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 16, 2011

Bacolod Diary November 16, 2011 Pachanga FC training camp Day 3

Last summer, one of the fun things about covering the Under-23 National Cup was following certain teams. For instance, the NCR Teams were an amalgam of the different UAAP schools with a few others thrown in here and there. Would they be able to play with one another as teammates as opposed to opponents? How would they respond to different coaching? And that was just one team. Take for example, Dipolog. How can this team compete with hardly any name players more so do without their recently graduated stars? And there was more.

Here in the UFL, teams make for even more intriguing mixes. Case in point, Pachanga. 

The line-up is a mash of Bacolod, Iloilo, and African players. Bacolod and Iloilo enjoy a fiery or intense rivalry when it comes to football. Many of these players have gone up against one another in various teams through the years. Some have made the national team while some are in the process of making it.

And then there are the African players. 

Take for instance Mohamad Farah. Pachanga's forward is from Sudan and he went to Baguio City to take up medicine. Never did he think that he'd be playing football here. After game day, he takes that long trip back to Baguio. During the day's scrimmage with West Negros University, Farah suffered a mild injury when Mustangs defender stepped on his hand after a failed header by the Pachanga forward. Farah played in spite of the obvious pain. After he was subbed at the half, he couldn't escape the irony of the injury. "I hope to have a career in medicine," he said somewhat thoughtfully. "I need my hands to do that. But I also love football. Is this a sign?" He laughs nervously. 

While education and a career is obviously important to Farah, one of his teammates (who will be unnamed here) has decided to stop his schooling and concentrate on a career in football. While the club is cared for quite well, the local semi-pro league is still in its infancy. Yes, it is possible to have a career in football but right now not every club is backed by a generous corporate sponsor. It is quite insane for him not to finish his schooling.

That local isn't the only one to roll the dice. Nigerian Cross Ubiam has played professionally in Indonesia. After his club did not renew his contract after a two year stint, he was brought to Manila as word of the burgeoning football scene in the Philippines spread. "Sure let's give it a try," he said before coming over. He first hooked up with Union before the club disintegrated. He then joined Pachanga. After the day's scrimmage where he scored a goal, he explored this southern city after the team was given the day off. "This is a beautiful country," he observed. "He looks at his new club -- they're billeted at the East View Hotel with its swanky accommodations and he and his teammates are well cared for. "We just have to work harder," he said.

The Red Phoenix isn't alone with its international lineup. There are other clubs as well that are built along the same lines. What I will be doing is trying to chronicle not just this team but others as well. I am quite thankful that the club invited me to observe their camp and write about them. Of course, I am grateful for the opportunity. 

Today, I also met up with some fans here in Bacolod. It sure was cool meeting them and I proposed to them a project that they liked and should have up soon. Hopefully, it will be good for the city of Bacolod. 

Above photo: At Aboy's for a seafood lunch. Unfortunately, seafood and my stomach do not like each other. So I had pork liempo (urgh). Below: with Rai, Joy, Queenie, Jessel, and Christian at the lobby of the East View Hotel where they met the Red Phoenix players. They treated me out to pizza at Greenoz Pizza as a belated birthday gift to go with some cakes. Sweet!

Also planted an idea with the Bacolod folks that should emerge soon. Will be helping them with that. If it does work then that should change some of the way we get our news. Looking forward to that, team. Let's go!

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