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.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

His name is Caligdong. Chieffy Caligdong.

This appears in

His name is Caligdong. Chieffy Caligdong.
by rick olivares photo by craig burrows (thanks for sending)

When the Philippine Men’s Football National Team was in Colombo to play Sri Lanka in the first round of the Asian Qualifiers of the 2014 World Cup, I was invited to give analysis on a television network about the game. Before I went on board, I asked aloud (to no one in particular) whom they thought would score in the game.

The chorus in the newsroom was unanimous. Chieffy Caligdong.

Yep. Not Phil Younghusband. Not Angel Guirado. Not even Ian Araneta.

Chieffy Caligdong.

After the Azkals played Hong Kong and Chinese Taipei to somewhat disappointing draws, the nationals needed a big time win against bottom feeder Macau. More than a win, they needed to score more than five goals against the former Portuguese territory if they wanted to bring home the 2011 Long Teng Cup.

Incredibly, despite dominating possession and shots on goal, the Filipinos remained scoreless in the first half. When you think about it, it’s rather disconcerting that we couldn’t find the back of the net against a lowly ranked team whose national sport is gambling. WTF!

Caligdong was on the bench as Fil-Belgian Jeffrey Christiaens took his starting spot on the left wing. The co-captain to Aly Borromeo was held in reserve because of the brutal tackling he had taken against Chinese Taipei two days earlier.

Christiaens had given a good account of himself with his pace, skill, and ability to link up with the team’s forwards in the kill zone. But after 45 minutes of play, the score line had the “double-o” but not the “7”.

The nationals’ coach Michael Weiss sent Caligdong in for the second half and to say that his impact was immediate is to damn him with faint praise. He was inspirational.

It wasn’t the nutmeg kind of goal that he scored against Mongolia in Panaad. But it was just as important.

The two draws were rather disconcerting. The Philippines should have not conceded a late goal to Hong Kong. They should also have scored against the home side (but were also lucky enough to have a Chinese Taipei goal nullified because of an offside violation). With time not on the Philippines’ side – remember, we had to score at least five goals – the co-captain’s first strike zapped life into the Philippines’ attack. Sensing that he was on his game, Mark Hartmann found him with a well placed cross in the middle of the box.

Chest control. Quick turn. Bang.

Before Macau could react, Super Chief had already spread his wings in celebrating his second goal (and fourth of the tournament to bag the Golden Boot Award).

We might not have exited Taipei with a trophy but the win, and the five points accrued are still not bad. At least the team did not lose even when faced with the diving antics of the host squad.

When I first began to cover the national team in 2006, I didn’t know much about them. I asked then head coach Aris Caslib who I should interview. Without hesitating, he answered, “Caligdong.”

I made my way to his hometown of Barotac Nuevo, Iloilo where he was on a brief furlough. The small town was abuzz with activity as there was a large outdoor viewing screen that was placed in the football field in front of the Church of Saint Anthony of Padua. Never mind if it was three in the morning. It was the 2006 World Cup and the townsfolk had turned out to watch the sport’s showcase event.

“Everyone is here,” glowed Caligdong despite lacking sleep. “Parang fiesta.”

I wasn’t sure what to watch – the game or the people who knew so much about the game. Sensing my amazement, Caligdong gave me an overview of what the beautiful game means to the Barotacnon. “Sa probinsya kapag pinagusapan yung football, hindi involved yung pera. Gusto lang talaga ng mga tao maglaro. Tulad dito sa Barotac Nuevo yung commitment talaga ng tao ay nasa puso. Naglalaro kami dahil mahal namin yung football. Parte ‘to ng buhay namin,” summed up Caligdong who is the youngest of a brood of 10.

“Joke nga namin magkakapatid sa parents ko, isa na lang pwede na kami magbuo ng football team.”

Even the jokes are football related.

At a young age, Caligdong engaged in “sinike” which is seven-a-side football and where kids play barefoot. Yep. No socks. No fancy boots. And certainly no shin guards. Sinike places a premium on skills and passing. “You had to be quick on your feet and in making decisions.” He said in the vernacular. “Dito mo makikita kung sino yung marunong dumiskarte.”

And that explains his ability to slalom through slow-footed defenders while making thunderous strikes with that golden left boot of his.

With a total of 14 goals for the seniors squad, he will force opposing teams to rethink their strategy in marking Phil Younghusband. The Airman First Class has become a dangerous scorer who forms a dangerous one-two punch with the Fil-Brit.

After scoring that brilliant goal against Mongolia in Bacolod, the co-captain of the Azkals raced to the touchline and turned his back to the frenzied crowd. He then jabbed his thumbs to his name that was printed on the back of his Mizuno jersey.

C’mon, Chief. Even before that brilliant goal, everybody knew your name.

Being interviewed at home by TV5 regarding football stuff. 


  1. so inspiring talaga si chieffy.the Messi of the Philippines.thanks for this wonderful article sir..dapat striker na si idol ngayon,,more power sa football sa ating bansa.

  2. sinike is pick-up football game with bets involved. it is played on 1/2 of the football field with 7aside goals at the touchline.
    7 and up to 15 members can play per team, the first team who scores twice wins. if darkness sets in the match stops when the bell for the angelus tolls, whichever team has the upperhand at the bell wins.


  3. Phil YH, Christiaens, Chieffy, Mark Hartmann, Guirado, James YH should be the starting midfielders/forwards.