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, November 30, 2011

A message from Smart Sports' Patrick Gregorio re: the LA Galaxy, the UFL and football

A message from Smart Sports' Patrick Gregorio

"This LA Galaxy event  is a fantastic boost for Philippine football.  The timing couldn't have been better.  As you know, MVP has identified a number of sports that he will be actively supporting.   Football is one of them.  We have just announced our support for the Philippine Football Federation and its national league.  Several MVP-owned companies have teams in that league. So we're going all-out in our support for football.  When we heard that the LA Galaxy team was coming to Asia, we immediately confirmed our interest to support.  After all, LA Galaxy has David Beckham in its roster.  And Beckham is arguably the most popular football player in the world.  The team also has Landon Donovan - arguably the best American football player.  And, to make things even more exciting, LA Galaxy were just crowned champion of Major League Soccer in the US.  So we're having the US Football Champions - with the most iconic football player in the world coming to Manila -- it can't better than that."

If we are to improve the state of football here, we have to promote it to the general public.  And the only way to do that is to host more foreign teams... popular football teams like Real Madrid, Barcelona, Manchester United.  We plan to invite these teams in the future.

2011 is another banner year for Smart Sports. 2011 will be remembered as the year Smart Sports brought the most famous athletes in the world --  Kobe Bryant, Derrick Rose, Kevin Duran --  and on December 3, David Beckham!"

Petron sends Alaska to the brink of elimination

Petron sends Alaska to the brink of elimination
by rick olivares pic by brosi gonzales

November 29, 2011
Smart Araneta Coliseum

The problem with getting killed inside for layups and short stabs is it forces a team to play zone. Woe to the defensive team when their opponent has been taking good shot selections and sinking it from long range.

With only a little over a minute to play and the score tied at 85-all and the Alaska Aces running a 2-3 zone, the Petron Blaze Boosters worked the ball around the perimeter waiting for the defense to stretch. Alex Cabagnot, on the left side of the arc, passed the ball to Joseph Yeo who was at the apex of the three-point arc. Yeo whipped it to Denok Miranda who was at the right side who in turn found a suddenly open Arwind Santos for a baseline jumper to break the tie.

Petron would seize the lead that they would not relinquish and before the night was done, they found themselves in first place following their 90-85 win and B-Meg Derby Ace’s victory over the injury-plagued Talk ‘N Text, the erstwhile league leader.

Alaska, fighting consistency and sorely lacking a sense of urgency in the Philippine Cup after losing Tim Cone right before the season began, twice had to overcome leads. They grabbed a late fourth quarter lead after Mac Baracael scored inside with 1:39 left to play. But Miranda scored on a reverse layup and Santos hit that baseline jumper.

On the opposite end of the court, Alaska disintegrated in a maze of uncharacteristic turnovers coming off LA Tenorio of all Aces. After Tenorio missed a three-point attempt, Miranda scored on his reverse. After Santos’ jumper, Tenorio threw an inbound to no one and the ball sailed away without Alaska getting off an attempt. After holding Petron on the other end, Tenorio once more lost possession on a drive to the basket with the Boosters’ Danny Ildefonso getting the loose ball and a foul. Ildefonso canned a free throw, missed the second that Arwind Santos tipped in over Baracael for the game’s final points.

Petron pushed Alaska into an early 15-point hole at 18-3 and nine minutes of play in the first period. The Aces rallied in the second to come within a point at the half 39-38 behind Jay-R Reyes and Mac Baracael who combined for 15 points. Alaska seized the lead in the second half at 46-40 but Arwind Santos’ incredible play highlighted by a flush off a fastbreak following a Tenorio turnover brought Petron back.

Petron once more put some distance when Miranda hit a pull-up jumper for an 83-76 lead with 3:34 left to play. But also leveled matters until Santos’ final deadlock breaker.

The win gave Petron a 9-3 record (TNT fell to second with an 8-3 slate) while Alaska dropped to 3-9 right above winless Shopinas at 0-12. The Aces are in danger of missing the playoffs for the first time since the Fiesta Conference of 2009 and if that happens, it will be only the third time in their career that will happen. The Aces have to win their final two matches and hope that Powerade loses their final two elimination round games.

Watching the Blaze Boosters’ win was former NBA great Alex English who is now the club’s shooting coach.

Petron 90 - Santos 24, Cabagnot 20, Miranda 14, Reyes 8, Yeo 8, Ildefonso 7, Baclao 4, Tugade 3, Guevarra 2, Doruelo 0, Agustin 0, Sharma 0.

Alaska 85 - Thoss 19, Baracael 13, Tenorio 13, Custodio 10, Reyes 10, Baguio 10, Bugia 6, Salamat 4, Eman 0.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

I got faith in Tim Tebow

Some people have a problem with Tim Tebow's game. Some people have a problem with Tebow showing of his religiousness on the field of play. Some people look for problems when there aren't any. But Tim... he tries to solve those problems. Remember that old Nike commercial where baseball greats assess Michael Jordan's fling with baseball and Willie Mays says: "At least he's trying." I feel it's like that. Tim Tebow is trying his best. He's 5-1 since he took over the starting quarterback position for the Denver Broncos. Those same Broncos were 1-4 before he was inserted at the QB slot. Now they are 6-5 a game (after they beat the San Diego Chargers 16-13 in overtime) behind the Oakland Raiders and are in playoff contention. Aaron Rodgers of Green Bay may be the best quarterback in the game but Tebow... you gotta have faith.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Air Force dispatches Green Archers United to book semis slot

Air Force dispatches Green Archers United to book semis slot
by rick olivares photo by bob guerrero

November 27, 2011
University of Makati

Air Force FC turned on the jets in the second half for two goals that took the fight out of Green Archers United for a 3-1 win in last Sunday’s quarterfinals match up in the 2011 UFL Cup.

Following a first half marked by spotty officiating, it was the Green Archers who immediately took the fight to Air Force with some high pressure. But it was the Airmen broke through one of the cup competition’s vaunted defense lines in the 35th minute when striker Yanti Barsales headed in a corner shot by Emelio Caligdong. 

Read more.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Anton del Rosario as a catalyst for Kaya’s offense

Anton del Rosario as a catalyst for Kaya’s offense
by rick olivares photo by tunying p.

Goalkeeper: Jeff Blake
Defenders: Kristian Joergensen, Daniel Williams, Dominic Mensah, Randy Musters
Midfielders: Michael Schaefer, Alastair McCready, Nick Hacker, Toullec Loic
Forwards: Steve Borrill, Phil Connolly

Forwards: Nate Burkey, Eric Dagroh
Midfielders: Jonahan Romero, Masa Omura, Lexton Moy, Prince Boley
Defenders: Armand del Rosario, Adrian Semblat, Jason Sabio, Anton del Rosario
Goalkeeper: Christopher Camcam

Nomads: formation: 4411
Heading into their quarterfinals match, they had not surrendered a goal. Jeff Blake has kept four clean sheets while Randy Musters and Danny Williams have done a swell job in turning back opposing attacks. The only good competition they faced before Kaya was Pasargad but this Iranian-flavored club has seen better days.

Nomads’ midfield play has been stellar as McCready and company have done a good job in feeding Steve Borrill (five goals) and Phil Connolly (four goals).

While precise in their passing, the one thing this team does not have is speed. Against Kaya, they were going to have to deal with a quicker and more aggressive lineup.

Kaya formation: 442
If there is a team that blows hot and cold then it belongs to Juan Cutillas’ squad. There have been questions surrounding their fitness or even commitment (as some players went to the United States to watch the Manny Pacquiao fight). But in the do or die match against Team Socceroo, Cutillas had to swallow his pride and bring the players he first benched to give his badly disorganized squad a shot in the arm.

Nate Burkey has been a pleasant surprise for this team up front. Lexton Moy has shown pace and skill but sometimes makes questionable decisions on offense. He would display that again in the match against Nomads when he should have passed off to an open Burkey but he chose to take a shot that badly missed.

The right back can find his targets
I have always said that the engine that drives this team is its midfield with Romero, Omura, Moy, and Boley. And there’s the do-it-all Semblat who is a crucial piece in Kaya’s championship puzzle now that Aly Borromeo is out.

However, in their last two matches – against Socceroo and now Nomads, I postulated off cam that Anton del Rosario has been their catalyst on offense.

Kaya vs. Socceroo: when del Rosario entered in the second half against Socceroo, he was not only his usual self on defense but he also facilitated the attack by making the diagonal pass to Burkey for a goal.

Kaya vs. Nomads:

Burkey goal 72nd minute
#1 Del Rosario brings up the ball unchallenged on the right flank. Moy with a lateral move to the left in case DR passes off. Omura runs up the left in case of a long cross. Boley runs up either in anticipation of a forward pass.

#2 Del Rosario races up all the way to the final third. The Kaya forwards look for space inside the box waiting for the cross. Boley sets up just outside in case of a pass. He is also open to pass to the middle where Moy or Mallari wait.

#3 Del Rosario finds space just outside the box to launch a cross. Nomads defender Randy Musters fails to close down Del Rosario and doesn’t even challenge the shot.

#4 The cross is perfect and Burkey scores even as Mensah and Blake tried to block the shot.

Boley goal 85th minute
#1 Del Rosario runs up close to the half line and occupies Moy’s position. He targets Burkey who size up front makes for a good target. The diagonal pass behind the midfield is perfect.

#2 Burkey works his way inside but coming from the left.

#3 Burkey fires inside and Boley finishes it off.

We do not wish to diminish the other efforts of Kaya players. Semblat is actually one player we enjoy watching for his ability to play multiple positions and still remain solid on both defense and offense. Moy has been hot and cold. Romero is a terrifying force in the first half (he tends to fade in the second half). Ruffy Llorente is a supersub on D. Unlike Pachanga central back Yves Ashime who is a rock in the backline, sometimes it is easy to overlook the contributions of Del Rosario. I feel that when he joins the attack, facilitates even, he is every bit as dangerous as those throw-ins for through balls.  

UFL Saturday Global ousts Pachanga and Kaya smashes Nomads' D

Global FC ousts Pachanga from Cup play
by rick olivares

November 26, 2011
University of Makati

What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.

With every passing stage of the 2011 UFL Cup, that age old adage applies better to Global FC and serves as a stern warning to the remaining clubs team in the competition.

The defending cup champions entered the Round of 16 as the 15th seed by virtue of the two best third place teams in the group stages qualifying for the knockout stages.

Once there, Global, flashing fine form, defeated second seed Army 3-nil to set up its quarterfinals clash with Pachanga who they ousted in the semifinals of the Smart Club Championship 1-nil.

Read more.

Kaya smashes Nomads’ vaunted D to enter cup semis
by rick olivares

November 26, 2011
University of Makati

Heading into their quarterfinals clash, both Kaya and Nomads had their own concerns.

For Kaya, head coach Juan Cutillas was concerned about how his team would come out. In their Round of 16 match against Team Socceroo, Kaya struggled and it took the second half entrance of defender Anton del Rosario and forward Nate Burkey to turn the tide in his team’s favor. Del Rosario, playing the right back position, turned facilitator on offense as he was a prominent fixture in his team’s offense that led to the two goals that eventually put Socceroo away. And in the pre-match friendly banter with Nomads keeper Jeff Blake, del Rosario promised he’d score a goal.

For Nomads head coach Mick Dennison, it was how his team’s vaunted defense would hold up. In their four cup matches thus far, they were only tested by a greatly weakened Pasargad team albeit by not much. Against Kaya, they were sure to have their hands full. 

Bleachers' Brew #287 Love of the game

This appears in the Monday November 28, 2011 edition of the Business Mirror.

Love of the game
by rick olivares

How does a man tell the woman that he is engaged to that while he loves her and he will care for her for the rest of his life, his first love and duty is to football?

When Poravankara Narayanan “PN” Sivaji, a Singaporean of Indian ancestry first met his future bride, he sought a moment before their wedding to make a confession. While Sivaji promised to love and to care for bride to be, he said revealed that first love was football and that his career in the sport might take him often out of the country.

His wife thought that it was an odd thing to say as football at that time was not an industry in Singapore where one could make a living but she believed in Sivaji. Many years after his marriage that produced two daughters who now call Australia home, Sivaji has gone from national team hopeful to coaching the Lions for three years before ultimately becoming an instructor for the Asian Football Confederation.

In Manila for the first time to conduct an “A-License” seminar for both local and foreign coaches, Sivaji admitted that his job does not come without its challenges.

When teaching to an audience that includes coaches of Western origin, that old colonial mentality somewhat surfaces. “The most important thing for me as an Asian is to show my competence to everyone,” revealed the AFC instructor who at one time served as the Technical Director for the Football Association of Singapore for six years before he dived back into coaching clubs. “That is why even if I am giving these clinics, I make it a point to learn and study new matters surrounding the game and the people around it.”

The lure of the beautiful game came when PN was a youngster growing up in Sembawang, Singapore. He lived close to a British Naval Base and that’s where he saw Her Majesty’s Armed Forces first play the game of football. Quickly enthralled by the sport, Sivaji took to the game like fish to water. As an energetic teenager, he first broke with Burnley United. Like any other youngster, he grew up dreaming of playing for the Lions, the island state’s national team.

Sivaji was eventually named to the pool for the Lions even as he moved to other clubs such as Safsa, Sembawang and Singapore Indians. Only it never came. His worsening eyesight prevented him from continuing to play. “I think it is important that a man admits when he can go no further,” declared the bespectacled coach. “I couldn’t achieve my dream of playing for our national team so I thought that maybe I could help the game by writing about it.”

Sivaji followed an older brother’s footsteps in the world of journalism yet before he could fully entrench himself in sports writing, an opportunity to be involved in the sport that he loved opened up.  Even if the new job paid only Singapore $50 more, he leaped at the chance. “When you do something you love it is not a job,” he reasoned.

The job was a coaching one and Sivaji buried himself in studying the game. It took several stops and quite a few years before PN was named head coach of Singapore. He didn’t make it as a player but as a coach, Sivaji achieved his dream. Unfortunately, the 1993 side that he coached fell to Kedah SC, 2-nil, in the prestigious Malaysia Cup. Sivaji found himself under attack from all quarters following the loss. Saviji left the country to continue his studies and his coaching elsewhere.

He coached in Sweden and Myanmar where he found success. He triumphantly returned to his country where he first coached Tiong Bahru then Home United to a third place finish after floundering in the cellar the year before. He was soon named Technical Director for the Football Association of Singapore until he gave up the most to once more teach.

“I’ve been through a lot,” Sivaji related last Saturday during a party thrown by Mariano V. Araneta who was re-elected as President for the Philippine Football Federation. “I have all this knowledge and experience inside my head that I would love to share. Being here in the Philippines at this time and seeing all this excitement about the Azkals and local football, it reminds me of the time when the (Singaporean) S-League was organized in the 1990s.”

“In this coaching seminar, I see a lot of young brilliant Filipino minds. I want to tell them of the challenges I faced. Sometimes you fall along your journey but you really have to pick yourself up. It’s been a good year for Philippine football in spite of the ups and downs. But it’s all good. And I can see how you love the game and like a challenge.”

With PN Sivaji at the PFF part last Saturday night. 

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Football Saturday

It was a football Saturday for me. Had a meeting in the morning with some of the Kaya guys at The Coffee Bean at Burgos Circle. Then it was off to the University of Makati for live analysis of the 2011 UFL Cup. With the broadcast panel for the first game -- Ryan Fenix and Anthony Suntay. The three of us did the Pachanga-Global match then Jason Webb was with us for the Nomads-Kaya game.

After the UFL games, I went to the party for the Philippine Football Federation at the office of Nonong Araneta who received a new mandate from the 32 of 33 football federations (Charlie Cojuangco was absent as usual). Had a long chat with FIFA instructor PN Sivaji (above) who I hope to be doing work with sometime in the future. Also took the time to catch up with some of the FA presidents who I hang with -- Kutchie Fucoy, Rolly Tulay, Anlu Carpio, Dick Emperado, Cabili Sinsuat, and a few others.

Photo op time! With Tiptip Fucoy, Paolo Pascual, Ojay Clarino, and Jerry Barbaso who should have played in the recently concluded 26th Southeast Asian Games in Jakarta, Indonesia. Below: (standing) Jerry Barbaso, Paolo Pascual, Joseph Malinay (congrats on your upcoming wedding!), Tiptip Fucoy, Misagh Bahadoran (thanks for the uber compliment), and Onie Patulin. 

B-Meg finds enough daylight to squeak past Rain or Shine

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B-Meg finds enough daylight to squeak past Rain or Shine
by rick olivares pic by brosi gonzales

November 25, 2011
Smart Araneta Coliseum

The B-Meg Derby Ace Llamados quickly placed Rain or Shine in a 21-point hole in the first quarter, saw the Elasto Painters launch a massive rally that saw them take a lead, watch their foe temporarily lose their composure with a spate of technical fouls before bungling a potential game winning basket.

“I hope we don’t get any more games like this,” quipped a relieved B-Meg head coach Tim Cone outside Gateway Mall after the match. “As you get older, this is not good,” he concluded with a laugh.

But no one is laughing now that the Llamados are getting their groove back. That it came against the hungry and up-and-coming Rain or Shine squad with a pulsating 102-100 win and now Cone’s boys have a five game win streak.

After the Llamados took a 30-13 first quarter lead, Rain or Shine came back in the second period behind Larry Rodriguez and Ronjay Buenafe to come within a basket, 49-51. Both teams traded leads for the entire second half and with players from either side hitting big shot after big shot, stop after stop, error after bonehead error, the game’s outcome was going down to a final basket.

Following a 95-all stand-off, Paul Lee, making a case that he should have been drafted first over-all, fired from beyond the rainbow arc to give ROS a 98-95 lead with 3:26 left. It was a huge shot but after stopping B-Meg, Lee had another opportunity to hammer down a nail of their foe’s coffin but the Elasto Painters’ pistolero missed a trey attempt.

B-Meg forward Marc Pingris scored on an undergoal stab to bring his side to a point away. Both squads alternated with missed shots and turnovers before  ROS’ Beau Belga hit a long jumper to give his side a 100-99 lead. Peter June Simon drilled a triple from the left corner off a pass by Mark Barroca with 56 seconds left in the game that gave B-Meg a 102-100 lead.

And just like that, B-Meg held on for a lead and the win.

A happy Tim Cone seemed incredulous at his team’s showing. “First quarter leads are always artificial,” said the first year mentor for the Llamados. “They (ROS) increased the pressure on us and we buckled there. We came out in the second quarter thinking we’d shoot the same but it didn’t happen. We’re lucky to escape with a win. PJ hit a big shot from the corner. It’s one of those games where every shot counted. Their players revere their coach and they are tough guys and that makes them a tough opponent.”

Cone expounded on his team’s showing under him while trying to master the triangle offense. “We did not have sense of urgency to win right away as we wanted to build a foundation, establish roles, and all be on same page. If you take a shortcut, it takes a lot longer. We didn’t shortcut and we paid for it early but we hung together.”

James Yap scored a game high 32 points including eight in the third quarter where the Llamados managed to stay afloat, 79-77.

Paul Lee led Rain or Shine with 21 points.

B-Meg 102Yap James 32, Simon 16, Barroca 14, Urbiztondo 11, Raymundo 11, Pingris 10, Devance 3, Reavis 3, Yap Roger 2, De Ocampo 0.

Rain or Shine 100Lee 21, Buenafe 12, Matias 10, Rodriguez 9, Araña 9, Tang 8, Norwood 7, Belga 7, Chan 6, Quiñahan 6, Cruz 4, Ibañes 1.

Powerade ends skid at Shopinas’ expense

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Powerade ends skid at Shopinas’ expense
by rick olivares pic by brosi gonzales

November 25, 2011
Smart Araneta Coliseum

In the midst of Shopinas’ 12-game losing streak, head coach Franz Pumaren and assistant Tonichi Yturri reminisced. “Ganito ba kahirap manalo noon,” asked the head coach who was referring to their 2-10 finish in the season ending Open Conference in 1986. That was when Pumaren and Yturri made their pro loop debuts with the Magnolia Cheesemakers after a sterling amateur stint with the legendary Northern Consolidated Cement squad. “We hope we can break the losing streak,” said Yturri on his way onto the floor before tip-off against Powerade.

In the midst of Powerade’s four-game losing streak, the Tigers, according to head coach Bo Perasol, “were asking questions on what they needed to do to get a win.” Thought power forward-center Doug Kramer, “It sounds so cliché-ish but we have to dig deep and take it one game at a time. We have a better team and we know that. This is the time to believe in one another.”

Following a neck-and-neck first quarter that saw both teams remain tied at 28-all, the Tigers began to put some distance between them and the Clickers in the second period behind the three-point shooting of Celino Cruz who drilled a pair while Will Antonio, and Marcio Lassiter nailed one trey each. Their marksmanship allowed Powerade to take a 50-43 lead at the half.

Come the third quarter, Lassiter and Kramer added eight and seven points respectively while the latter began to dominate inside. With Shopinas playing matador defense, the Tigers clawed their way to an 84-64 lead at the end of the third period.

While James Sena and Paolo Hubalde tried their best to bring Shopinas back in the game, the lack of scoring support from their teammates eventually told on their chances. The Tigers arrested their four-game slide with a morale boosting 102-84 win for their fourth win in 12 matches.

Lassiter led Powerade with 21 points but had to leave in the fourth period after a hard foul by Shopinas’ Ogie Menor. Kramer, who relishes the challenge of going up against taller forwards and centers, said that he has made a conscious effort to be consistent on the boards. “I’m taking advantage of the opportunities I am getting here,” said the former Ateneo Blue Eagle who finished with 17 points and 10 rebounds although he shot a poor 7-15 from the line. “This is the most that I am playing in terms of minutes. And since we’re not a very tall team so I will do what I can to help. I try to get at least 10 rebounds a game because that puts us in a position to score more points.”

Hard-luck Shopinas, with its bevy of recently graduated college basketball stars, fell to a deep 0-12 hole. And for the Clickers’ coaching staff, they’re hoping that lightning will strike twice for after their inaugural PBA conference where they bombed out, they came back the following season with a pair of third place finishes and one championship . Even if the lightning strikes 25 years later.

Powerade 102Lassiter 21, Kramer 17, David 16, Cruz 9, Antonio 9, Adducul 8, Casio 6, Crisano 6, Anthony 5, Vanlandingham 3, Lingganay 2, Martinez 0, Allera 0.

Shopinas 84Sena 19, Espiritu 12, Escobal 12, Hubalde 12, Sison 7, Menor 5, Duncil 4, Daa 4, Ritualo 4, Jazul 2, Se 2, Canta 1, Bagatsing 0, Aquino 0.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Philippine football: Change. Again?

Eckard Krautzun, former Philippine National Coach offers inputs on Philippine football. PFF President Mariano V. Araneta is to his right.
This appears in

Change. Again?

by rick olivares

The French have this saying: “Plus ca change, plus c’est la meme chose”. In English: “the more things change, the more they stay the same”.

Last Thursday afternoon (November 24), I listened to German football official Eckard Krautzun's findings on what ails Philippine football and where it needs to be helped. Unfortunately, I came away disappointed. And they called a press conference for this?

With all due respect to Mr. Krautzun who coached the national team to a fourth place in the 1991 Southeast Asian Games, there is nothing new from what he said – how we need to have more fields, more equipment, more support, a grassroots program etc. I, along with every other football official have heard this before – in the Bernhard Zgoll report of 1978 as well as the Asian Football Confederation commissioned Vision Asia Report of 2008. I have heard that in a couple of PFF Congresses and seminars with local football officials (some of the current PFF officials were even around to assist the AFC in the Vision Asia fact finding in 2008). Unless there is collective amnesia from these same officials then this is déjà vu all over again.

And why does it take a foreign adviser for people to listen when all the local football officials have been reciting the litany of the same problems for years. This reminds me of how for years we have complained about the Ninoy Aquino International Airport and only when it is named the world’s worst airport that something is finally done about it. This is so mollifying.

Maybe you will argue that 2011 is different from 2008.

Sure it is. There are more sponsors now, more foreign support (the Japanese, Germans etc.), and there are people in the stands. Perhaps the best development is a positive feeling about the growth of football.

Then again. In some respect, it isn’t when you consider the disastrous stint of the Under-23 national squad in the 26th Sea Games in Jakarta, Indonesia. That team had better financial or fan support. Have we not learned anything from the past?

It was 2004 when the FBOC program of Aris Caslib, the current PFF Technical Director, was put in place. That call for the short-term augmentation of the national team by “Filipinos Based Outside the Country” or "FBOC" (a euphemism for Fil-foreigners) with the expectancy that the grassroots program will produce top-caliber players in the years to come. Even then, we had the same problems – players arriving late to camp, no chemistry, and the locals were displaced at the expense of some not so good players.

Seven years later, nothing has changed. Not even the preparation. And the homegrown talents are a shrinking cast! What's up with that and what went on during the football tournament of the 26th Southeast Asian Games?

In the senior squad, there is only one homegrown talent in the starting eleven. In the U-23, how many started – one, two, three maybe? The FBOCs arrive days before the tournament displacing the locals who have been training with the team. The locals gave up stints in the University Games to train with the national team. One even chose not to play with a UFL team to concentrate on the national squad. Now was the quality of the FBOCs better than the locals? A few. Then chemistry is non-existent.

And when forming a national team – please do not insult the locals by saying that they are inferior to the FBOCs. And some of them use the term “Filipino” as if it were pejorative. “Don’t be Filipino,” a few said. And please, when handing out the captainship, give it to the most deserving player rather than someone who does not command the respect of the team.

The Under-23 National Cup was disregarded. Who from the national team scouted that? No one. Maybe you can grant it that an assistant coach went to watch one half of a match. One half.

In the aforementioned press conference, I asked Krautzun and national head coach Michael Weiss if they thought that management and coaching of the senior and U-23 as well as the other age-group teams should be under one aegis. Krautzun first related how in Germany it is a problem when the senior squad’s Joachim Low has a different philosophy from U-21 coach Rainier Adrion and how it’s the same when you go down the other age-levels.

Yet it was Eckard’s belief that both the senior and U-23 teams should be under one coach/management while the others should be under another but all following the philosophy and blueprint mapped out by the PFF’s football program director.

I’m still scratching my head about that. They’re fractious in Germany’s FA yet they will be helping us in our grassroots program and telling us to be unlike them in structure.

And when I asked if they wanted to imprint a “German style of play” and if so what that was (for the benefit of those who do not understand the technical aspect), I got a vague answer. “Develop a Philippine-style of play,” said Weiss.

If there has been anything revolutionary about football in the last 60 years one of them has been the creation of the 4-4-2 formation that quickly replaced the “WM” formation. The other is the “total football” espoused by the Dutch.

Whether generic European or the current Spanish or German style of play, it has taken influences from Argentinean club River Plate’s 1950s teams to English manager Jack Reynolds to Ajax Amsterdam and Netherlands coach Rinus Michaels to ultimately Johan Cruyff who helped develop FC Barcelona’s La Masia Academy that has produced players like Andres Iniesta, Gerard Pique, and Francesc Fabregas to name a few. In short, modern football can be distilled into all-around efficiency and technical ability with as little wastage in its passing and movement. And any “Philippine-style of play” will resemble this.

For years Germany’s still of play was derided as sterile and boring until the 2006 World Cup when then head coach Jurgen Klinsmann opted for a more dynamic attack that successor Joachim Low has refined. And to Michael Weiss’ (as well as predecessors Desmond Bulpin and Simon McMenemy) credit, he has tried to install a more attacking system to the Azkals that for the most part has been successful.

The long ball that many deride is still played but not as a rule. I think even before the national team gained massive popularity following the successful 2010 Suzuki Cup, the quality of local football players has increased. That was because of a long and arduous process that began during the time of Andres Soriano Jr. as PFF President. From there, we’ve seen influx of foreign coaches and players as well as the overseas training local coaches and players. We’ve seen a change in tactics where there’s a more ground-based style of play.

Former national player and coach Bert Honasan shared that it personally took him four international tournaments to get over his nerves in playing in front of a stadium of thousands. That experience helps and the creation of bigger stadia and playing in foreign tournaments will help. The Chieffy Caligdong that we all see now is much better than the one that debuted in 2004. That comes not just from maturity but also the training and exposure that he’s received.

In that respect, Coach Eckard is right. More exposure will help but I do not see the point in taking shots at basketball (as they did in the presscon). Excuse me but in case you missed it, Sinag won a gold while the Under-23 team to use Weiss’ words “was a failure.”

Should that comparison stand, then know that Smart Gilas Pilipinas head coach Rajko Toroman was the ultimate hoops junkie as he watched not only the PBA but the UAAP and the NCAA as well. And when he got home, there was the NBA and the Euroleague that he watched on television or on his laptop. As for our football officials, they never even watched the Under-23 or Under-19 tournaments last summer. And Weiss hardly watches the UFL.

I think that we all know what changes Philippine football needs. We’ve known it for years. What we really need is a “can do” attitude and a change in mindset. And maybe a personnel change in many of our officials.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Taulava sparks Meralco to win over skiding Barako Bull

This appears in

Taulava sparks Meralco to win over skiding Barako Bull
by rick olivares

November 23, 2011
Smart Araneta Coliseum

Don’t look now but Ryan Gregorio is turning another team into a gem.

Following the Meralco Bolts’ 83-75 win over Barako Bull Energy, Gregorio’s new team moved into solo fourth place in the standings of the ongoing Philippine Cup.

When asked about similarities between his new team and his old B-Meg/Purefoods squads, Gregorio said, “My old club was a veteran team that had plenty of championship experience. My new one (Gregorio is in his second year as head coach of the Manuel V. Pangilinan franchise) has veteran players but only few with championships. Asi Taulava has won. Mac Cardona has won. But Sol Mercado has not. Mark Isip has not won.

In his first year with Meralco, Gregorio saw his club go to a collective 13-20 while missing out on advancing in both the Commissioner’s Cup and the Governors’ Cup. The team jettisoned their young players in Shawn Weinstein, Ford Arao, Khasim Mirza, Bambam Gamalinda, and Hans Thiele in favor of a veteran crew.

And when it comes to veterans, the 38-year old Asi Taulava conjured images of his old dominant self by compiling 10 points and 17 rebounds (to go with a steal and a block). “The Rock” as the Fil-Am is known and now in his 12th year in the pro league, battled the bull-strong Dorian Peña (12 points and 14 rebounds) inside the lane.

Cardona, in his sixth game back after a lengthy recuperation period for a knee injury, once more led his team in scoring with 17 points while Gabby Espinas added 16 points, Mercado 12, and Isip with 10. Once the Bolts seized the lead they never let up and repeatedly turned back the Energy Boosters, another team with a veteran laden cast. The Junel Baculi-coached squad has since cooled off after a blazing the start that saw them upset current leader Talk ‘N Text to go up early in the standings. However, they have lost five straight and are now at 5-5 good for sixth place despite being tied with Ginebra.

As it was in the Ginebra-Alaska match that preceded the Meralco-Barako Bull tussle, the latter squads dominated the statistics although the former teams came through in the clutch. When informed of this, Gregorio said, “Yes, the statistics do not tell the whole story. We will try to improve on those areas but if it’s an unconventional win then it still counts for us.”

He also paid tribute to Taulava after the match, “Asi’s playing like a young guy. He’s doing a good job keeping our team together with his maturity and he’s playing and dishing good numbers for us. For a guy who is not supposed to be playing this well (given his age), he is turning back the hands of time.”

Meralco 83 - Cardona 17, Espinas 16, Mercado 12, Isip 10, Taulava 10, Lanete 5, Borboran 4, Omolon 4, Macapagal 3, Hugnatan 2, Yee 0.

Barako Bull 75 - Miller 14, Pennisi 14, Arboleda 13, Pena 12, Najorda 7, Ababou 5, Aquino 4, Salvador 4, Artadi 2, Salvacion 0, Allado 0.