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.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

The cover to the new NBA preview issue of Sports Illustrated

UFL Tuesday: General Trias & Stallion do away with the old order

General Trias & Stallion do away with the old order
by rick olivares

And the old order is swept away.

Pasargad, two-time UFL champions and Air Force, winners of five major trophies in the last decade, have been bounced out of the 2012 UFL Cup by their upstart offspring.

The face of Philippine football is changing and if one doesn’t go with the more international feel of the game then one is cast aside. The national team has clearly understood that and the sons of the Philippines’ international Diaspora not to mention the foreign influence has changed the football landscape forever.

There are the Fil-foreigners whose overseas training has brought a different dimension to the national team let alone the UFL. African expats have made their mark on teams like Global, Kaya, and Pachanga. Koreans have had a huge impact on the games of Stallion, Loyola, and General Trias (it remains to be seen if Sta. Lucia will move up from Division Two).

General Trias. Who would have thought that an all Korean team of no-names based in Cavite City would be the surprise team of the tournament? Last year it was Pachanga that came out of nowhere to threaten the old order. This year it has been General Trias. And in case anyone hasn’t noticed, they are named after a Philippine Revolutionary War General. Laying waste to everything in their path is something they hope to channel.

General Trias scored first and in only the eighth minute against Pasargad when Ji Hun Song headed in an inswinger towards the unprotected second post. It had to take that early concession for Pasargad to realize the severity of the situation. They began to take control of possession but still could not make any headway against the staunch defending of the Koreans.

Pasargad finally broke through in the 48th minute when scoring machine Masood Shahdideh equalized. It was the first goal that General Trias conceded in the group stages and just as their first score woke Pasargad from their slumber so did the former with even more resolute defending. Try Pasargad did but it was like Hamburger Hill for them in the quagmire that is the University of Makati pitch. The resulting 1-1 draw sent them packing as Pasargad needed the three full points to advance.

Air Force and Stallion. Both with their roots in Iloilo doesn’t mean that blood is thicker than water. This one is for keeps.

For generations, Illongos, most especially the sons of the Philippines’ football capital of Barotac Nuevo, sent their sons to the military teams, Air Force in particular. Stallion, named after the horse that helped establish the town of Barotac Nuevo, took this generation of football stars that should have gone on to Air Force just at the time when the local football world changed.

In this football mad town, bragging rights are important so no quarter will be given. Just as Air Force has been the bane of the Loyola Meralco Sparks, so has Stallion been theirs. And Stallion has had their number dating back to last league season. Stallion routed the airmen, 4-1, with Yanti Barsales claiming a measure of pride with a late goal. In their second round encounter, it was a battered Stallion team that took to the pitch but they still had enough to win, 2-1.

Just as Stallion’s own Korean contingent forever changed the nature of their game, so did the entry of their two Spanish imports in Rufo Sanchez and Joaco Canas.

Sanchez has given scoring machines Phil Younghusband and Masood Shahdideh a run for their money with his prowess at the forward position. His deft touch not to mention his deceptive speed despite his size has caused all sorts of problems for opposing teams.

And his work rate! After being the recipient of a perfect free kick, Sanchez unloaded on the Air Force goal but keeper Tats Mercado blocked the opening salvo. Showing that he is not only fleet of feet but also quick of mind, Sanchez got to the rebound before anyone else did as he banged in his first goal. His second shot, once more off a set piece in the 43rd minute where he made mincemeat of Air Force defender Glenn BulaquiƱa, gave Stallion breathing room heading into the half. And somewhere I swear I could hear that quintessential commentator’s bellow of, “Goooooooooooooooooooollllll!”

What did not work for Air Force was their wing play that has served them in good stead since Chieffy Caligdong made the left wing synonymous with his name. Caligdong threatened once but once Stallion’s defense became more compact there wasn’t anymore threat from the defending champions.

Stallion in the meantime improved on its possession and short game. They repeatedly found teammates ahead of them who danced around the Airmen who were a tad slow.

The third goal, off another set piece, saw Canas’ cabeza find the back of the net.

As for the fourth and fifth goals, they best illustrate the marvelous dribbling skills of Joo Young Lee and Ojay Clarino as they weaved around several defenders before scoring on superb strikes. Air Force has shown itself capable of coming back from the grave but the fourth goal by Lee effectively put the game out of reach. Ian Araneta pulled back one in the 83rd minute with a free kick inside the box that recalled a similar set piece goal against Eduard SacapaƱo in the Air Force-Army derby but it was too late.

It was a 5-1 win. The five were the most goals conceded by Air Force in a long time. Even worse, the loss effectively ended their reign as UFL Cup champions. The “diesel” allegory is not even apt. Military aircraft have not used diesel since the early 20th century. However, after a poor league season the previous year and now an early Christmas vacation, Air Force will have to take a long hard look at reality and decide how to best compete.

The old order may have been temporarily cast aside (Kaya and Army are among the last of the old clubs still in contention although the former has embraced the winds of change). Aside from the old time football fans, no one remembers Pasargad’s old dynasty. To the new jack football fan, a Persian dynasty went the way of Xerxes. As for military rule in Philippine football, it has fallen, a victim of the perestroika that has swept the structure of the local game.

The old time fans may cringe at the thought. But if anything, it has shown that the beautiful game is flourishing.

After all, it’s the new order.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Spotlight: Pasargad’s Kenneth Dolloso

Spotlight: Pasargad’s Kenneth Dolloso
by rick olivares

Kenneth Dolloso stands five feet and five inches tall. Kind of short for a goalkeeper would be the first thing that comes to one’s mind but there is a reason why he plays in the top-flight division of the United Football League.

“Si Kenneth,” said Norman Fegidero Jr. of his former ward at West Negros University in Bacolod and with Pachanga, “always plays bigger than his size. He plays with a lot of heart and energy. He has that quick first step, makes good reads on shots that allows him to stop the best strikers. And he is very good in making stops during penalty shootouts.”

Strong praise indeed and that is why Pasargad immediately took Dolloso when he left Pachanga following their club’s recent sale.

Despite his size, his prowess at net minding was made possible by his relentless work ethic. “My former high school coach, Ronel de Oca, taught me how to read an attacker’s shot. Kung kanan siya o kaliwete. Kung anong part ng katawan ang gumagalaw bago tumira. Kung sino yung mga teammate niya na open,” explained Dolloso of his approach to goaltending.

To date, Kenneth has suited up for three UFL teams – Global where he helped the squad win a Division Two and Cup championship; Pachanga, where he also was the net-minder during the Red Phoenix’ record setting season last campaign; and now, Pasargad.

“Every where he has played, he has won,” said head coach Essi Sedigh of Dolloso’s pedigree.

In three matches thus far with Pasargad, Dolloso has conceded only three goals and all came during their first match against his former team in Global. “Nag-struggle kami for form and chemistry sa first game,” Ken recounted. “Okay na kami since.”

He says that being in an Iranian-flavored club is no problem with him. “We all get along. Sa depensa, kung mag-communicate kami, gumagamit kami ng sign language. Buti na lang medyo universal yung mga ginagamit namin na signs.”

He’d love nothing more than to help Pasargad recapture its former glory. “Mas mahirap ngayon mag-defend ng title or manalo. Lahat ng teams umangat,” he said of his team’s chances of bagging some silverware by season’s end. “Pero may laban kami. We have some very good players who have lifted us kung saan kami ngayon. Sana makatulong pa ako.”

Favorite football team (outside the UFL): Chelsea
Hobbies outside football: Playing FIFA on Playstation
Most dangerous striker he’s faced: Global’s Izzo El Habbib
Best goalkeeper in the UFL: Green Archers United’s Patrick Deyto
If he weren’t playing football: He’d be working on a cruise ship.

Win or go home Tuesday at the UFL

Win or go home Tuesday at the UFL

The third to the last play date of the 2012 UFL Cup group stages will be played tonight at the University of Makati. And the day’s doubleheader will have much bearing on who moves on and who plays who in the next round where it’s win or go home time.

Pasargad vs. General Trias 7pm
Why wait for the Round of 16? This one is a virtual knockout match. The Korean-flavored General Trias has continued to surprise many with their performances since the cup qualifiers. They currently tote a 2-1-0 record that is good for seven points and second place behind Group A topnotcher, Global that has already advanced to the next stage. Pasargad owns a 2-0-1 record that is good for six points. Their only loss was on opening day against Global when the team still was not in sync with all their new signings. They have since kicked it up a notch higher but this will be their supreme test. They will have a full lineup when midfielder/forward Shayan Jafari returns to action after missing all their previous matches. Shayan along with Masood Shahdideh led Pasargad in last year’s league competition where the former Iranian first division players completed an amazing turnaround from whipping boy to the one doing the whipping.

One added thing… General Trias has yet to concede a goal in the group stages. They are the last team remaining to concede one.

Stallion vs. Air Force 9pm
During another time, the players of Stallion would have been the new generation of Air Force players. The roots of the club are firmly Iloilo and while Air Force and the other military teams have long been the destination of many a southerner, the rise of the club football scene has provided an alternative option to keeping one’s football dreams alive.

The Iloilo roots notwithstanding, this one is a derby. Expect no quarter between the two as at stake is the top of Group D (although Air Force still has a match at hand).

Stallion has a 2-0-1 slate with their only loss coming at the hands of Army that has recently drawn its last two matches. Air Force on the other hand has a 1-1-0 record. If they win their last two matches, they will top their group with 10 points.

A loss by Air Force will be disastrous as it will knock them out of the tournament since Army already has accrued 8 points in all its matches.

This proud defending cup champion has reeled in the wake of the rise of club football and they would love nothing more than to show they are still the top dogs of the UFL.

Loyola Meralco Sparks: The lessons of the 2012 Singapore Cup

We expected at least third place but third runner-up isn't so bad given the circumstances. And the club takes home Php 337,226! Not bad at all. We should be thankful.
This appears on

A football lesson
Understanding what happened to the Loyola Meralco Sparks’ 2012 Singapore Cup adventure
by rick olivares

“This is a big learning experience for us but maybe I will see the big picture of it in a few days but right now, I’m very disappointed.”

Phil Younghusband made that statement following the 4-0 thrashing of the Loyola Meralco Sparks by Gombak United in the battle for third place in the 2012 Singapore Cup at the Jalan Besar Stadium last Sunday evening.

Loyola kicked off its Singapore Cup campaign with an incredible 2-1 over Singapore side Geylang United to advance to the quarterfinals where they defeated Burmese side Kanbawza, 5-3, in aggregate. The pair of stunning wins easily tabbed the Philippine club as the sensation of the tournament. Once in the semifinals, their ran out of luck as Tampines Rovers taught Loyola a lesson strategy and conditioning en route to a 5-0 aggregate win. The battle for third place against a young Gombak side promised silverware. Instead, the club ended the tournament with a whimper much to the disbelief of the staunch Philippine crowd that saw them through four legs and the officials of the Singapore league who expected a thrilling match and not a pitiful performance.

In the aftermath of the Tampines loss, Sparks assistant coach Vincent Santos asked me if I could help write something that will put things in perspective for those in management and the team’s sponsors who could not see past the final result. It took me a couple of weeks (mostly because I have been taken ill) but this is what I hope to be an unbiased and objective discourse on Loyola’s Singapore adventure and that the clubs that follow their trail may learn from it.

This is not making excuses for the losses because the opposing squads really won it on their own merit. These are some factors that also contributed to the loss. Clearly, for the entire surge in popularity in football, ours is a young footballing nation where we are finally beginning to learn the right way.

A team must be on-ground for at least 48 hours before a match abroad
There is a reason why FIFA mandates that the latest a club can release a player for national duty is two days before. Even in tournaments like the Suzuki Cup, teams have a two-day interval between matches. It is not ideal as the best would be a several days but this will do for a short tournament. It is primarily used for recovery because a 90-minute hard match is hard on one’s body. 

If you recall in April of 2010, there was concern about the 20-hour bus ride by Barcelona to Milan due to the explosion of Eyjafjallajokull volcano. Once they got there, they got waxed 3-1 by Intermilan in a Champions League match (Barca got bounced from the competition as they lost 3-2 on aggregate). Again, there was hardly any recovery for the La Liga club.

If you look to the recent history of the Sparks, James and Phil Younghusband were told by the Philippine Football Federation that flying in with a day before the Bahrain match would not be of any help to them or the national team so the earliest they could see a return to action was against Kuwait. A long and transcontinental flight doesn’t really help even if one sleeps throughout the flight.

Singapore is a little over three hours away so why did this trip hurt? Because it was a red eye flight. Loyola was supposed to have a match on Thursday night against Mendiola but it was postponed due to the weather. The Thursday match meant that the team could not fly out to Singapore earlier. And the team can only be thankful they did not have to play Thursday night because how much worse could they be if there were even less time for recovery?

The only available flight for the team was on a late Friday evening. The team left Friday night in two batches, the first at around close to 9pm while the second left at 1030pm. The first batch arrived at the hotel around 1am while the second checked in at 3am.

Furthermore, practice was scheduled by the S. League from 7-9pm on Saturday evening. By the time the team got back to the hotel, it was around 930pm. Once more, there wasn’t enough recovery from that. 

Sunday, match day, it was obvious in the morning that there was some fatigue that set in. Many players got up around 11am. We arrived at the Jalan Besar Stadium a few minutes before 4pm, a little later than desired because ideally, you are at the venue two hours before for proper limbering and simply getting ready for the match.

By kickoff at 5:15pm, the team appeared sluggish and they paid for it as Gombak scored twice early. The team never got its bearings until the half and by then, it was already a mountain to climb.

The odds are stacked against a semi-pro team beating a pro team
The United Football League is a semi-professional league. Let’s get that out of the way. That means that teams are not full-time professionals. Some players because of their wages are close to it but not for the vast majority. Looking at the make-up of the Loyola Meralco Sparks, many of the players have day or in the case of defenders Alex Elnar and PJ Fadrigalan, night jobs. When these “employed” players go abroad, they have to file for leaves. Imagine filing leaves for football and not for a vacation.

In Loyola’s recent match against Pachanga, Fadrigalan had to leave at halftime for work. It is the same thing with the others. During the first leg against Geylang, Jayson Cutamora arrived on match day. Against Tampines, defender and co-captain Pat Ozaeta also arrived late.

Pro clubs train on a regular basis because that is their life. Semi-pro teams try their best to do so but it is difficult.

There is a massive difference when one lives and breathes football as opposed to a life where one has to totally shift one’s mindset from an eight-hour workday to a football match to be played two hours later.

S. League teams all have homefields where they have facilities for training any time they wish too. That is another advantage.

While the Philippines has finally begun to understand the need for all-weather pitches, we are still miles away from our Southeast Asian neighbors. But think how far we’ve come with only so much. How much more when we’ve got everything down pat?

You gotta be fit to be the king
Match fitness and conditioning are just as important to any team’s chances of winning.

When Loyola played Tampines in the Singapore Cup semifinals, the Stags were winding up a long season. Loyola on the other hand, was just getting started for the new one. One team was in peak form while the other was trying to find its legs.

Advantage Tampines. And what an advantage that was.

Usually Philippine club teams only play in one tournament at a time. Loyola was playing in both the UFL (the tail-end of the last season) and the Singapore Cup. Teams have to get used to that.

If you look at say Manchester United, they have been criticized for not taking other tournaments outside the Premier League and Champions League seriously. That is why they have a huge roster to be able to utilize the reserves for other tournaments. Team are celebrated for winning the domestic title and in Europe.

Because of the Loyola stint in Singapore and other regional tournaments, UFL teams now have to look long term on planning and playing for more than one tourney at a time.

In order to do that, aside from the composition of squads, one has to consider fitness and conditioning. And aside from that, there are the home conditions that usually favor the home team.

When the Philippine Men’s National Team played Kuwait in the opening round of the Asian Qualifiers for the 2012 World Cup, the nationals were literally sweating buckets in the desert heat. That is why the team camped out in Bahrain to acclimatize. But is it enough? Not at all but it is better than arriving there with only two days to spare.

The same thing befell the Philippines when it played Mongolia in the away match for the AFC Challenge Cup, after a while, the players couldn’t move. The weather got to them.

Having said that, Singapore is a tropical country much like ours. But theirs is closer to the equator, hence, it is even hotter. Now in Southeast Asia, there are two seasons – hot and wet.

In the days leading up to match day, Singapore was inundated with rains. However, Sunday, was hot and humid. I didn’t mind the heat as I had the chills due to a bout of the flu. I welcome the beads of sweat that lined the back of my shirt outside the stadium. But to my Filipino friends who reside in Singapore, they just wanted to get inside the cooler confines of the stadium.

Against Geylang the humidity and the hard artificial turf were a huge factor. Players were collapsing due to cramps yet the valiant stand and win makes this one of the most memorable wins in the team’s history.

It was clear even against teams like Kanbawza that Loyola faded in the second half. The other wideouts of opposing teams looked like thoroughbred horses racing down towards the finish line once they got the ball on the flanks.

Tampines hardly even went to their bench and that showed how fit and superbly conditioned they were.

Tampines and Gombak played their best games of the season both against Loyola (that Singaporean media will attest to that). A Singaporean colleague remarked that the Stags’ goalkeeper Sasa Dreven looked all-world against the Sparks when he was so inconsistent throughout the season.

Gombak has slid from sixth to ninth place. There is a young team. The Bulls lost over eight players from the previous season due to financial woes. There was a late season turnaround for them as they went to a youth movement. In a post-match conversation with Gombak coach K Balagumaran, he said that they playing for third place was huge not just for his team but for his players because there is the possibility that they will move to other and bigger clubs in the off-season. Translated, that means, this too, was their audition for the other clubs. Doesn’t that remind you of that Middle Eastern club that recently played the Azkals where the players who went in were auditioning for the club?

Nevertheless, even if the Stags were putting their best foot forward for a big payday, they had a veteran backline that they trusted to repulse Loyola’s attacks. They hoped to be aggressive as they stole a page from Tampines by being aggressive early and not let Loyola get their passing game going. They were surprised by the slow and sluggish start. In fact, Balagumaran opined that the heat might have been a factor.

At breakfast this Monday morning, right before we left for Changi to return to Manila, I asked Loyola coaches Dang Pedro and Gil Talavera about plyometrics since the Sparks players lacked explosiveness on the run. It is something that because of their semi-pro nature they hope the players will find the time to do on their own. If that is so that is not going to happen because for one, plyometrics training is expensive and should be done in the off-season and not during the season.

Unlike the evergreen Aleks Duric who has learned to pick his spots on offense, Gombak’s Mustaqim Manzur, Iqbal Hussain, and Fairoz Hassan were explosive on the release. Watching them from the media tribune of the Jalan Besar Stadium, it was like watching Usain Bolt leave his competition behind. There was that burst of speed and energy that left players like Alex Elnar and Chad Gould behind.

And it is no surprise that teams like Air Force and Global utilize their speed advantage to the hilt against Loyola.

Pro teams train twice a day. There’s the weight training and the proper field practice. I asked Aleks Duric about this and he said aside from paying attention to what he eats, he runs and runs. Ditto with his teammates.

Is running enough? Maybe. Maybe not. But on the average, a footballer runs an average of five miles per game. The midfielders and forwards, depending on their game plan, run anywhere from five to 11 miles. This was something that was discussed by Loyola in the pre-game talk.

Unfortunately, it was Gombak that got out of the gates like a Seabiscuit.

And there’s the question of tactics
Loyola usually runs a 4-2-3-1 formation, the vogue formation run by Paris Saint Germain, Ajax Amsterdam, Borussia Dortmund, Zenit St. Petersburg, and Spain. Barcelona occasionally leaves its cherished 3-4-3 for the 4-2-3-1.

It is hard to say that any one formation is the best. I will always say that it boils down to having the right players to execute a formation.

The formation has to be run in practice and not discussed only in pre-game briefings. To assume that everyone can run the formation will fall prey to Norman Schwarzkopf’s famous line about assumption being the mother of all fuckups.

Against Tampines, a 4-1-4-1 was run without having the midfielders and forwards practice how to move in sync. That was disastrous. The 4-2-3-1 is a terrific defensive and offensive scheme because it offers layers of defense and offense…. providing the team moves as a unit.

The problem is if the spacing isn’t correct and players tend to clog the midfield (as it happened against Gombak), there isn’t enough defense on the wing. That is how Gombak, running the conventional 4-4-2, made Loyola pay as their wingers Julien Durand and Mustaqim Manzur ran up and down the flanks (usually the left) with abandon.

The substitution of Mark Hartmann in the middle of the first half was crucial. The coaching staff might say that he wasn’t able to get the job done but that is an awful too early to make that sub. I thought it was the defense that got eaten alive by one man. That substitution gave the team one less weapon and Hartmann was huge against Geylang and Kanbawza. With Phil Younghusband shackled, Loyola needed scoring. Obviously, the opponents tried to shackle the Younghusband brothers and they did so quite successfully.

I understand that in Korea, players are made to learn the different positions but the thing is, again if I may emphasize it, if not practiced with the team, that is not going to help.

Case in point, Anto Gonzales was pulled out for Kim Woo Chul who usually starts at centerback. But in a more attacking midfield position, he was not able to complete any passes to his teammates making it even more exasperating for the offense.

When Loyola gets it right (see the recent match against Nomads), their play is a wonder to behold. But when the midfield play is sour then it’s going to be a long and frustrating match for the Sparks.

And if Loyola doesn’t score early, they struggle for second half goals because teams figure out how to play them. They have shown a capability for halftime adjustments, they just need to be more consistent.

Everyone should learn from this
The whole Singapore Cup can still be summed up as a successful one for Loyola. After all, who knew they’d go that far? They made a case not just for themselves but the upswing of the UFL and Philippine football.

Up in the media tribune of the Jalan Besar Stadium and in the post-match press conference, my Singaporean colleagues, not to mention Gombak coach K Balagumaran all expressed that “this is not the Loyola they have seen.” If you ask me that is the best compliment that can be said about this Philippine club team. That is a sign of respect won at a hard and telling cost. And if the players and coaches – and I do know you are reading this – noticed, you gained many Singaporean fans.

And I do hope people understand that there are many factors that affect a match. I tried my best to outline them and explain them although there are some that are better left unsaid for now. But there are lessons to be learned from scheduling, to recovery, to fitness and conditioning, and to practicing what one preaches. These are but some of the ingredients for a successful football team.

The 2012 Singapore Cup was ultimately a great learning experience for the Loyola Meralco Sparks although as Phil said, it left a bittersweet taste in the end. 


I am extremely thankful to Loyola and the UFL for this opportunity to be with the Sparks in this incredible journey. To see everything up close is something that a journalist like me lives for. I tried to write about this as accurately and honestly as possible. It reminded me of those days when I would cover the Philippine Men's Football National Team under Aris Caslib all the way to Simon McMenemy. 

I want to thank Randy Roxas, Woowee Evangelista, Belay Fernando, Kim Chul So, Vince Santos, Gil Talavera, Dang Cecilio, Doods Lansang, Belle Nayve, Mike Yamamoto, Reza Regacho, Louie Potenciano, and the entire team. The UFL's Javy Mantecon and Coco Torre for allowing me to continue what I started. My friends in Singapore: Fab Chen, Gabe Tan, Ken Tan, Gary Koh, Paul Greenrover Goodwin, and Ian Griffith. And from the S. League -- Sobban and Glenn. And there's Putrashah and Kumar! You guys made it fun too. Monark & Noreen, Bryan, Aisa, Ryanith, and everyone else! Had soo much fun doing this.

Until next year.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Scenes from Loyola Meralco Sparks' Sunday matchday

Sunday 340pm. We all left Albert Court Village Hotel in Bugis for Jalan Besar Stadium (a 10-minute drive on a Sunday). There's a certain seating arrangement in every coach that we take. The atmosphere was light as music was played with some guys singing along to One Direction's "What makes you beautiful". This has been their staple song for the last two trips to Singapore.

With some Loyola Meralco Sparks supporters before the match outside Jalan Besar Stadium. The fans have been wonderful coming out in full force to support the team win or lose. The cool thing was seeing Singaporeans outside the stadium entrance asking for photos and autographs. Wearing a Santos FC jersey. Have been a fan of that club -- obviously because of Pele. But have supported them with Serginho, Ze Roberto, Adriano, Robinho, and Neymar playing for the Santastico.

I snapped this seconds after the final whistle was blow announcing a 4-0 win by Gombak against Loyola. You could see the dejection on everyone's face. But the fans were incredible as they stayed behind to cheer on the team during the awarding ceremony. You can read about my thoughts on the whole Singapore Cup campaign of Loyola right here.

Post-match presscon where Phil Younghusband, Vince Santos, and James Younghusband talked about the loss and the tournament. Post-match presscon was attended by about a dozen media folks.

The team graciously took the time to sign stuff for the fans after the match. Dinner was at the hotel but the team went to a bar afterwards to watch the Chelsea-Manchester United game while others had some drinks.

So this one is from the following day at Changi airport with Master Kim. Wearing an Olympiakos shirt and a Darth Vader anime beanie given to me by my youngest son for my birthday.

My Singapore soundtrack: Feeder's Freakshow Generation, Noel Gallagher's High-Flying Birds, The Acacia Strain's Death is Only Mortal, and Ben Gibbard's horrible solo album that I tried to like.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Bleachers' Brew #344 On Chad Gould: A Golden Holiday

This appears in the Monday, October 29, 2012 edition of the Business Mirror.

A Goulden Holiday
by rick olivares

There’s a common comparison in professions: “football players are like rock stars.” That’s most certainly true. David Beckham, Cristiano Ronaldo, and Didier Drogba to name a few can attest to that. But in the case of Chad Edward Gould, it is the opposite… ‘rock stars are like football players.”

Chad had visions of his band being the next Blur, Ash, Coldplay, Oasis, and you can insert any Brit Rock band’s name here, in the early years of the new millennium. His band, RedGrave, just signed a contract with indie label and recorded an album. “This was the life,” he recalled of those halcyon days when he left life as a banker at Deutsche Bank to live his rock star fantasies.

Some time after that in 2004, Chad was on a three-week holiday with his family in Manila when on a whim they decided to check out if there was a Philippine national football team. One lead pointed the Goulds to the Philippine Football Federation where they met then national coach Aris Caslib who asked the Fil-Briton to try out for the team.

“I must have looked funny to the PFF officials,” recounted Gould with a laugh. “I went there carry a guitar so they probably were not sure if I was inquiring about a slot in the national team or a gig.”

Chad was first turned on to music by his parents with the Beatles. “That’s how I eventually became a Liverpool Football Club fan,” he explained of his intertwining music and football roots. “For five nights a week, music was my proper job.”

Since his gigging was at night, Chad traded his guitar for his boots to play football by day. “It was the best of both worlds for me,” said Gould of those days.

There was a huge pool of talent for Caslib to choose from. Suddenly Chad found himself still in the running for a slot as the pool was whittled down from 120 to 64 to 32 and ultimately to 23. “I couldn’t believe my luck,” said Gould of those tryouts. “The three-week holiday turned into three months.”

Chad found himself in the Philippine team that competed in the 2004 Tiger Cup. In the Philippine team’s very first match, the nationals were in the midst of a 4-nil beating by Malaysia when Caslib sent in Gould in the 90th minute of play. There were four minutes of added time and Gould remembers his heart pounding as he raced on to the pitch. “There were a lot people inside the stadium in Kuala Lumpur and if that doesn’t inspire or intimidate you I don’t know what will.”

In the 93rd minute, the Philippines got one last corner kick. Aly Borromeo headed in a shot that the Malaysian goalkeeper blocked and the ball careened out to a gaggle of players. Gould got to the ball ahead of everyone else and he headed in the ball for a goal. The Philippines, in this pre-Azkals mania that pervades today, salvaged a measure of pride as they pulled back one goal. With family and friends watching back home in the Philippines and England, Gould celebrated as he and his team won the Tiger Cup.

It was a memorable debut and Chad would continue to play for the Philippines until the Long Teng Cup of 2010. “At that time, I was waiting for a call up for the Suzuki Cup,” recalled Gould of that time. “The team was getting better in terms of quality. After the Long Teng Cup, I played with an English beach soccer team that was doing a tour. I was waiting for the call up that never came. And we all know what happened afterwards.”

The Philippines drew with Singapore, 1-1, then followed that with an incredible 2-nil win over defending champion and regional powerhouse Vietnam. The run to the Suzuki Cup semifinals was stupefying and it sparked a football renaissance in the Philippines that has not abated one iota since. And the long time national veteran who had scored six international goals suddenly found himself outside looking in.

“Of course, I was proud of what my teammates had accomplished. But it did hurt a bit that I was not a part of it. On the other hand, my time off also was good for me as I met my current girlfriend, Charlotte (Harris, the niece of the late English actor, Richard Harris).”

Some time early this year, while in correspondence with James and Phil Younghusband who he had been friends with even in England, Gould was prompted to play in the fledging United Football League in Manila. “The time after the Suzuki Cup in 2010 was massive for Philippine football. The sport grew by so much. The UFL also greatly improved. I wanted to be a part of it.”

Gould recently made the fulltime move to Manila with his girlfriend. He has for now, shelved temporarily his rock star dreams to play for the Loyola Meralco Sparks and hope for another call up to the national team. With the Sparks, he has recast himself as a central defender instead of his usual forward position.

“Now I have fully committed to football and in the last eight weeks since I joined Loyola, I have seen myself grow as a footballer. That’s the focus now and I hope that I can contribute to the success of Loyola and the UFL.”

That’s okay, Chad. The way it is for Filipino footballers nowadays, they live like rock stars anyway.

Another time. Another life. Chad with RedGrave back in England.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Loyola hopes to bring home some silverware

Loyola hopes to bring home some silverware
by rick olivares

There’s an air of excitement in this fourth trip of Loyola to Singapore never mind it’s a battle for third place. It is still where no Filipino football club has gone before. The conclusion of the Singapore S. League and Singapore Cup are both coming to its end.

Even after the disappointing loss to Tampines Rovers in the semifinals where the Sparks got blanked 5-0, there was an air of optimism. The team went into the tournament with hardly any expectations. A semifinals berth and an opportunity to win third place is beyond belief. Even here in Singapore outside the Filipino community, there is also an appreciation for what the UFL club has brought to this tournament.

“They play great football and will only get better,” said Tampines Rovers striker Aleksandar Duric after their second leg match with Loyola. “Every time they play there is a great atmosphere and a big crowd. That is good not just for Philippine football but also for Singapore and Asia.”

For Loyola to celebrate properly, they will have to defeat Gombak United in the battle for third place in this 2012 Singapore Cup.

However, it has been a wretched October for Gombak United. The Bulls, as the club is nicknamed, have taken it on the chin losing all four of its matches for the month. The month started with a close 3-2 loss to Geylang United. That was followed by a 6-1 shellacking by Singapore Armed Forces. In both their semifinals matches with Singapore Armed Forces in the Singapore Cup, they lost by a pair of 1-nil results. The Bulls (7-7-9) have fallen from sixth place in the S. League standings to ninth; 21 points off leader Tampines Rovers.

Gombak has an opportunity to move up to eighth place but they’ll be up against Japanese club Albirex Niigata that is currently in fourth place.

The club once took a three-year sabbatical from the S. League in the early years of the new millennium after financial woes. Upon their return, they won the Singapore League Cup in 2008 but have since fallen off again. In the scoring leader board, Mustaqim Manzur has scored six goals while Hafiz Rahim has four. In 23 matches thus far in the S. League, Gombak has scored 23 goals while conceded 29.

But it should also be noted that Gombak has worked its way out of the cellar with its improved play, October notwithstanding. They may also be 0-4 for the month but they’ll no doubt want to go out with a winning note.

Aside from Mustaqim and Rahim, Gombak hopes that tall Korean attacking midfielder Jung Hee Bong can help their cause. Gombak has played a more defensive brand of football in the latter stage of the S. League.

Loyola will be missing several players for the match. Amani Aguinaldo, Michael Menzi, and Eric Giganto are with FEU in the University Games back in Bacolod where they are in the semifinals. New midfielder Rodrigue Nembot was a late addition to the Sparks and is ineligible for Singapore Cup play. Right back PJ Fadrigalan is unavailable because of work. Midfielder Davide Cortina stayed back home while recuperating from a knee injury.

But the Sparks are buoyed with their recent 8-1 whitewashing of Nomads and are keen to pick up some silverware, the club’s first ever. “It will be good for us to end this tournament on a very high note,” said team captain James Younghusband. “”We have to work for it and hope that we bring some silverware back with us to the Philippines.”


Read this on Chad Gould

Quotes from the Loyola Meralco Sparks:

Ref Cuaresma, goalkeeper:
I feel both happy and sad about today's game. Happy because we have a chance to win this and bring glory to our club, country, and the UFL. Sad because it is our last game of the tournament. I feel we grew as a team here in Singapore. And it's always nice to go to Singapore.

Anto Gonzales, midfielder:
We're going in confident about what we have to do. We have a great opportunity to achieve something for our young club. We will be up against a team that has been established in the S. League. They may not be doing well now but that doesn't mean they will not give their best. We are doing something for Philippine football here.

Roxy Dorlas, defender
We look at this game in a different way. We are not just representing Loyola but also the UFL and the Philippines. We hope to do well.

Chad Gould, defender
It feels good to be able to achieve something for Philippine football again. To be a part of this is massive. We hope to play our best for this game.

S. League notes: Tampines that is barely holding off guest squad DPMM of Brunei in league play. The Stags have a 5-0 aggregate win has a 15-4-4 record good for 49 points. DPMM has a 15-3-5 record and has accrued 48 points. Both clubs have a plus-24 goal difference so their final fixtures are going to be very interesting on how they finish.

You have to read this article written by good friend Fabius Chen of the Straits Times and its about Singapore/Tampines striker Aleksandar Duric. How many people will drive a cab for this? This man, Loyola idolizes!