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.

Friday, May 18, 2012

The Loyola Meralco Sparks in Singapore Part 2: Adjustments

The Loyola Meralco Sparks in Singapore
Part 2: Adjustments
by rick olivares pics by brosi gonzales

March 17, 2012
The match against Geylang United can’t come at a more opportune time. For the Loyola Meralco Sparks, their miraculous comeback against Kaya would be their last bit of football play until their next one. Except there was about a two to three week break because the Philippine Men’s Football National Team was going to be playing so participation in the 2012 Singapore Cup was sure to keep the team’s competitive edge honed to razor sharp keenness.

But as the Sparks began their second day in Singapore, the coaching staff was concerned about their players’ not being fully rested. There was the problem of room availability and not al the players arrived at the same time. It was decided that following the player inspection at 1130am, the team would head out for lunch at Orchard Road to be tendered by club president Randy Roxas then do some walking around that world famous stretch of shopping. After that, the team would be in lockdown mode. Game focus was going to be the order of the day.

With injuries and the unavailability of several players, a few of the Sparks will have to play in different positions. This was all discussed on the first training day when the coaches discussed the movement with the players. “The important thing is we get to practice that on the field,” underscored assistant coach Vince Santos who arrived Wednesday just in time for practice.

Santos himself had to make personal adjustments when his decided to hang up his spikes due to an injury and other interests. A feared striker during his schooling days, Santos decided to go into coaching in high school when he realized that it was important to correct flaws in a player’s fundamentals and mechanics at an age when they were still malleable. As a member of the Sparks’ coaching staff, it’s a dream come true for the former Ateneo Blue Booter to be able to coach both in school (FEU) and with a club (UFL).

Like any other footballer, there are days when he wishes he could lace his boots on. However, the moment he made the decision to commit himself to coaching and building a grassroots program, he was fine with not playing.

“We don’t really know much about Geylang so we could play cautious at the start before we can decide how to play them. But of course, we will not just sit back and relax. It is important that we establish ourselves early in the match,” said Santos.

One player who might not be able to suit up is Italian midfielder Davide Cortina. During the player registration, he showed his International Transfer Certificate from his previous club in Dusseldorf and the card is printed in German. The Football Association of Singapore needs to verify the ITC before Cortina is allowed to play.

The news somewhat dampens the mood.

But not entirely. Words quickly spreads that their match against Geylang United will be shown live on AKTV back home. That means the people back home will get a chance to see the match.

There’s also a podcast recording of the Back Four Bums and several players guest on the show. Santos brings down a box of specially colored Ray Ban glasses that fit the Loyola colors. The players don them and take a bunch of photos. Ref Cuaresma leads some players in an impromptu pose like the boy bands of yesteryear.

And there’s more tonic for the concern about Cortina’s status for the match. The team leaves for Orchard Road and excitement fills the air. Some players have been here before although not necessarily to shop or see the sights. Anto Gonzales was here before as a player. That was in 2007 during the Asean Football championships. Unfortunately, the team was on the receiving end of a pair of 4-0 butt kickings from Malaysia and Indonesia. The coup de grace was a scoreless draw with Myanmar. The team wasn’t complete then and minus Phil Younghusband who was not released by Chelsea. The Azkals adjusted by playing Chris Greatwich up front with Aly Go. “Hopefully, this time, we’ll get a different result,” wished Gonzales who is thrilled to be called up to the national team training camp in Cebu. “Again, we are missing players so we don’t know how things will work out.”

Jake Morallo like many of his teammates are excited to see Orchard Road. The sheer number of people walking about, the massive billboards and LCDs, the malls, it’s a welcome and inviting change from the drab surroundings of the Santa Grand East Coast Hotel that is close to Changi Airport. The shuttle bus drops the team off just behind the elegant Ngee An City. The team walks around the world famous thoroughfare and Morallo is like a kid in a toy store. 

People stare at the team that is dressed in red tennis shirts and shorts. Some Filipinos recognize the players and ask for pictures. The players gladly oblige.

The team is undecided on where to eat. After all, it isn’t easy to find a place during the noontime crush that can seat a party of over 20 people. Chinese food. Italian. Chicken wings. There are suggestions. When someone suggests Friday’s at the Hereen (just across the Mandarin Orchard Hotel), Randy Roxas wonders, “You mean we’re in Singapore and we’re going to eat at Friday’s? We have that back home.”

But the restaurant has enough space for the team so Friday’s it is. The team is split into two areas with tables bunched together. By lunch’s end, Phil asks those seated in our area to guess how much we’ve been billed. Every one quickly makes a guess. Master Kim tops the bets with a Singapore $450 tab. Vince Santos wins it (he guessed $250 and the bill is at $253 but the overall cost is close to a $1000). The players chorus “Thanks, Randy.”

The team walks about. There will be time for sightseeing and some shopping after the game. But for now, it’s a return to the hotel to get some rest and prep for the business of football. Practice is at 5pm once more at the Jalan Besar Stadium.

Game day is close.

Practice on Thursday at the Jalan Basar Stadium.

1 comment:

  1. See you tonight guys!....make us proud mga pinoy dito sa SG..go for a WIN!...Cheers, James Escanuela (ex-footballer 1982-84...elementary days to early high school...Cebu...haha)