This appears in the Monday, July 2, 2012 edition of the Business Mirror.
|Global FC owner/manager/playing coach Dan Palami is given the world famous Gatorade bath by his players following their UFL championship after a 1-1 draw with Loyola.|
Global are champions and as LBJ said, ‘It’s about (damn) time.’
by rick olivares picture by brosi gonzales
In football, it is essential that one must be deft of feet, skillful with the ball, and good with the hands if one is a goalkeeper. And it also pays to be good of hearing.
Following a David Basa long ball, Global forward Izzo El Habbib positioned himself to control the pass but was challenged by Loyola defender Lawrence Ikegwuruka. Sparks’ goalkeeper Ref Cuaresma rushed out yelling, “My ball. My ball.”
El Habbib heard Cuaresma’s admonition and the Sudanese forward jumped as high as he could to flick the ball towards the goal. Much to the horror of Loyola as well as to Kaya FC and their own faithful, the ball bounced into an empty net while the Sparks’ Min Ho Park gave futile chase. One-nil to Global in the 65th minute as the stands at the venerable Rizal Memorial Football Stadium erupted in cheers of celebration and mutters of disbelief.
Global team owner-slash-manager-slash-playing-coach Dan Palami pumped his fist on the sidelines. El Habbib’s goal brought them one step closer to what has been a two-year pursuit of Philippine football’s ultimate prize – the United Football League championship.
In Global’s very first year in 2010, they romped undefeated in the UFL’s Division II to merit promotion. The following year, the won the UFL Cup in a thriller at the University of Makati over Air Force. However in the league competition, the military team pipped them to retain their crown.
Following the ascent of the Philippine Men’s Football National Team and the rise of local football, Global looked to be on the outs as clubs beefed up their rosters. Global went out in the semifinals of the 2011-12 cup to nemesis Air Force while at the start of the just-concluded league tournament, lost their first match to Army. They would lose another game, this time to Loyola, 1-0 before tightening up its defense and overtaking erstwhile leader Loyola that faded in the homestretch.
Heading into the penultimate playing date of the UFL where the outcome of both matches would decide the league champion, Global garnered 41 points while Kaya had 39. For Kaya to win the league, they had to beat Stallion the in the first match of the day’s doubleheader and hope that third-running Loyola defeated Global. Given a Kaya win and a loss by Global, the title would be theirs. A win or a draw by Global and the title was theirs.
Not exactly but the matches were long protracted battles. “This game is for pride,” revealed Loyola striker Phil Younghusband who won the UFL’s Golden Boot Award for scoring 23 goals. “We’re not going to win it but either Kaya or Global will have not beaten us either. So we’re going to put our best foot forward.”
In the opener, Kaya took on a spirited Stallion squad that had lost its finely tuned passing game. But the Kale Alvarez-coached team showed how pumped up they were for the challenge as they dominated possession and scoring chances. In the 18th minute, it finally paid off when Jonah Romero set up Nate Burkey for a laser of a volley that beat Stallion keeper Wilson Muñoz for the match’s only goal.
Kaya had numerous other chances to add to their lead but they couldn’t finish the job. In the last 20 minutes, Stallion stepped up their attacks and had Kaya on their heels but keeper Saba Garmaroudi, adjudged the best net minder of the tournament, turned back one shot after another.
Kaya celebrated their win and with one foot inside the championship door, they prayed for a Loyola win. Following Byeong Yeol Jeong’s stunning equalizer in the 76th minute, the entire Kaya squad went down to the VIP section of the grandstand to cheer Loyola on. But Global’s top-rated defense with its heady back line of Jerry Barbaso, David Basa, Ange Guisso, and Carli de Murga not to mention the terrific goalkeeping of Jerome Etoundi held fast as they turned back numerous chances by Loyola.
As referee Michael Barajas blew his whistle to end the 94-minute long match, the Global players celebrated with wild abandon as de Murga stripped down to his underwear. The African contingent of the squad knelt down in prayer and pointed up to the heavens. And Palami, who has played a huge role in the rise of the beautiful game in the country, was given a freezing Gatorade bath and the traditional victory ride by his players.
Palami through chattering teeth could not hide his elation, “It’s a big achievement and it completes our cycle of titles from Division II to the cup and now the league. It wasn’t easy but this is worth all our hardships. It’s about time.”