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.

Sunday, December 30, 2012

My sports awards for 2012: NBA, UFL, PBA, NCAA, UAAP etc

Boxer of the Year: Nonito Donaire
He went 4-4 for 2012 and has been the best boxer not named Manny Pacquiao or Floyd Mayweather Jr. It is about time that he be given the focus he deserves.

Basketball Player of the Year: LeBron James
He is now truly the king and the best basketball player in the world. And he can play every single position with aplomb.

Golf Player of the Year: Rory McIlroy
No flash in the pan. He is for real. The heir to Tiger Woods (I once thought it was Sergio Garcia).

Athlete of the Year: Usain Bolt
Ain't nobody gonna catch this man. 

Football Player of the Year: Lionel Messi
By the time his career is over, he will be mentioned in the same breath as Pele and Diego Maradona. He will permanently be there is he wins with Argentina.

My football games of the year:

Manchester City winning the Premier League title on their final day with United looking on. For sheer drama and importance this one is the best. Sometimes I wonder if this really did happen. But a 3-2 comeback against a spirited Queens Park Rangers in extra time gave the club their first title in 44 years.

Down 2-1, the match went into extra time where Edin Dzeko then at death’s door, Sergio Aguero scored to make it 3-2 to pip cross city rivals United that had moments earlier beaten Sunderland, 1-0. City and United drew on wins and points but the former took home the title on goal difference. Fitting though because City trounced United the past season.

The UFL Cup Finals between Global and Stallion. It isn’t very often that Global finds themselves down a goal. Against a vastly improved Stallion squad that had gotten better every year since its promotion the previous season, they found themselves down after a beauty of a finish by Ruben Doctora Jr. Izzo El Habbib equalized later before Rufo Sanchez, perhaps the single biggest pick up by any UFL team in its recent history, scored the marginal goal as Stallion broke the Global-Air Force stranglehold on club titles.

Honorable mention:
The final day of the UFL League as Kaya won over Green Archers United while Loyola drew with Global. But Global took the title on goal difference.

Loyola vs. Geylang United, Singapore Cup
For sheer guts and verve, Loyola never gave up to win and advance in the competition.

My International Football XI for 2012:

Iker Casillas (Real Madrid)

Philipp Lahm (Bayern Munich)   Sergio Ramos (Real Madrid)  Jordi Alba (Valencia/Barcelona)

Andrea Pirlo (Juventus)   Cristiano Ronaldo (Real Madrid)  Mesut Ozil (Real Madrid)   Andres Iniesta (Barcelona)

Lionel Messi (Barcelona)  Rob van Persie (Arsenal/Manchester United)   Neymar (Santos)

Reserves: Manuel Neuer (GK, Bayern Munich), Vincent Kompany (D, Manchester City), Mats Humels (D, Borussia Dortmund), Pepe (D, Real Madrid), Xavi (M, Barcelona), Bastian Schweinsteiger (M, Bayern Munich), Cesc Fabregas (M, Barcelona), Zlatan Ibrahimovic (F, AC Milan, Paris St. Germain), Luis Suarez (F, Liverpool), Wayne Rooney (F, Manchester United), and Radamel Falcao (F, Atletico Madrid).

Coach: Pep Guardiola

My UFL Starting XI for 2012:

Saba Sadeghi (Kaya)

Jerry Barbaso (Global)   Joaco Cañas (Stallion)   Val Kama (Global)

Anto Gonzales (Loyola)   Yu Hoshide (Global)   Mark Hartmann (Loyola)   Patrick Reichelt (Global)

Rufo Sanchez (Stallion)   Phil Younghusband (Loyola)   Izzo El Habbib (Global)

Wilson Muñoz (GK, Stallion), Roxy Dorlas (D, Loyola), Yves Ashime (D, Pachanga), Byeong Yeol Jeong (M, Loyola), Phil Connolly (M, Nomads), Marwin Angeles (M, Global), Jeffrey Christiaens (M, Global), Jonah Romero (M, Kaya), Masood Shahdideh (F, Pasargad), Tating Pasilan (F, Green Archers United), and Alex Obiang (F, Global).

Player of the Year: Phil Younghusband (Loyola)
Forward of the Year: Phil Younghusband (Loyola)
Defensive Player of the Year: Jerry Barbaso (Global)
Midfielder of the Year: Patrick Reichelt (Global)
Newcomer of the Year: Rufo Sanchez (Stallion)
Goalkeeper of the Year: Roland Sadia (Global)
Coach of the Year: Ernie Nierras/ Dr. Eu Hyung Pe (Stallion)

Best players not on the national team: Tating Pasilan (Green Archers United), Mark Hartmann (Loyola), Patrick Deyto (Green Archers United), Ruben Doctora Jr. (Stallion), Jon Melliza (Green Archers United), and Jerry Barbaso (Global).

MVP: LeBron James

Starting Five: Dwight Howard (C, Orlando/Los Angeles Lakers), Tim Duncan (F, San Antonio), LeBron James (F, Miami), Kobe Bryant (G, Los Angeles Lakers), and Tony Parker (G, San Antonio)
Bench: Marc Gasol (C, Memphis), Kevin Durant (F, Oklahoma), Serge Ibaka (F, Oklahoma), Carmelo Anthony (F, New York), Kevin Love (F, Minnesota), Russell Westbrook (G, Oklahoma), Dwyane Wade (G, Miami)
Coach: Greg Popovich

Local Basketball:
College Basketball Player of the Year: Calvin Abueva (San Sebastian)

NCAA Starting Five:
Ian Sangalang (C, San Sebastian), Calvin Abueva (F, San Sebastian), Jake Pascual (San Beda) Kevin Alas (G, Letran), Baser Amer (G, San Beda)
Sixth Man: Earl Scottie Thompson (G, Perpetual Help)

Coach: Aric del Rosario

Greg Slaughter (C, Ateneo), Jeron Teng (F, La Salle), Bobby Ray Parks (F, NU), Kiefer Ravena (G, Ateneo), Jeric Fortuna (UST)
Sixth Man: Aljon Mariano (F, UST)

Coach: Norman Black (AdMU)

Pro Basketball Player of the Year: Jeff Chan (Rain or Shine)

PBA Starting Five:
Ranidel De Ocampo (C, Talk 'N Text), Arwind Santos (F, Petron), Jeff Chan (F, Rain or Shine), James Yap (G, B-Meg/San Mig Coffee), JV Casio (G, Powerade/Alaska)
Sixth Man: Mark Caguioa (G, Ginebra)

Coach: Yeng Guiao

More Awards: The 2012 Brewskies: villains and infamous moments in sports

And I agree with Sports Illustrated. LeBron James is also my Sportsman of the Year.

If you are looking to buy this issue of Sports Illustrated, it's now available at Fully Booked. Not many copies left. It fetches for Php 499.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Villains and dubious sports moments in 2012: The 7th Annual Brewskies

An enemy of the people: Ronni Noervig cost Denmark a game and perhaps a title.
This appears in the Tuesday, January 1 2012 edition of the Business Mirror.
The 7th Annual Brewskies
by rick olivares

At the end of every year, Bleachers’ Brew hands out the Brewskie Awards to people, athletes, and teams that have made the world of sports even more interesting if not controversial. Here are the 2012 winners.

The Football Hooligan of the Year Award - Ronni Noervig
Drinking and driving sure don’t mix. It’s about time people realized that alcohol does not belong in a football match either. A Danish appeals court ordered a Danish fan Ronni Noervig to pay the country's soccer federation nearly $320,000 in damages for trying to attack the referee during a European Championship qualifier between Denmark and Sweden in 2007.

Noervig stormed the field in Copenhagen on June 2, 2007, and tried to punch the referee after he awarded a penalty to Sweden. The match was abandoned with Sweden awarded a 3-nil win. Noervig appealed the fine saying he couldn’t pay the amount. But instead of lowering the amount, the appeals court more than doubled it after the Danish federation raised its claims.

Said the dumb fan: "It was a moment of idiocy." You got that right.

The Col. Nathan Jessep Truth Award - Lance Armstrong
Jack Nicholson’s character in A Few Good Men delivered one of filmdom’s timeless lines when he blurted out, “You can’t handle the truth!” as he was being grilled by a military attorney regarding ordering a beating on a US Marine.

This award goes to disgraced icon Lance Armstrong after he was stripped of all his Tour de France titles and sued for taking money under the pretence of being a champion. For so long Armstrong denied the use of performance enhancing drugs and fought his critics and the USADA regarding this. Then in a stunning turn of events, he gave up the fight citing that he got tired of fighting as former teammates began to spill the beans on him.

Charles Barkley is once more proven right.

The Mercy Award - the US NCAA
The US NCAA handed out the ‘death penalty’ to Penn State after former football assistant coach Jerry Sandusky was found guilty of sexually abusing players while former and late head coach Joe Paterno looked the other way. The NCAA levied a four-year Bowl ban, a $60 million fine, and stripping the Nittany Lions’ wins all the way back to 1998. But hope springs eternal. Penn State finished the football season with an 8-4 record under first year head coach Bill O’Brien.

The Gratefulness Award - Roman Avramovich, owner of Chelsea.
After Roberto Di Matteo, a former Chelsea player, guided the Blues to a FA Cup and a Champions League title in the same season, he was unceremoniously fired a few weeks into the new season when the Blues stumbled.

Honorable mention: Mikhail Prokhorov, owner Brooklyn Nets. Less than a month after Nets head coach Avery Johnson is awarded NBA Coach of the Month for November, he is sacked after his team goes 14-14 and star guard Deron Williams sounds off his displeasure about the offense.

Oh, incidentally, both Avramovich and Prokhorov are rich Russian owners.

The Coach Killer Award - Deron Williams, Brooklyn Nets
Once more Deron Williams threw his coach under the bus following a trying time for his basketball team. Williams admitted that he wasn’t playing well yet his comments about not liking the offense of the now-fired Nets head coach Avery Johnson sure gave team ownership a sacrificial lamb.

Williams also had a contentious relationship with former Utah Jazz coach Jerry Sloan who left his long time club after a spat with Williams a couple of years ago.

But karma’s a bitch because should Williams play well under interim head coach PJ Carlesimo, he’ll be thought of deliberately not playing to his level for Johnson. If he doesn’t then, it’s still on him now that Johnson isn’t around.

Reality TV Series of the Year goes to the Boston Red Sox
Season Two of their Season from Hell series proved to be a worthy follow up to the previous year that was best characterized by beer, fried chicken, and video games.

This past season, they hired Bobby Valentine that guaranteed some spice and tension inside the clubhouse. Josh Beckett and a few players played uninspired ball and were traded midway to the LA Dodgers. Coaches feuded with Valentine. Slugger David Ortiz railed about his contract when he was injured. And Valentine threatened a radio host and bemoaned about having the weakest roster in baseball when his team had the second highest payroll after the New York Yankees. The Red Sox went 69-93 and finished last in the AL East for their season finale.

Wonder what they have in store for all in Season Three.

The Pursuit of Happyness Award goes to Cristiano Ronaldo of Real Madrid
Ronaldo refused to celebrate a pair of goals scored against Granada citing “sadness” and “professional” reasons. Was it because Andres Iniesta was named Europe’s Best Player at that time? Was it because he felt that his salary of £300,000 a week is “a pittance”?

He should watch the Will Smith tearjerker so he can snap to his senses.

The Boba Fett Award goes to the New Orleans Saints
Named for Star Wars’ infamous bounty hunter (who got swallowed up by the Sarlacc Pit). For operating a slush fund to inflict injuries on opponents, the Saints were hit by the harshest penalties even levied on a team in the entire history of the NFL.

Saints this team sure isn’t. If there was a team that should have been hit by a death penalty it should have been New Orleans. That or getting swallowed up in a Sarlacc Pit.

The Dennis Rodman loves Eugene Amos Award goes to Michael Koncz and Buboy Fernandez
In 1997, Rodman, then with the Chicago Bulls, while battling for a rebound against a Minnesota Timberwolves player, tripped over a photographer’s camera on the baseline. The Bulls forward kicked Eugene Amos in the family jewels earning him an 11-game suspension, a $1 million fine, and a $200,000 settlement with the photographer.

After Juan Manuel Marquez knocked out Manny Pacquiao in their fourth outing, an irate Koncz and Fernandez kicked at photographer Al Bello who was taking pictures of the fallen Pacman.

Keith Kizer, executive director of the Nevada Athletic Commission, later said he would review the incident and would consider potential penalties against Koncz and Fernandez. Expounded Kizer, "What I find interesting is that neither of these gentlemen, nor anyone else on Team Pacquiao, had any problems when the photographers were doing their jobs and shooting pictures of Ricky Hatton after Manny knocked Hatton out.”

The case is still pending and is headed for litigation.

Let’s all learn to lose gracefully shall we?

Here are the past Brewskies:

Here is a column I wrote several years ago regarding some Christmas carols that are sports related

Bobcats in Clipperland.

This appears in

Bobcats in Clipperland
by rick olivares

LeBron, Heat trump hapless Bobcats.

That was the headline on ESPN the other day when the defending champions positively crushed Charlotte.

The Bobcats, an expansion club that rose from the ashes of the departure of the Hornets for New Orleans, has from its debut improved slowly over the years save for occasional step backs. But since the Bobcats made the playoffs in 2010 (where they were promptly swept out of the NBA’s second season by the Orlando Magic), they’ve further fallen into infamy with the NBA’s worst ever record (although the last season was shortened by a strike) of 7-59.

After the loss to Miami, Charlotte was at 7-21. It sounds cruel but at least they have matched last season‘s win total and that the only way to go when you’re down is up.

The sad thing about this whole affair is the club has the best player to ever play in the NBA in Michael Jordan for an owner. But that has sadly not translated into a winning season.

If the losing continues, the Bobcats will have inherited from the Los Angeles Clippers the tag of the worst/sad sack/doormat (choose what appellation you is appropriate) team in the league.

The Clippers have for the past couple of seasons, challenged the Lakers for the supremacy in Los Angeles and in the standings. They’ve become exciting to watch and have a team of talented players who could challenge for the NBA title for years to come.

It wasn’t too long ago when the Clippers were the model of NBA futility as they amassed a horrific record of 607-1153. In that time that spanned 22 years, their head of basketball operations was Elgin Baylor who before Jordan took the throne was one of the greatest to play the game.

Baylor was one of those first players to suspend belief with his acrobatic and daring drives and prodigious scoring ways. However, as an executive, Baylor’s Clippers won only one playoff series. And there was the matter of his losing years as head coach of the New Orleans Jazz.

And now the latest greatest player who ever lived – Jordan – is finding life as an NBA executive far different from than what he was as a player. He couldn’t make it work in Washington and now the cycle repeats itself in Charlotte. And in the midst of all of this, I recall when Jordan was at the forefront of the NBA Players Associations battle with the team owners following during the lockout that preceded the 1998-99 season. Said Jordan to Pollin, “If you can’t make a profit, you should sell your team.”

Pollin had the last laugh as he later fired Jordan as head of basketball operations for the Washington Wizards. And now Jordan can’t get his team to compete. It does ring: “If you can’t make a profit then you should sell your team.”

In the Bobcats’ nine seasons, they have had five head coaches. That’s close to two years per coach. And despite having some good coaches, they’ve not exactly drafted well. Furthermore, they have not traded well. This revolving door for coaches and players makes the club look like being sentenced to the Gulag of pro basketball.

A cursory glance to the New York Knicks shows them on the upsurge now after a decade where everything bad that could happen to them happened to them. They began their resurgence when they hired Donnie Walsh, a sane basketball man if there was ever one. They began to unload the high-priced players they had and began to draft and trade better. Of course, Walsh is no longer around but the effects of what he began are bearing fruit.

Not a knock on the Bobcat’ s general manager Rich Cho who is a student of sabermetrics or the use of statistics in making drafts and trades. Cho didn’t too well with Portland and was fired a year into the job.

Sure a team needs good players and even excellent coaches. But usually it has to start from the top. The Bobcats need to bring in shrewd operators who know how to get the right personnel for the job. Otherwise, these Bobcats, now inhabitants of that lonely place at the bottom once called Clipperland will find themselves going the route of the Hornets. 

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Post-Suzuki Cup & 2012: The challenge of success

The challenge of success.
Thoughts on where the Philippine Men’s Football National Team should go.
by rick olivares pic by anton sheker
This appears on

The challenge of success is living up to growing expectations. A misstep here and there and you have these crabs proclaiming that a player or the team – to put it mildly -- “sucks”.

There is no question that the ascent of the Philippine Men’s Football National Team is not a fluke. Far from it. It has been two years of continuous ascent. There’s the third place finish in the AFC Challenge Cup, the first place finish in the Long Teng Cup/Peace Cup, and the semis finish of the recent Suzuki Cup. The last three tournaments capped a difficult time when we lost one friendly or qualifier after another.

This is of course not exclusive to the Philippines. Countries considered developing ones in world football go through them. Case in point, in 2006, the United States was oddly ranked in the Top 10 of the FIFA rankings. Following their crash out of the 2006 World Cup, they leveled off in the 20s. The US has since been struggling to attain their former status in world football although they’ve had a number of exceptional performances.

Having said that, by no means are the Azkals a finished product. The team re-tools on a regular basis. Not being the media officer of the team anymore, I have no idea of what the short or long term plans are.

Nevertheless, as a longtime fan and one close to what goes on, I’d like to offer an unsolicited blueprint to the where the national team should go. People associated to the team should keep and open mind because this is not a critique of what has transpired.

Aside from never-ending search for quality players, there’s the matter of coaching job to settle and it is perhaps the most important one.

There is still no word whether current head coach Hans Michael Weiss’ contract has been renewed. The German coach has been at the helm for the past two years and under his watch, the Azkals have made its best strides. There is word – although unofficially – that Weiss’ contract has been extended for a year but that is just the scuttlebutt as team manager Dan Palami has remained tight lipped while PFF President Mariano V. Araneta said that the decision lies with the former.

There are a lot of questions that should be posed when considering this most important job but perhaps the most important criteria is – can the coach take the national team to the next level? Can the coach teach the skills needed or for the matter, is he a teacher? Can he inspire his players to give their all? And can his tactics be solid and communicable all the way to the youth national squads?

If the coach is Filipino, then he must not be affiliated with any school so he does not use the national team as a feeder program for his school program. It goes without saying that this is a conflict of interest.

Furthermore, is the coach a winner? Did he win as a player? And has he won as a coach?

It is easier to be able to communicate things when you’ve won. Take a gander at Pep Guardiola who won as a player and later as manager of Barcelona. Ditto with Alex Ferguson who was successful in the Scottish Premier League before moving over to Manchester United where only transformed the Red Devils into the winningest English side.

Conversely, Diego Maradona won with Napoli, Boca Juniors, Barcelona, and Argentina but has been a bust as coach. So it doesn’t work all the time. That is where the teaching aspect and the strength of character come in. What does the coach stand for?

I am surprised that our various national squads employ different tactics and formations. This is proof that there is a lack of cohesion between the different coaching staffs and patrons. A system and style of play must be imposed from the youth all the way up to the senior squad.

Should the head coach be Filipino or foreign?

I think it should be whoever is most qualified to take the job. The coach must have a coherent and doable three-year plan that should be presented in great detail and not just words. There should be a regular evaluation to determine whether the program is working or not.

In terms of competition, the immediate task of whoever our head coach is to win in Southeast Asia. How can we even dream of qualifying for the World Cup when we cannot leapfrog past our corner of the world? Therefore the coach should understand the competition in the region.

In the event that the incumbent coach is not renewed, I would like to recommend a couple of coaches.

I was about to say: one, Louis Van Gaal but he is now head coach of the Netherlands as he replaced Bert van Marwijk after a disastrous Oranje campaign in South Africa; and two, Felipe Scolari, whose teams always show a marked improvement but he is now coach of the Selecao and is tasked with winning the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.

Are these coaches beyond our capability to pay? Maybe but think of what a high profile coach can do for the program?

So here are my candidates outside Michael Weiss who remains the top dog (pun intended).

Radojko Avramovic – The Serbian’s swan song with Singapore was the perfect way to go out. His departure was years in the making but Avramovic has signified a desire to continue. If Singapore, four-time regional champs, is the current class of Southeast Asian football, who better to help the Philippines finally slay the Lions than their former head coach?

Edwin Cabalida - He's served as an assistant to three head coaches in Desmond Bulpin, Simon McMenemy, and Weiss. He's won with Ateneo and with Air Force. He also showed he is capable when he guided the Philippines to a win over Vietnam when Weiss was prevented from sitting on the bench after being suspended from the match. The man is bright and has integrity. He will also give the homegrown players an opportunity.

Norman Fegidero Jr. – He once coached the Azkals and did not tolerate any star complexes. Left when he football officials tried to interfere in the coaching. Much like former national coach Desmond Bulpin, he is a no nonsense coach who thrives on discipline and preparation. Like Cabalida, Fegidero will give the homegrown players a chance and keep everyone on their toes.

Rob Gier – He already does a lot for the team with his scouting reports and recommendations for tactics. While he is said to be not yet ready as he has a lot on his plate back in England, a few of his teammates believe that he will be up for the job in a few years’ time. Gier certainly commands the respect of his teammates. If true, then he should already be brought aboard in an apprentice status so he will gain experience. It is different sitting in the coach’s seat as opposed to the players’ spot.

Shopping list for players needed:
We need a striker up front to play alongside or ahead of Phil Younghusband. While in Chelsea, PYH played behind the top man as an attacking mid. He thrived in that role and he unveiled how effective he can be in that spot during Loyola’s match with Green Archers United in the battle for third place in the recently concluded UFL Cup. Younghusband was brilliant in a feeder role as he found Mark Hartmann and other teammates time and again. He capped his sterling play with a goal of his own. But Phil cannot do it alone as opposing teams mark him from the beginning. Having another lethal boot alongside him will help.

I hope that the coaching staff considers the following players:

Tating Pasilan (Green Archers United) – his speed and strong boot will be an asset. His finishing is spotty though. He will open things up for Phil and the other wingers.

Mark Hartmann (Loyola) – He is tall, has a wicked boot and has a terrifying free kick. If he can be consistent with his movement and defense, he’ll be a terrific addition to the team in a midfield spot. Find me a better free kick taker in the country today.

Jerry Barbaso (Global) – I have no idea why he is constantly overlooked. Is it because of his hair? How many people in the UFL have scored off him? He might not be tall enough to deal with the taller forwards but his speed and doggedness is nonpareil.

Deo Segunial (UP) – Tall, strong, and a quietly efficient operator. The lynchpin of UP’s defense these past five years.

Patrick Deyto (Green Archers United) – One of the best goalkeepers in the country. Should be given a chance to show what he can do.

Play more possession-based football
We simply dribble too much. Way too much. Who doesn’t admire Barcelona? Who doesn’t watch them in this age of live streaming, cable television, and YouTube? So why the do we not play that way?

On a semipro level, the best passing team was the former Pachanga (not to be confused with the current incarnation playing in the UFL’s Division One). In college, there’s FEU. You have to watch those guys as they play the best possession-based and attacking football in the country.

I love how Winfried Schafer has transformed Thailand’s game from a long-ball playing one to a team that likes to hold on to the ball and make foes pay with their terrific passing. They just ran into a team that was more physical, taller, and experienced in Singapore.

The Azkals have shown flashes of this passing game but have not been able to sustain it for a full game. I am sure they know this. It’s a matter of fine-tuning this.

Strengthen the UFL and other local tournaments
It is good that many of the Fil-foreigners are now playing in the UFL. A quality premier league will keep players in shape and in a better position to join camps for the national team.

I have no idea why there is a blatant disregard for the UFL’s schedule when it is published ahead of time with all parties informed of how the tournament pans out. This really smacks of disrespect. And furthermore, if the UFL is being called ‘unpatriotic’ then why aren’t these same pundits railing against Fulham, Hoffenheim, or Duisberg?  There are simply too many crabs in this country and Johnny-come-latelys who do not understand the game or the structure that is crucial to the sport’s growth.

There should be a coherent calendar of all the football activities that go on. The Smart Club Championships, the NCAA and UAAP, and other tournaments should be calendared well with results and players kept track of.

A strong local league means there is a bigger pool of players to choose from. Plus, they are kept fit because of the year-round competitions.

Introduce a program for improving the players’ skills and strengths.
Thus far, this is only for clubs with extra money to burn. I think that teams should really invest in players’ improvement in terms of skill, strength, explosiveness, and nutrition.

It is the basketball programs (not to mention the endurance athletes) that have wholeheartedly embraced this. Why can’t our footballers, clubs, or national teams do the same?

I’d like to venture how the original Smart Gilas players improved not just skills-wise but also physically under Rajko Toroman and trainer Jim Saret. They were good going into the national team but they all came out far greater players. The product is on display in the PBA.

Our footballers should commit to this full time. Too often we see that poor pitches and the lack of facilities are given as excuses. That’s like saying one is late because of metro traffic. It is traffic for almost every single day of our lives if you live in Manila. The question is, what are you going to do about it? That applies to our footballers – how do you improve your game?

Lastly, have more camps locally rather than abroad.
Unless they avail of training of foreign coaches there I do not see the point of going overseas unless it’s for a match or a tournament. It also allows the national team management and the PFF to save on expenses. It makes it easier to secure the release of the players from their clubs.

Their exposure abroad has certainly made them a better team. Now is the time to consolidate and grow this team.  

The national team is the ultimate aspiration for any footballer. The number of homegrown players is shrinking at an alarming rate. In the last Suzuki Cup there were only three – Ed Sacapaño, Chieffy Caligdong, and Ref Cuaresma. If Neil Etheridge or Roland Muller were available, Cuaresma would have most likely been dropped.

It has already been established by no less than Dan Palami that the national team should be made available to any one of Filipino blood regardless of where they come from and I agree. But they homegrown ones should be given a clear-cut chance of making it.

Notice how following the Vietnam win, there were many posts, status messages, or tweets about Chieffy, the homegrown guy coming on and winning it (they also conveniently forget that Angel Guirado made the beautiful chip pass to Caligdong) or Ed Sacapaño was stellar at goal. There are still overtones subtle and not so subtle about race.

If on a level playing field homegrowns are given that opportunity, then that eliminates the view that the national team has become an exclusive enclave for Fil-foreigners.

It truly is an exciting time not just for the Azkals but also for Philippine football. We’ve shown that the sport is here to stay. This is the challenge of success. Now the nurturing begins in earnest.