Day 2: Getting ready
by rick olivares pic by brosi gonzales
Back home, the Loyola Meralco Sparks couldn’t wait to get away from all the rain. Here in Singapore, a little rain wouldn’t hurt. It helps battle the humidity and the game conditions.
The turf at the Jalan Besar Stadium is home to the Young Lions of the S.League. It isn’t like the turf at BGC that is soft and easy on the knees and feet. It is quite the opposite. It’s hard and unforgiving.
But during practice yesterday at stadium, Loyola president Randy Roxas pronounced the weather conditions just right (it rained in the morning and a light afternoon shower cooled off the heat).
A trip like this helps bring the team a little closer. Aside from playing some football, being away from familiar and comfortable settings provides focus. The team pranksters like Ref Cuaresma and Jayson Cutamora’s one-liners keep everyone loose. This being Singapore and being like one huge island mall is enough to keep everyone excited. “There’s some energy to Singapore,” quips Cuaresma. “Hopefully, we can match it.”
Back home, the team never travels around together. Here, it’s a refreshing change. The Koreans themselves are fun to be around with. Simon Greatwich’s presence is missed as he was a bridge to all the groups. But the purpose is clear – to win a pair of football games.
Master Kim as always is an active sort during practice. He believes that execution is key. As long as the team perfects its game plan then no one can beat them.
With 15 minutes to go before the end of practice, the Kanbawza team of PN Sivaji arrives. He is very much familiar with the Philippine team having coached Singapore before. He oft goes to Manila to conduct coaching seminars and he quickly makes a beeline for Loyola assistant Gil Talavera who he knows well.
The KBZ team sits away from the benches until Loyola finishes it post-practice stretching. A Singaporean and English writer drop by for some quick interviews.
The ride back to the hotel still finds the team in high spirits. The Koreans try in pidgin English to explain some internal game that is being played amongst the team. Cuaresma asks if Cutamora is an illegal back home in the Philippines. Anto Gonzales wishes he were taller and that he had a billboard back home (hahaha internal joke).
By dinner’s end, the team will view the KBZ game from the previous round on DVD. The next day’s itinerary is briefly discussed. Everyone can’t wait to get it on.