finance ng games outside NCR. But who knows? With football slowly coming to the limelight, maybe 5 or 10 years from now, all these dreams would come to a realization.