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, November 9, 2012

UFL Q'finals: Gen. Trias vs Stallion: Glory and hope on a rain-swept pitch

Glory and hope on a rain-swept pitch
The poignant moments behind the General Trias-Stallion quarterfinals match.
by rick olivares pic by isko jose/interaksyon

Is Stallion head coach Ernie Nierras a praying man?

“Of course, he said somewhat incredulously. “I pray to win.”

Then he added: “I believe that if you work hard you will be rewarded.”

Twenty-six shots on goal certainly qualifies as hard work. But so is taking the fight to the match favorite, thought General Trias head coach Byung Jik Min.

The quarterfinals match between General Trias International and Stallion was mostly a scoreless affair yet it should be appreciated for its sustained intensity and technical brilliance. The 5-4 end result was from a penalty shootout where it is more of luck than skill. There were no Pirlo panenkas. In fact, on several occasions, the keepers from both sides guessed right but were unable to parry the ball away. In the end, the proper team advanced and the losing one will have to mull how to get better if not deliver that proper final pass that would lead to a goal.

In spite of the poor pitch conditions and inheriting a pounded earth from a hard-fought Army-Loyola match that was played right before, the two teams played frenetic football NON-STOP for 115 minutes. Okay, during the final five minutes of the second extra period, you could see the pace of both squads drop precipitously. Who can blame them after going at each other non-stop in a game that produced 10 yellow cards (with a few that were totally unwarranted)?

Credit must be given to both team’s respective trainers for their superb conditioning. I don’t recall seeing anyone drop from cramps. Cheap shots and tackles, yes, but not cramps.

The experience and the talent of Stallion proved to be the difference but it sure was fun to watch General Trias whose players range from 18-20 years old. When you think of their age you must also take into consideration their sound fundamentals. Their game – possession-based, one-touch combination passing – was fun to watch. Even their defense? Notice how when they turn back shots? They re-direct them with a sidefoot towards a teammate if possible. However, they will need to find a solution to making that final pass to their forwards if they want to win more matches. Stallion was downright stingy on defense behind Joaco Cañas but if Iniesta can find Messi…

And one more about their age, General Trias were not once intimidated by Stallion which can play rough when the spirit of Vincent Braga moves them.

But this is not your Barotac Nuevo Stallion Football Club. This is the 2012 version that is more international in flavor than General Trias who are all Koreans who go to school at Ebenezer College in Cavite. The toughness remains and that was ensured with the addition of Jason de Jong but it is the influence and passing of their Koringgos and the headiness of the Spanish duo of Rufo Sanchez and Joaco Cañas has made them a side to watch.

Although for the match, Sanchez left his magic boot at home as his volleys sailed wide or were inches from beating Seung Seok Seo who reminded me of Tats Mercado at goal for Air Force when he withstood the Loyola Meralco Sparks’ withering barrage in the cup finals of last year.

And so it went to the shootout.

The first four penalty takers from either side Kyu Wan Lee, Geun Young Nam, Gwang Yong Shin, and Jin Wook Kim for General Trias; and Joo Young Lee, OJ Clarino, Hy Il Kim, and Yong Jae Pi for Stallion all scored.

Then Hoan Cheol Do sent his shot wide left giving Stallion an opening. But Sanchez’s misery from the field continued as Seo saved his shot.

Given another shot at the win, Jeong Mu Lee trooped to the line for his spot kick. He sent it exactly where Sanchez sent it moments earlier – straight to the middle and Wilson Muñoz had no trouble stopping the shot.

As Nierras and assistant Richard Bedia conferred on who should take the next shot, Yeul Woo Nam, their choice, without conferring with his coaches walked up to take his shot. He sent Seo diving the wrong way.

Five to four, Stallion.

Nam raced to the sideline pumping his first. Sanchez was the first to meet him planting a wet kiss on his cheek for saving his behind. As the Stallion squad celebrated on the pitch – and this is where you will appreciate the a person’s clarity of mind and his compassion --- Sanchez noticed his teammates on the bench applauding but in a subdued manner. Ansing Gustilo, Jomar Lestingio, Jake Hugo, and Braga once started for this club and have not seen more time on the bench with the arrival of the Koreans and the Spaniards (and one tattooed Fil-Dutch dude).

Sanchez ran up to them, hugged them and led them in an impromptu huddle and dance. It was a poignant moment although lost in all the craziness that was going on. It says much about the face of local football and how it is changing.

I for one am ecstatic that one of Sanchez and Cañas’ caliber have chosen to play in the Philippines. They might not be at the premier division of Spanish football but they have a surplus of talent there. Forty years after the Spanish contingent led by Tomas Lozano came over, their kin have returned and have made an impact on club football. Watching him stop on a dime and volley from 25-30 yards out with either boot – how many can do that aside from Freddy Gonzalez? These are the moments that one should cherish and celebrate.

I moved over to the General Trias side. One of their team officials pointed at his players then to his face; making the gesture for tears flowing. Jeong Mu Lee was crestfallen and I could feel for the young lad. Every one of his teammates came up to him and patted him on the head. Lee sat down and cried yet no one left him. Then their head coach Byung Jik Min gathered his team in front of their supporters – a mix of Filipinos and Koreans – to applaud them for their efforts.

Their team coordinator, Dab Leung, then went up to me and held up an letter envelope. “I’d like to take this opportunity to hand you a letter where we request and pray that we be given a slot in the UFL’s Division Two. I pray that the league likes our brand of football and we would be honored to continue playing in this league.”

I told Nierras about General Trias’ request as we walked out of the darkening University of Makati Field. “Yes, they deserve to be in the UFL. If there are those who do not know this team then after watching them tonight, they know they deserve a place in the UFL.”

 Some of the General Trias supporters who were loud last night.


  1. General Trias should be in division 1 , panget kasi sa league game yung meron score na 10-0 , they two teams should be relegated from the division one ,

  2. the fighting spirit of GTI impressed me a lot. this is what philippine football should look like. that game was what a final match should look like. one of the best UFL matches i've witnessed so far.

  3. I agree that the game was fun to watch but it was not talent and experience that made the difference but pure luck because that penalty shootout could have gone either way. Stallion was dominant with ball possession, yes, but there was no real structure to their attack or their game in general. I think this should be a wake up call to Division I, that a group of teenagers who do not even have a formal professional team can challenge this late in the championship. Applause and admiration to General Trias for a game played with true football soul-- they should be in Division I not 2. And Stallion should have the grace to admit that they dodged a bullet, and by very very very little.

    1. What do you mean there was no structure to their attack or their game? They rained hell on the goal. If you ask me, Seo had a Tats Mercado moment. May halong swerte na rin. Some teams tend to catch clubs by surprise. The other clubs will not make that mistake next time. General Trias hardly got any shots on goal. Hardly. They could not even make that final pass. So much for the structure you make claims for.

    2. I agree with you 100% rick. I watched the game live at UMAK. Considering the relentless attack of Stallion, there were even several instances that the ball hit the bar/post. Moreover, the condition of the pitch plus the rain was also a factor. Also at the final moments of the game, Munoz was still sparkling clean in his uniform evident that there was no attack coming from GTIFC. I believe the ball possession was about 70-30 in favor of Stallion.

  4. General Trias didn't have any attacking structure either, I never said that. All I said was that they played their hearts out and they reached the quarterfinals of this competition against division 1 teams when technically they "shouldn't" have. Defensively they were extremely effective and Seo the goalkeeper had many moments in that game, not just one. And they wouldn't have reached the quarterfinals had they not been effective in previous games. Stallion's coach made a statement before this game that they would be teaching General Trias a lesson, but obviously that didn't happen. Structure is about tactics teamwork and finishing. Sure Stallion had a lot of attempts on goal during playing time but not one went in and the only tactic that was obvious was "get the ball to Sanchez". They never completely broke down GT's defense. All I'm saying is that they (and the rest of Philippine football) need to learn from this, not just dismiss it as a fluke.

  5. Bitter!!! hahahahaha