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.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Bleachers' Brew #292 A poignant start to 2012

This appears in the Monday January 2, 2012 edition of the Business Mirror.

A poignant start to 2012
by rick olivares

The year 2011 was a very good one for me. I rebounded from a couple of tough years were I felt like I was slugging it out against Manny Pacquiao so I had to do a Joshua Clottey to survive. If there has been anything that I have learned the past decade or so is that there is no reason to leave the good ship of hope. So on to 2012 it is!

As much as most of us would like to look forward, there is the matter of the victims of Typhoon Sendong who dropped more than a load of coal on the Christmas stockings of the people of Mindanao.

Typhoon Sendong battered the Mindanao region and left the entire nation as well as the international community shocked and grieving following the grisly aftermath that included a terrible death toll.

But even as the country seems to constantly bear the brunt of nature’s wrath, such disasters also bring out the best in the Filipino people. And the football community has organized a charity football match between a mixed squad of national players and club players and Internacional de Madrid, a Spanish league side, that will be played on Jan. 7th at the Rizal Memorial Stadium at 4pm.

One might say that in the midst of tragedy, how can one think of sports?

Not everyone can physically help in the relief efforts of Ground Zero. Help and succor can come from a sense of normalcy and from fund-raisers.

In 2001, Major League Baseball gave a massive lift to New Yorkers and Americans who were reeling from the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.

A little over a decade after that infamous day that forever changed the world, we as a nation we have a chance to stand as one with the victims and let them know they are not alone through football.

To paraphrase the late Bill Shankly, “Football is much more than a game. It is about life and death.”  The game itself transcends borders, languages, beliefs, and cultures. Whether rightly or wrongly, it binds people. It’s a call for nationalism and Croatia made its feelings known through a match that preceded the Yugoslavian Civil War. In the African country of Ivory Coast, when Didier Drogba plays, the warring factions of their long internal strife would stop shooting at one another. In Libya, the defiance of the football national team and its supporters galvanized the popular uprising against a long-time dictator.

And now, “the beautiful game,” as Brazilian football great Pele once described football, will provide badly needed relief to the thousands and thousands affected by Typhoon Sendong.

“Dili kamo nag-iisa” is more than a football match. The match’s title is an amalgam of Visayan and Tagalog and is meant to show the strength of unity and purpose that if one of us suffers, then we all stand together to care for one another thereby being far stronger. “Dili kamo nag-iisa” is to date the most meaningful football match in our nation's history because it is organized to raise funds for the victims and let them know we care. 

Right before kickoff, messages of hope will be read in Tagalog, Visayan, and Spanish. And the entire crowd at the stadium will be enjoined to sing the Gerry and the Pacemakers classic “You’ll Never Walk Alone” that they remade from the 1943 Rodgers and Hammerstein musicale Carousel.

Almost as soon “You’ll Never Walk Alone” was released as a single by Columbia EMI in July of 1963, the song was quickly adopted by Liverpool Football Club as their anthem. The song has become so popular that other football teams such as Celtic, Feyenoord, Twente, Cambuur, Borussia Dortmund, Kaiserslautern, Borussia Monchengladbach, St. Pauli, Darmstadt 98 and Tokyo all sing the anthem in their home matches.

It’s a stirring song of comfort, hope, and encouragement. And no doubt, the song, and more importantly, the charity football match, will touch the hearts of many to provide much needed support to the people of Mindanao.

And the match serves notice that our men’s football national team does more than represent the country. They play for our people. And that should serve as a fitting springboard when they begin their campaign in the AFC Challenge Cup and the year-ending AFF Suzuki Cup.

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The Philippine Red Cross (PRC) has been chosen as the main beneficiary for the monies raised from this event and the LBC Foundation are working with the organizers to maximize collecting and distributing donations.

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