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 22, 2012

Bleachers' Brew #295 For club and country (the UFL & the Azkals)

This appears in the Monday January 23, 2012 edition of the Business Mirror.

For club and country
by rick olivares

I was unable to watch the match between the Azkals United and Icheon Citizen last night I had previous commitments that I could not wriggle free. Despite my absence, I would text friends as well as my staff that covered for my absence as media officer on match day.

When I learned that our team had lost 4-2, I bowed my head and felt hurt. Having been one of those few covering the national team (I know technically this is not the national squad but still…), I’ve been trying my darned best to help the sport that I grew up playing grow in the country. The players aren’t the only ones who get hurt by the loses. While football activity and interest has spiked in the 13 months, there remain those critical of the sport who feel the national squad is overhyped and that interest in the sport is a fad.

However, this isn’t about me debunking those arguments. I have done that in previous columns. Instead, I would like to clear the air about certain matters.

Over the previous two days, a lot of people have asked me if it was true that the Azkals United team was going to miss the services of several mainstays due to club duty. When I confirmed that, some quickly opined that the clubs were selfish as they put their concerns above national duty.

That is quite untrue. For starters, the clubs have always supported and given way to the national team. The UFL Cup competition of 2010 was suspended for a couple of weeks as the nationals left for the Suzuki Cup in Vietnam and Indonesia. So hectic were the schedules that the finals originally slated for December were postponed for January of 2011. And the cup competition was once more suspended matches so that everyone could support our campaign in the SEA Games held in Jakarta last December.

Yet in an unfortunate quirk of schedules, the Kia Rio Cup (between the Azkals United and visiting Korean team Icheon Citizen) was set for January 21, a week after the kickoff of the UFL’s league competition. League mainstays Kaya and Loyola were unable to release their players because they had matches the following day. 

Now one may point out that Global was able to release to release their players for the friendly when they themselves had a UFL match on the very same day. The fact that none of the foreign-based players could make it goes to show that there is a process in releasing players (usually 48 hours before a match).

The national team is managed by Global team owner Dan Palami who has done much for the awareness and growth of football in the country. He has always tried to put his best foot forward with the national squad while spending his personal money in these efforts. He has gone beyond the call of duty and that is highly commendable.

The clubs on the other hand also have a league to mind. Crucial to the growth of the sport (or any sport for the matter) is the youth programs, scholastic competition, and the club system. They are all a part of the support system to the national squad through the decades.

The fact that the clubs have also sacrificed before and will sacrifice again proves that they support the national squad. In fact, when the Azkals go for a two-week camp in Dubai next month to prepare for the AFC Challenge Cup means the clubs will loss key players for two or possibly three games. The teams pitched in for the Typhoon Sendong charity match “Dili Kamo Nag-iisa” the week before kickoff. Without trying to be insensitive, it looks bad for the UFL to postpone the Saturday games a week after its launch! That gives a bad impression of the league as one that is second rate.

In a country that is coping with the rapid rise of football, the hierarchy and systems still need a lot of fine-tuning to work matters out. There have been mistakes and lapses and there will continue to be in the near future until the sports’ authorities get it down pat.

For so long the sport was run like a fiefdom with each football association, club or school trying to do their own thing as politics plagued the Philippine Football Federation. Now that the PFF has eradicated the corruption scandals that have plagued it in the past, the task has turned to home keeping as the various personalities involved in the sport attempt to align one another. You can actually argue that they are “birth pains.”

I certainly wish we had the full complement of players on hand for the match against Icheon Citizen. But those are the breaks. Rather than point fingers on who is to blame, I’d rather look for solutions.

And that brings me to the point where following the 4-2 loss in penalties by Azkals United to Icheon Citizen, our national head coach took shots at the clubs for putting Azkals United at a disadvantage. First of all, the UFL and the PFF as well as national team management have been working to align their respective calendars. It hasn’t been easy but the fact that everyone is searching for a solution means there is hope. Second, I believe we should stop making excuses about losing. If it is not having a full lineup it’s not having enough time to prepare. A couple of times, the critics have been taken to task on national television. Now the latest excuse is the lack of support of the clubs.

History is replete with men and women doing things in the name of so and so. Heck, Adolf Hitler’s Waffen Schutzstaffel killed and they did so with “In God we trust” inscribed on their belt buckles.

The sport of football is growing by leaps and bounds in the country. It is not about club or country. It is about doing what is right for the game. And it’s time to stop making excuses.


  1. Just have to say this. SO UFL people prioritized their clubs over flag, AND A GOOD CAUSE. How selfish!!!! Talk about a PR disaster for a fledgling league. Well, i guess, that recent championship game won by chiefy's team (won't even mention team names here) would be the first AND LAST UFL game I'd ever watch. What a big turn off! REALLY!!!

    1. It has some positive effects though. Local players who didn't get the chance to showcase their skills for the Azkals were given that opportunity. This will surely boost their confidence as well as experience playing high level games. This will surely help the UFL lift the level of competition. We also learned that we have a deeper pool of potential NT players than we expected. But I would've been more happier if promising young guys like Beloya,Leonora and Bedic were also given the chance to gain more experience.

  2. OWNED!!! :) I watched the game last night and was also frustrated by the loss. But then judging from the way our players played, I think that we really have a good future with our Azkals. The young ones got the exposure they needed and their performance goes to show that we don't always have to rely with the Younghusbands, the Army vets and other Fil-Foreigners to pick up the cudgels for us. We have great young local players that have the right attitude whenever they are inside the pitch. More power to you, Sir Rick, and to Philippine Football!

  3. they could have done something if they really wanted to. Build up for the AFC challenge cup, a charity game, not so bad to prioritize. Everything is in control (especially the owner of 1 of the 2 teams, head of the UFL), we already knew about this game weeks ahead of time. Dont get me wrong, i love football, i love the UFL, Im a Kaya fan... Im just afraid that sooner or later, these players wont be allowed for an international competition for what, a league match? (similar to PH U16 basketball-NCAA issue).

    Fate of the azkals, is the fate of the UFL. Remember UFL hype is a product of the Azkals magic. So we cant afford negative issues such as these. We cant afford to see the azkals keep on loosing on our own turf. Or we might realize sooner or later, that its realy all a fad after all. (i hope not)

    Note: Kindly take it as a contructive argument. TY

  4. Thanks for your comment. Let me answer your points. The proper thing to do was move it maybe on a weekday so as not play on that day. Pero nandyan na. As for the UFL, they have been around for some time but not this popular. While the national team has been responsible for the surge of interest and popularity the clubs such as Nomads have been around for so long. Even longer than the national team. Build up for the AFC Challenge Cup? That's good but there are schedules. Please find me a league anywhere in this world that goes to camp in the middle of a season? But again, the UFL will allow their players to go. Their point is - let's schedule things properly.

  5. I can't understand why you media people need to keep defending the clubs at this point. Its true that the clubs will lose their players to the Azkals when they compete in the Challenge Cup, but that applies for BOTH the clubs that lent and didn't lend their players. The clubs owe Football's popularity to the Azkals, and how do they repay them? By leaving them out to dry ...

  6. Past is past. Let's move on! I hope we could prevent things like this to happen in the future. I support the Azkals as well as UFL. They have to consult each other to come up with a better schedule.

    I also agree with other posters here that we could not afford to lose in our own turf, charity, friendly or official match. This might turn away casual fans. We need solid victories to convert these fans into die hard football fans.