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.

Thursday, May 31, 2012

The line-up of the Philippine Men's Football National Team to Malaysia

Philippine Men’s Football National Team for the Malaysia match:
Marwin Angeles, Ian Araneta, Misagh Bahadoran, Emelio Caligdong, Jeffrey Christiaens, OJ Clarino, Jason De Jong, Roxy Dorlas, Rob Gier, Anto Gonzales, Angel Guirado, Juani Guirado, Carli de Murga, Lexton Moy, Paul Mulders, Roland Muller, Manuel Ott, Patrick Reichelt, Jason Sabio, Eduard Sacapaño, Stephan Schrock, and Dennis Wolf.

Goalkeepers: Roland Muller, Ed Sacapaño

Defenders: Jeffrey Christiaens, Rob Gier, Juani Guirado, Carli de Murga, Paul Mulders, and Jason Sabio.

Midfielders: Marwin Angeles, Misagh Bahadoran, Jason De Jong, Roxy Dorlas, Anto Gonzales, Angel Guirado, Lexton Moy, Manuel Ott, Patrick Reichelt, and Stephan Schrock.

Forwards: Ian Araneta, Emelio Caligdong, OJ Clarino, and Dennis Wolf.

Good luck, team!

My Euro 2012 Preview Part 1: The grudge matches


My Euro 2012 Preview Part 1: The grudge matches
by rick olivares

In the 13 stagings of the European Football Championship, nine countries have won the Henri Delaunay Trophy. Germany has won the competition three times while France and Spain have two a piece.

What does this mean? Simple. It is the most unpredictable major football championship on earth.

In contrast the Africa Cup of Nations (held every two years), has played 27 times and produced 15 different winners. Egypt has dominated the tournament with seven trophies with a string of three straight from 2006-10.

The CONCACAF Gold Cup is contested by 12 teams with Mexico winning the cup six times. The United States has four titles.

The Copa America, the tournament for South American countries is at best, a tri-partite competition where Uruguay (the most successful with 15 titles), Argentina, and Brazil oft dispute the crown.

The Asian Cup, like the Euros, are played every four years. Japan has won the competition four times with three coming in the last four years. Iraq barged into the picture in 2007 with a 1-nil win over Saudi Arabia.

So the Euros. No country has won back-to-back tournaments meaning any of the 16 nations participating can win it. Spain will make a case for that as they are they are not only the defending champions but also the current World Cup kings.

Europe may be unified but that doesn’t mean the old grudges will not be brought out come match day.

Here are some matches that bear intense scrutiny during the group stages:

Group A
Russia vs. Czech Republic (June 8)
This one is a blood feud. Ever since the Soviet invasion of what was then known as Czechoslovakia, any meeting – not just in football -- between these two nations has been intense.

Hockey star Jaromir Jagr wears #68 on his jersey as a tribute to his country’s rebellion against the hated Soviets in 1968. Prior to the invasion, Czechoslovakia beat the USSR 5-4 in the hockey competition of the 1968 Winter Olympiad. Months later, Russian tanks were rolling in the streets of Prague.

On the football front, the first and last time these two met in the Euros was in 1996 with both sides playing to a thrilling 3-3 draw. But previously, the two squared off in the European Nations Cup in 1960 with the old Soviet Union winning 3-0.

In all competitions (including the Euros, Russia has won six times, the Czech Republic four times, while there have been two draws).

Look for goalkeeper Peter Cech (goalkeeper), defenders Theo Gebre Selassie, Michal Kadlec, and Roman Hubnik, midfielder Tomas Rosicky, and forwards Milan Barros and Tomas Neecid to play crucial roles for head coach Michal Bilek.

The Narodak play a 4-3-3 albeit in a more defensive fashion.

Russia was one of the surprises from Euro 2008 as they made it all the way to the semifinals before they bowed out to eventual champion, Spain. They have plenty to prove after not making it to the World Cup in South Africa. Even worse, many Russian players have not really done well outside their country.

The question here is can Andrei Arshavin reprise his role from Euro 2008 where he was everything to former coach Guus Hiddink’s side? Aside from Arshavin, other returnees from that tournament include goalkeeper Igor Akinfeev; defenders Aleksandr Anyukov, Sergei Ignashevich and Yuri Zhirkov; midfielders Igor Semshov and Konstantin Zyryanov; and forward Roman Pavlyuchenko who like Arshavin, left England to return back home to play.

Dutchman Dick Advocaat also employs a 4-3-3 formation with 21-year old Alan Dzagoev pushing up that ball.

My take is the Narodak will pip Russia.

Poland vs. Russia (June 12)
Looks like Russia will have its share of grudge matches in Group A stemming from its Cold War days. Or in the case of Poland, an old hatred dating back to World War II when the Poles were first invaded by Germany then later on by Russia that sought to carve up the spoils of the fall of the Third Reich.

Poland will want to play well more so since they are co-hosting the Euros. But they really have not made a good account for themselves as they were quickly bought a ticket out of Vienna (they only won one point out of the possible nine from Group A play).

Really, the Bialo-czerwoni (the white and reds) do not have any stars. The only difficulty anyone expects with them is the pronunciation of their names. Does keeper Wojciech Szczesny and Borussia Dortmund’s two stars – Robert Lewandowski and Jakub Blaszczykowski. Well, there’s midfielder Ludovic Obraniak who played with Lille last season. I think I’m the only one here in the Philippines who actively follows the French Ligue 1 so I know him.

The game, however, is not about stars as England can attest.

Poland has to grab some points in a group where Russia and the Czech Republic look to advance.

My take is Russia will defeat Poland.

On a closing note, does anyone want to take Greece lightly?

Group B
Netherlands vs. Germany (June 13)
Here’s another of those feuds with wartime overtones (although it has greatly lessened since 1988). Over 250,000 Dutch died during the five-year German occupation of the Netherlands. There’s also what the Dutch call, “the mother of all defeats” when they lost the 1974 World Cup Finals to West Germany. Their national side led by Johan Cruyff lost to a Ger Muller-Franz Beckenbauer-led team. The Dutch got a measure of revenge when they defeated Germany in the semifinals of Euro ’88. The two countries have faced each other 37 times with Germany winning 14 and the Netherlands 10 (the rest are ended in draws). So it is apt that both play in one of the two groups of death.

The Dutch will be eager to show that they did not pioneer Jose Mourinho’s tactics against Barcelona in La Liga’s El Clasico.

It has been a good year for their strikers Rob van Persie and Klaas Jan Huntelaar. Others who have had good years include Gregory van der Wiel who won with Ajax and Nigel de Jong who helped Manchester City to its first Premier League title.

In the last World Cup, it was said that it was the time of two previously underachieving teams in Spain and the Netherlands to shine. Unfortunately for the Oranje, their finely tuned game degenerated into an absurd show of tackling and fouling on the grandest stage of them all.

Nevertheless, it is a talented Dutch team that coach Bert van Marwijk will bring to Euro 2012. The core is reaching their prime and this might be their best chance to win a major trophy for their country.

Germany has finished third in the last two World Cups and was second to Spain in Euro 2008. The team is now ready to take the next step after its young stars of the 2010 World Cup – Thomas Muller, Sami Khedira, Mesut Ozil, Manuel Neuer, Jerome Boateng, and Mats Hummels – have played well with their clubs and with the national team. Miroslav Klose and Lukas Podolski somehow always come through when on an international stage. Now add to that the massive dose of confidence that Mario Gomez go this past season with Bayern Munich, the Germans are top favorites to win their fourth European title.

My take on this match up? Germany will win this and top their group.


Group D
France vs. England (June 11)
Do you even have to ask about this? These two teams have their own internal issues to be concerned about old foes. They'll sort that out on the field.

This is the last hurrah for the Golden Generation. But they are kicking off their campaign on a sour note. John Terry has been stripped of his captain’s armband. Wayne Rooney is suspended for the first two matches of the competition. And they’ve got a new coach in Roy Hodgson. They have really not played well at all in the last two World Cups with players like Frank Lampard firing duds.

Does that mean we write them off? I expect them to stick to former coach Fabio Capello’s 4-2-3-1 since Hodgson has not had enough time to sink his teeth into the team. They played well on their way to Euro ’12. I’d say that the lower expectations will help (I don’t think the British press rates them highly). Fly under the radar and carry a big stick.

But it is a veteran team with some new talent. I do not expect them to go gently into the good night. Some guys with plenty to prove in the international stage: Terry, Lampard, Rooney, Steven Gerrard, Ashley Cole, and Glen Johnson.

For the young guns, Joe Hart gets the nod as starting keeper. Andy Carroll will hope his fine form towards the end of the season will carry over to European play. Danny Welbeck hopes that he can get the kind of crosses served up to him from the wingers with Manchester United to be effective.

Fortunately for the Three Lions, they aren’t the only ones with the same concerns and problems. England has had a better international showing than Les Bleus who exited South Africa with all sorts of controversy dodging them.

Laurent Blanc has been a steadying force behind the rejuvenation of France. They lost their first two matches before embarking on an 18-game win streak. They even beat Germany 2-1! Blanc has made good on his promise to start from scratch. Even Youann Gourcuff has been cut. But the newbies have been good – there’s Valencia’s Adil Rami, Rennes’ Yan M’Vila, and Newscastle’s Yohan Cabaye. They should be national mainstays for years to come.

Franck Ribery was the breakout star of the 2006 World Cup. Without the old hands, this is now his team. If he plays well, this squad will follow.

In this match-up, the first of their group, France will prevail. But England will play with a sense of urgency. maybe Andy Carroll can be a game changer in the absence of Rooney.



 End of Part 1

I guess everyone does dislike the Miami Heat


This one is a rejoinder from my column in ph.nba.com: 

Every one says that in the NBA playoffs, emotions run high. But all this talk, it really is what every team thinks of the Miami Heat.

There was Boston’s Rajon Rondo talking about putting the Heat on the floor following Game One’s loss where Miami charged the Celtics’ lane like it was a layup line.

After Dwyane Wade sounded off about retaliation, Rondo backtracked and said that it was meant figuratively. Of course. Hahaha.

However, beginning the Eastern semis, the Heat had been jawing with their opponent. Their first round opponent, the New York Knicks, had internal issues and were in no shape to revisit their heated rivalry with Miami. They were bounced in five.

Come the Eastern semis with Indiana, Pacers head coach Frank Vogel set the tone for the series when he pronounced Miami as “ the biggest flopping team in the NBA. Added Vogel: "It’ll be very interesting to see how the referees officiate the series and how much flopping they reward. Every drive to the basket they have guys not making a play on the ball. But sliding in front of drivers. Often times they’re falling down even before contact is even being made. It’ll be interesting to see how the series is officiated.”

Aside from Tyler Hansbrough, Lance Stephenson (who made a choking gesture at the Heat), and Danny Granger, Indiana’s Roy Hibbert got into it as well: “We didn't do it the easy way. It took time. We didn't do this by signing a couple of superstars.”

A fuming Miami coach Erik Spoelstra, just hours before tip-off of Game Six said, “In nine games now there's been over a dozen hard fouls to the face, some of the tomahawk variety, some have drawn blood …"

"It's been altercations that you can look at and say probably won't happen during the regular season and probably wouldn't happen if you were playing outside basketball," Wade said. "It's the playoffs and emotions get high and things happen."

Luckily, this is the NBA and not the NHL. In the NBA it’s all macho posturing. But that’s good, right? The sport does not need another Malice at the Palace or Kermit Washington nearly killing Rudy Tomjanovich.

How heated are these playoffs? Well, it has spilled over to the ESPN studios where Stephen A. Smith once more belittled Skip Bayless on First Take: “You picked the Heat to win the Finals. You didn’t want them to lose Game One but you picked the Celtics to win Game One.  So no matter what you were slicing no matter what outcome happens you’re right. Even when you’re wrong you’re right. Because even when you were right, even when you’re wrong, you’re meant to be right. But you were really wrong. It doesn’t make any sense to me. It’s all over the place it’s hedging your bets and not having the courage to stand up and go like this, ‘You know I was wrong. I called it. I own it.’

At least it’s better to jaw with another person. The Knicks’ Amare Stoudemire knows that one cannot punch the crap out of a fire extinguisher.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

He could (emphasis on could) have played alongside Andres Iniesta.



Jorge Troiteiro was a teammate of Andres Iniesta with Albacete before they were snapped up into Barcelona's youth system. He was pegged to be a future star for Barca but his family was impatient with chances to move up so they took him out. And now, sadly, he went nowhere and instead toils for lower division teams. This is an amazing goal. Just tune out the crappy music.

My new piece to ph.nba.com

Here's the link to my latest piece for ph.nba.com. It's titled 'Four levels of trash talking" with a nod to Hollywood. It started out as a scathing diatribe against officiating (hey, Danny Crawford and Ed Malloy) but ended up with a whimsical look at talking the talk. The re-worked version was longer than what I submitted. Hope you like condensed one!

My contributions to ph.nba.com come out every Wednesday. Hopefully, I will be able to do more.

It's all that hair I tell you...


Baron Davis is no longer the toast of bearded jocks! There Oklahoma City's James Harden's. 


I remember when former Barcelona coach Louis Van Gaal asked Carles Puyol to get a haircut. Puyi didn't. And look at everything he's won? Of course, that doesn't follow. It's merely a Samson inference. Hahaha. So what about Marouane Fellaini? Gotta love this Everton midfielder's puffed dome. Supafly!


Still trucking after all these years is Hulk Hogan. Doing his stuff at TNA (unabashed TNA fan here). The picture is dated as Hulk is obviously much older. But the mustache remains. Thunder Lips!!! Love that Rocky bit.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Football shirt culture #1 FC Barcelona


The great Johan Cruyff who starred for Ajax and Barca.
Football shirt culture #1 FC Barcelona
I wasn’t sure what was more iconic – Barcelona’s simple and sponsor-less shirt or Johan Cruyff in those famous red and blues. Incredibly, it is believed in Catalonia that the colors were the connection of the club’s very first president and owner Joan Gamper who was Swiss and rooted for Basel. It is incredible that you might want to check Basel’s colors.

At the start, I hated the sponsors on the shirts of football clubs. At first I thought that they were contrived and they didn’t look good on them at all. Perhaps that was borne out of my being such a huge fan of the New York Cosmos.

"Més que un club" or “More than a club” as they say in Catalonia. So the sponsor-less shirt had that appeal. They were a rare minority who eschewed corporate sponsorship. I eventually managed to get that Barca shirt. I guess I had to thank Romario for that.
Lucky to have the first Barca shirt w/UNICEF

In 2006, Barca finally got a sponsor. However, instead of the sponsor paying them, it was the other way around. The club paid £1.5 million to UNICEF to help combat AIDS in Africa. More than a club indeed. If you ask me, the UNICEF in front has got to be the coolest for a football shirt outside the Seattle Sounders' XBox.

Here’s the first shirt with UNICEF in front.>>>>

The following year was the 50th anniversary of Camp Nou and they commemorated that with a special logo around the Barca crest. The club motto of "Més que un club" appears on the neckline. The shirt, from Nike, also had a label at the bottom that written in Spanish about the anniversary.
The Camp Nou 50th anniversary shirt. 
In 2011, for the first time in the club’s history, they relegated UNICEF to the back and instead put “Qatar Foundation’ in front. For the life of me, I cannot wear the traditional red and blue with that in front. Yes, I know that the departure was so the club could help pay its debt nevertheless.... I though that the UNICEF sponsorship spoke volumes of the club's good intentions. Over time, I eventually fell in love with the black kit and have both the short and long sleeved versions.

The first release of the black Barca shirt. Got it in Kuwait thanks to a huge discount.
Now the new 2012-13 kit is radical in its changes. The lines that separated the red from the blue are now softer and bleed into one another. The material in itself, made from recycled pep bottles is truly amazing. The “Qatar Foundation” is growing on me.


So how many Barcelona shirts do I have? Seven variants.


Is Barcelona the only club to wear UNICEF? Nope. There's Danish side Brondby that once upon a time had players like Michael Laudrup, Peter Schmeichel and Daniel Agger.




The Golden Goal of Chris Monfort


This was written in 2006 so some of the info might sound dated. Happy Birthday, Coach! We still miss you.
Chris with Aalsborg team: third from left crouching.

The Golden Goal of Chris Monfort
by rick olivares

A simple conversation led to a dream:
You will never be rich with football,” the father sternly intoned as he prodded his son to instead concentrate on his studies.
I don’t care,” swore the young man. “Football is my life.”

The Great Dane
In April 4, 1975, then-14-year old Chris Monfort first came to Denmark as part of a team of 30 young and talented Filipino football players who had been sent that summer to learn football the European way.

That trip began a love affair with the lowland country and his fosterparents Ove and Birte Ronn who took him into their home along with best friends Danny Guerrero (who was then one of the best players in the Ateneo High School) and Ito Delfino for a month’s time. The relationship with the Ronns would grow deeper more so when Chris’ father, Manuel passed away two years later. Chris would return every so often to the Ronn’s Enggaardsgade home once even staying for nine months that the Danish government offered him a green card although with the caveat of compulsory military service.

Life seemed great as Chris was living out his dream. He had grown up in the hills of Cadiz, Negros Occidental with only sparse newspaper football clippings of his hero, the brilliant Brasiliero striker Edson Arantes do Nascimento (better known to the world at large as Pele) to feed his fevered imagination and dreams. Chris used to run up and down the hills building his stamina and strengthening his legs with the smell of coffee beans and banana trees in his nostrils. Now years later, thousands of miles away from his home, it was like déjà vu as he worked in an orchard planting fruit trees and picking their produce while taking up Danish lessons and playing football.

While playing for local club Aalsborg, Chris suffered a crippling knee injury that cast a doubt on his dreams of making it on the world stage. After three operations on his knee, doctors pronounced his career over.

Emotionally and physically adrift, Chris returned home to pick up the taters of his life.

He returned to school where he sought therapy for his damaged knee. He got better and in his final playing year at UP, he teamed up with Bert Honasan to lead the Maroons to the 1980 UAAP football crown.

Born Again
Hardship was nothing new to Chris. The seventh of nine children, he learned to fend for himself at an early age when his father passed away and his mother Lourdes went to America to work on her citizenship papers (she would eventually petition all of her children who are all now American citizens). It was while taking up Physical Education (he wanted to take up Physical Therapy but couldn’t afford the tuition) at the University of the Philippines that he began to coach football at the Ateneo. Bert Honasan his old college teammate who was then coaching the Ateneo Men’s Football Team brought him to the attention of Raymond Holscher S.J. then-University Athletic Director and High School Admissions Director. It was the case of the right person being at the right place at the right time. The high school had a vacancy for football team coach. “There was no program back then,” recalled the affable Fr. Ray. “We had good high school and college teams but that was about it. I still remember that day very clearly when Bert brought him in. Chris was a little nervous but there was this confidence that glowed in him. He brought with him a master plan to improve not just Ateneo football but Philippine football as well. A man with a mission, I thought. I was very impressed that I wasted no time in hiring him.”

At that time, whatever football program Ateneo had was Bro. Jesus Oscariz’ grade school teams and the Lightning Football Program that was held during lunch time. The high school players were expected to move on to the seniors team and compete. There simply wasn’t any comprehensive program.

It was there where Chris found his second calling… coaching and teaching young boys the game that burned with so much fervor in his heart. He kick-started the Ateneo Football Center in 1982 beginning something that would greatly tip the balance of football power in favor of Ateneo in years to come.

In 1987, his mother’s long years of sacrifice in the United States paid off. The petition was approved and her children all went westward to their new home. After a year of living abroad and doing a variety of odd jobs, Chris couldn’t resist scratching that itch that brought him back homeward. He was a man reborn when he arrived back. “He couldn’t leave the Ateneo behind,” explained his wife Gina. “He loved the school so much and he missed teaching football. Besides the AFC was his baby. It is kind of ironic for him to bleed blue since he never even went to the Ateneo.”

Coach Chris loved the school so much that he would oft walk the fields with sunlight just starting to peek through the fading dark skies to take in the smell of freshly cut and watered grass. Perfect for football he liked to say to himself.

The 1980 Ateneo Women's Football Team.
Unforgettable character
Coach Chris was one of those characters in school. Just like Pagsi, Fr. Macayan, AKV, Mr. Selorio, Bob Hope, and Big Boy to name a few. He was one of those figures that every Atenean seemed to have met, studied under, played for, or had brushes with at one time or another. It was part of the experience of going to the Ateneo that you met people like Chris who seemed to pepper those long days of two math subjects to go with mind-numbing chemistry and physics classes when students wished it was time for intrams or dismissal.

Coach Chris’s constant barbarisms on the English language filled many a student’s notebook. His gift for athletics was undeniable. His gift for gab was downright hilarious and tickled your funny bone even if you didn’t have one. His “form a straight circle” and “form a line according to height alphabetically” (to name a few) is the stuff of legend. Clearly Jimmy Santos has nothing on him.

Coaching the Women’s Football Team, many of the players would have a crush on him but they would gnash their teeth when coach tried to converse with them. Incredibly his wife Gina has no idea of his routine butchering of the Queen’s English for they spoke in Tagalog. “Yes, I did hear about it from others,” she laughs. “I wish I heard them myself too.

In the 80’s you just about saw Chris everywhere on campus. He was part of that troika of PE instructors (with Ed Sediego and Rolly Salazar – famous for his strategy in the midst of a heated track and field competition: “Boys, ‘eto strategy natin… let’s win!”) who taught everything from track and field to volleyball. “That was Chris all right,” laughed Joseller “Yeng” Guiao, his college batchmate and longtime friend who is currently the Coach of Red Bull Barako in the PBA. “He was a gym rat. Suki siya sa lahat ng track meets in and out of UP. Just when you think he was done running laps, he’d play a game of pick up basketball Only because he was often surrounded by basketball players But if you have a drink with him – from the first beer until we’re drunk, all we talk about is football.

In addition to being the coach for the football teams and director for the Ateneo Football Center, he was the trainer for the college basketball team. On weekends, he stalked the fields of Loyola directing hundreds of kids half his size teaching football. “That was quite a sight,” remembered Fr. Holscher. “A grown man teaching all the kids who were makulit and like jitterbugs. But his influence in the game was undeniable.”

The goal heard around the world
Every athlete dreams of hitting the game-winning shot, belting a home run with two strikes and two outs, or booting in the game-winning goal with time fast running out. But try that with 30,000 screaming football-mad people. With chants bouncing from one end of the stadium to the other, good luck just walking up to the penalty area for a shootout to decide who will move on to the 1985 Gothia Cup Finals. 

Coach, I’m nervous,” stuttered Mark Schilling, a German boy who donned the colors of the Philippine National Team (his father was an expat living and working in the country). The 11-year old boy was nervous from the tension. After tying up a powerful Brasil squad 0-0 in regulation and extension, the semi-finals match had gone on to penalty kicks. Eight players from both sides had trooped to the 15-foot penalty marker. Eight times each did both sides score. The ninth Brasilian player buckled under the pressure and missed. And now the hopes of a tiny country where football is a distant cousin to basketball was on the hopes of … a young German boy. “I’m nervous,” he repeated fighting back the tears. “I can’t kick anymore.”

All game long, the Filipinos were on the defensive. Morale was crumbling because not only were the Brasilians faster and stronger but they were more fundamentally sound. “Once we got to penalty kicks,” recalled Domeka Garamendi, current PFF Sec. Gen (who was on that team that featured 11 Ateneans and was captained by the late Chipper Afable) “we thought that it was over. Morale was so low because they were beating us in almost every phase of the game.”

Chris Monfort (who was part of a coaching staff led by Tomas Lozano, a Spaniard who was a long-time Philippine resident and Mario Guison) gently put his arms around his player, patted his head and whispered above the din of noise. “Do it for all of us. For all the times we’ve been together. If you don’t score at least you tried.”

Schilling moved back three feet then sent the ball past the Brazilian keeper who guessed wrong. And all bedlam broke loose. The fans in the stands, most of who were European ran down to the Philippine side to hug and embrace the courageous young Filipinos.

Then it was on to the Finals to face Swedish champion Kunshacka at historic Ulevi Stadium where Brasil beat France in the 1958 World Cup title match behind a young Pele.

Fresh from a confidence and morale boosting win against one of the world’s great football powers, the Philippine side upset Sweden 2-1 behind goals by (DLSZ’s) Francisco Pascual and (Ateneo’s) Ramon Pineda.

It was a triumphant year for Philippine football. That same year, another boys’ team co-coached by Chris won the Helsinki Cup (in a field that saw the participation of 72 teams from 20 countries) by sweeping the tourney 9-0.

With the AFC getting bigger and better by the year and a pair of championships from international competitions under his belt, Chris then trained his eyes on getting the Ateneo Men’s Football team a title. Something that eluded the university since the days when Celso Lobregat, Arben Santos, and Bobong Velez propelled the Blue Booters to its sixth and last NCAA title in 1968.

In the meantime, Chris pulled double duty as playing coach of the Swift commercial football team which starred one Arnulfo Merida who had also played for the Polytechnic University of the Philippines as well as the Army.

Love and marriage and still more football
In 1992, Chris married Gina Joson, who was introduced to him by Yeng Guiao during a birthday celebration. He would soon have two sons, Carlos and Zico, named after two of Brasil’s one-name wunderkinds. To augment his earnings and support his growing household, he joined Guiao over at Swift/Pop Cola as trainer where the team won two PBA titles in addition to his responsibilities at Ateneo.

But football still dominated the Monfort household. “Chris brought me to games but I just wasn’t into football,” fondly remembered Gina Monfort. “It seemed forever before someone scored a goal. But when our sons started playing, I was really really into it. I guess you can say that I inherited Chris’s passion for the game.

Gina at first felt that she was competing with football for Chris’s attention. He stubbornly clung to the dream of making football a premier sport in the country. “Football is the number one sport in practically the whole world save for North America and the Philippines,” he liked to point out. “It’s a shame that it’s not even a secondary sport here. Our victories in the Gothia and Helsinki Cups should jump start the program.

The Monforts had two television sets, one exclusively for football (of which Chris had dozens and dozens of tapes of games and instructional material) while the other for Gina’s dose of HBO and entertainment. It wasn’t only the television sets that competed for Chris’s attention. There were times when the budgets went football’s way. After one particular investment that didn’t amount to anything, a tearful Chris vowed to his wife not do anything so foolhardy again.

Sobrang mahal ni Coach Chris yung football. Ang masterplan niya noon was not only the grassroots program sa Ateneo but for the whole country,” added Ompong Merida who credits much of the current success of the football program to his late mentor.  “Plano niya ang liga where players can graduate to after their college career. Para maging viable yung football career. He also was dreaming of a football stadium here sa Ateneo – masyado lang malaking gastos.
Chris & the 1996 UAAP Men's Football Champs -- Ateneo.

Harvest time
In 1996, the culmination of Chris Monfort’s grassroots program paid off. His first ever AFC batch (dating way back to 1982) included Vincent Santos, Rely San Agustin and Domeka Garamendi. The team was coming off a fifth place finish the previous year and now in their fourth year, they had the right blend of veterans and rookies to make a run towards the championship. “That year was Chris’s second final appearance,” recalled Garamendi (Chris’s first was in 1990 when Ateneo lost to a UP team that featured a few former Ateneans like Manny Concio and Ebong Joson). “With him getting more involved with organizing tournaments and most likely moving up the chain of command like the NCRFA, winning the UAAP title would be his crowning glory and a fitting going-away present.”

After the final whistle,” said Rely San Agustin, that team’s captain and goalkeeper, “the first thing I did was I wrestled Coach Chris to the ground and choked him while saying ‘Ha! This is yours. This is all yours!’ I was so happy for him.”

After beating arch-rival La Salle 2-1 to win the school’s first crown in 28 years, Chris was voted NCRFA President. It was an end of an era of sorts. Chris was no longer exclusively Ateneo’s. The man who had brought him into Ateneo’s hallowed halls, Fr. Raymond Holscher likewise stepped down as Athletic Director.

In a few years’ time, the boy with dreams of glory on the pitch would go on to be the Philippine Football Federation’s Secretary General. He would represent the country in numerous FIFA events including the World Cup.

Ompong Merida who succeeded Monfort as the college coach would go on to pilot the Men’s Football Team to four more football titles. The teams were predominantly composed of kids who went through the AFC.

Carlos Monfort today is one of the better football players in his age bracket. A fifth grade student at the Ateneo, Carlos has that feel for the game that cannot be taught. In fact, his goal-scoring prowess has not been lost on the coaches. He has started to realize his father’s legacy to the game and his school. There’s no escaping it. There’s the summer tournament named after his father. The blueprints of the AFC have his father’s fingerprints all over it. But most of all, in the jersey with the #16 on it. That was his father’s number. Lately, he’s begun to wear effects that his father wore on the horrific and painful June 11 night in 2001: the wallet, bracelet and necklace. He devours tapes that once occupied an ungodly amount of Chris’s time. His favorite foods are those that his dad once loved.

Zico the younger of the Monfort children isn’t as athletic as his older brother. But he has the heart. During the bonfire for the three-peat college champions, a video of past Ateneo football greats is shown on the widescreen monitor. When the image of Christopher Monfort Senior with his bushy mustache and easy-going smile flashes on screen, he lets out a gasp that is both of pride and amazement, “Dad!”

Gina Monfort smiles. Football was Chris’s life. He said that once he had done what he had originally set out to do, then if God called, he’d gladly go. She’d dismiss his thoughts on mortality fearful that they might be a harbinger of things to come.

But looking at her two sons – both who miss their father tremendously – football has been good to her too. After all, she has two fine looking sons who face the future with a dream that their father once had.


F I N I S

Voices:
Hans Peter Smit, DLSU Womens’ Football Coach: “We worked together for years on end to make football improve. He was my kumpare. We were friends for over 25 years dating back to our college days in UP. He’s done so much for Philippine football. Our world is both richer and poorer without him. Richer because look at where football is now. It’s so much better and visible than when we were in school. Poorer because there’s no one else with that zest for the game and life like Chris.

Yeng Guiao, Red Bull Barako Coach: Chris used to complain that that salary that one basketball player makes in one year is enough to run one football team for a whole year. He’d say that basketball players were spoiled and pampered whereas ang football player, pakainin mo lang, okay na siya. And you know, he’s right. 

Domeka Garamendi, PFF Secretary General: Chris was a very good coach. He was a better motivator than a tactician. He was sound tactically but during crunch time, you can throw all those tactics out the window. The task now is to get people to finish the game the way it should. Chris was real good at that. And now following his footsteps in the hotseat that is Sec-Gen for PFF, he’s a tough tough act to follow.

Ompong Merida, Ateneo Men’s Football Coach: This three-peat isn’t mine. Kay Coach Chris ‘to. It’s all his system, his program, his vision. I miss him.

Fr. Raymond Holscher S.J., Chaplain Bilibid Prison: Chris loved football and he loved the Ateneo. He’s more of an Atenean than some who went here from prep to college. He’s a throwback to better days. If you were to list ten people who have made an impact in the Ateneo in the last quarter of the century, he should be right there.

From the Author:
This is for Coach Chris, Ms. Gina, Carlos & Zico.

Chris Monfort’s birthdate is coming up May 28. He passed away on June 12, 2001. This year will be the fifth anniversary of his passing. Chris unknown to many was deeply patriotic and sensitive. He would bristle and fume every time someone said that the country was headed south or something to that effect. He loved his country, football, his family and the Ateneo (not in that order).The country lost another hero ironically on Independence Day.

Thank you very much to Ms. Gina Monfort who bared her soul for this story, Ricky Palou for setting things up, Hans Smit for the insights, laughs, and camaraderie, Fr. Ray Holscher for the memories, Coach Yeng for a blast from the past, Coach Ompong for his time and sharings, Domeka and Rely for their openness and candidness. Jong Castaneda for his updates.


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Here's a video that I did to commemorate the Ateneo Men's Football UAAP three-peat from 2004-06. This was shown during the bonfire for the team. 


Sunday, May 27, 2012

A conversation with Team Socceroo's Hector Zaghi


A conversation with Team Socceroo’s Hector Zaghi while watching the Nomads-Green Archers match at UMak.

Hector (sidling up to me): I hate that team (points to my Boca Juniors shirt).

Rick: Haha. I guess you root for River Plate (Boca’s arch enemy).

Hector: No (shakes his head vociferously). I’m a Corinthians fan.

Rick: Oh, yeah. I forgot that you’re Brazilian. I’m a huge fan of Juan Roman Riquelme (pointing to my Boca shirt). Two places I'd love to watch before I die -- Anfield and the Bombonera.

Hector: I like Riquelme too. Very good football player. I like him when he wears an Argentina shirt but not Boca. (I laugh).

Rick: Too bad Riquelme didn’t do well with Barcelona. Maradona?

Hector: Again a very good footballer. But no. Not Boca. Only for Argentina.

Rick: As for Brazil, I root for Santos.

Hector: I hate Santos.

Rick: Is there any team that you like at all outside Corinthians? (I laugh harder).

Hector: Sure. But you just said the two teams I do not like.

Rick: So you don’t like Neymar?

Hector: Only for Brazil but not for Santos.

Rick: Hahaha. I understand. But you know, I like England but I don’t root for Wayne Rooney (the damned United). Isn’t that weird?

Hector: (his turn to laugh). Yes, it is weird. Football can be weird too. 
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What's in a football shirt? My fave football club of all time is Liverpool but here are the other clubs I root for: Schalke 04 (Bundesliga), Lyon (Ligue 1), Juventus (Serie A), Ajax Amsterdam (Eredivisie), Real Madrid (La Liga), Boca Juniors (Primera Division), New York Red Bulls (MLS), Santos (Campeonato Paulista), Benfica (Primiera Liga).

Growing up, I watched a lot of Brazil football. And these Brazilian one-named wonders have made me become fans of certain clubs. I was such a huge Juninho fan that I began to root for Lyon. I have vacillated back and forth between Real Madrid and Barcelona (the former had Roberto Carlos and Ronaldo while the latter had Rivaldo and Ronaldinho). The tip in the balance has been the great Zizou (Zinedine Zidane) and Mesut Ozil although I love Xavi Hernandez' game. Perhaps the only club I have not really swung allegiances is Liverpool. I once liked Bayern Munich because they had Franz Beckenbauer, Gerd Muller, then players like Karl Heinz-Rummenigge and Lothar Mattheus. Then they brought in Miroslav Klose and Lukas Podolski. Currently, they have one of my fave players in Franck Ribery. So why Schalke 04? Well, I still do like and watch Bayern Munich. But Schalke has Raul. As for the French Ligue 1, I loved watching Paris St. Germain but when Juninho came over to Lyon, I followed the free kick specialist. Speaking of free kick specialists, there's Roberto Carlos as well.