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.

Saturday, June 30, 2012

As far as issues go the latest Sports Illustrated is one of the best


I thought I'd find this in Kinokuniya in Singapore but it was either sold out or unavailable (methinks it's the former). By chance, I was able to get a copy at Changi Airport on my way home and it was the last copy. Lee Jenkins' story on LeBron James and the Heat was a very good one. And reading Jack McCallum's feature on the mythical Dream Team intra-squad scrimmage was worth the cover price alone.

Steve Nash is a riot!



Patriot Games: On the Younghusband brothers missing the Azkals' US trip

This appears on abs-cbnnews.com

Patriot Games
by rick olivares

I wasn’t the very least surprised about the negative reaction to the news that James and Phil Younghusband will not being joining the Philippine Men’s Football National Team in their upcoming trip to the United States in August of this year.

The brothers have opted to remain behind to attend to their Younghusband Football Academy and the upcoming Clear Dream Match that coincides with the second of the two exhibition matches the Azkals will play in America. There's also the possibility of their local club, Loyola, playing deep in the Singapore Cup should they advance to the next round once more. Within minutes of the announcement of their unavailability for the trip, local social media was ablaze with criticism of their decision.

A month ago, the Fil-British brothers also missed the Azkals’ match against Malaysia in Kuala Lumpur that also drew the ire of fans and football officials alike. So there has been talk of being prima donnas and too big for their britches.

Let’s put this in perspective.

It’s more fun in the Philippines
The brothers moved to the Philippines in August 2009 to begin a new life and to work closer with the national team. Had they stayed in England, Phil would be coaching and working in his father’s accounting firm while James would pursue his graphic design career while also doing a bit of coaching on the side. And both would definitely still be playing club football.

Only they chose to move here.

Last year, the brothers were offered a gem of a contract to play for Jakarta 1928 FC in the Indonesian Premier League. It was a huge contract that would have really helped them financially. However, due to the possibility of not being allowed to play for the national team since the IPL was not sanctioned by FIFA, they chose to stay in the Philippines where they signed up with Loyola instead. In case you want to know, national team management was assisting them in the move since the contract was not only a juicy one but at that time, the UFL didn’t seem to be much of a viable choice to earn a living.

Even before the success of the national team during the 2010 Suzuki Cup, the brothers already put up the Younghusband Football Academy (in fact, in January of that year). Along with Phil’s short-lived noontime show hosting career, this was meant to keep their football dream alive while taking on the role as the family’s breadwinners. With their mother’s recent passing, the burden of providing for their family has never been more pressing. And yet the brothers have put their youngest sibling, Keri, in a private school.

They cannot wait for everyone to plan events, matches, or even camps because they need to earn a living. If they are the only ones doing football gigs, academies or what have you then that isn’t their problem. No one is stopping the others from doing their own. Nevertheless, there should be greater coordination whether as a courtesy to everyone involved; national team management included.

And that begs the question, is there a short and long term program for the national team? Is there a schedule that preps them for a tournament?

What’s the game plan?
With the exponential growth of local football and the sudden influx of investors, it seems that everyone is doing their own thing. The onus now is on the Philippine Football Federation to provide not only leadership but also a coherent program and some guidelines. 

We have a technical director but really, do all our national teams (that includes the age groups) play a certain way? No, there is none. Every team plays a style that its current coach prefers. So when he is replaced continuity is a problem.

If you check with countries like Japan, Germany, or even Spain to name a few, from the youth level all the way to the senior national team, there’s a certain system of play that is taught and implemented. Even when a coach departs, the system remains in place.

Our football scene is like the medieval times – lots of fiefdoms under one throne but lacking in unity and direction. If you look at foreign clubs or national teams, their calendar meaning tournaments, friendlies and camps are all meticulously planned. Schedules are published ahead of time.

How difficult can scheduling a program be? The tournaments the team regularly participates in – the Long Teng Cup, the Suzuki Cup, and the AFC Challenge Cup -- have been in place for a long time. It stands to reason that one plans around them and the UFL and not the other way around.

A double standard
Speaking of the UFL, I spoke to many of the Loyola players and they say that the brothers are among the first to arrive to practice and one of the last ones to leave. There was talk that their benching during the recent friendly match against Indonesia was because of their late arrival to practice. What happened was the practice was moved up to an earlier time from the pre-agreed one and when they arrived from a previous engagement, the team was in the middle of their paces.

I am not disputing who the coach puts on the field. That is his choice. Like the game itself, one has to live the consequences of those decisions.

Nevertheless, there seems to be a double standard at work here. When the European-based players (Neil Etheridge, Ray Jonsson, Stephan Schrock, Dennis Cagara, Jerry Lucena etc) are not released by their clubs there is nary a peep from the coaches, critics, and pundits. Let’s see these critics rail against Fulham, Grindavik or beginning this season, Hoffenheim. But when the UFL clubs do not release their players, it’s open season on them.

As per FIFA rules, clubs are only obliged to release players for official FIFA dates. Abroad, players are released for national team duty at least two days before a tournament unless it is the off-season. Since most of our players ply their trade in the UFL, it should be theoretically easier to coordinate for the release of the players vis-à-vis a schedule. If there is a tournament abroad that coincides with the UFL, I believe at the very most, players should be released a week earlier.

Now if the team does go to camp why can’t we bring players who can commit to the team and the tournament? We cannot keep coming up with excuses that we did not field our best team. That is a reality that we should all get used to. A team composed of dedicated players will perform much better than a team of players who come from all over the planet with a few days to learn the system (if we do have one at all). We have many excellent local players who are not given the time of day. And as such, they are invited to camps merely as practice players. That is why players like Ruben Doctora Jr. and others have left. Sometimes I get the feeling that if Chieffy Caligdong is only in the game as the token homegrown player.

If it is indeed a camp, then isn’t it more practical to hold it in the Philippines? Sure, camps abroad are fine. National teams and clubs do that. Liverpool held its 2003 camp in New Jersey. Barcelona periodically goes to Costa Dorada outside Barcelona. Before the 2010 Suzuki Cup, the Azkals held a camp in Davao before departing for a few days for a friendly match in Thailand before going to Vietnam.

And it is the clubs pay the salaries of the players. While on national team duty, they only receive an allowance. And that’s fine. Playing for the country is not about making money… unless someone is making money off it. As a corollary to that, didn’t the US Olympians also make the case that if all these organizations are making money off them then why can’t they have a piece of the pie?

Sometimes I get the feeling that the national team is a traveling roadshow more than a football team. We should protect the brand rather than repeatedly expose them to meaningless exhibition matches where losses stick can be harmful and detrimental rather than a learning experience. And aren’t we also concerned about their recovery time? Furthermore, am I the only one concerned that we cannot fill up even Rizal Memorial Football Stadium anymore?

These situations must be studied extensively with concrete and measured actions plans put in place.

I call on the Philippine Football Federation alongside national team management to safeguard the integrity of our team. For too long it was on the wayside. Let's not waste this magnificent opportunity we've been given to promote the growth of the beautiful game on our shores.

The Myth of the Dream Team
Did Portugal field their best team in the ongoing European championships? Certainly not. Jose Bosingwa and Ricardo Carvalho were left out of the lineup. However Paulo Bento, their coach, did not offer any excuses after their stunning ouster in the semifinals.

During the pre-match press conference for the Indonesia friendly, coach Nil Maizar sounded irritated when asked if the team he brought with him was the legitimate Indonesian team. “This is the Indonesian team,” he said emphatically. And imagine that, their supposedly weakest team in years and they nearly beat us. With their domestic federation woes at an end, Indonesia will now have all their best players at Maizar's disposal.

Nowhere is it written that dream teams win championships. If you point out the 1992 US Olympic Team then I’m going to counter with the Netherlands’ 1970s ‘dream team’ as coached by Rinus Michael and starring the great Johan Cruyff. They lost in the World Cup after all.

It is good to field our strongest team but I’d rather take a team that is not only skilled but one that oozes desire, heart, and commitment.

I don’t think it’s fair to make this seem as an issue between club and country because for one, it doesn’t have to be. There is nothing that cannot be resolved by bringing things to the negotiating table rather than sniping across social media.

The brothers have committed to the national team at least a week before a tournament kicks off. They should be held to that.

Sure it sucks not to have them available for the US trip. But try looking at it from a different perspective – it’s not like they are lounging around in Boracay as they are out teaching the game of football.

As for the Clear Dream Match, it is about providing charity to Tuloy sa Don Bosco that cares for children who have been orphaned or abandoned or have run away from home. This will go a long, long way in helping these disadvantaged kids as opposed to another in an endless line of meet-and-greets.

On the Azkals’ side, this is an opportunity for other players to prove themselves, to try new finds, to experiment with systems and plays, and to work on chemistry. And lastly, I’d beware of people who bring up the-for-the-country card. If one brings up the idea of service for the country then he or she might want to enlist because from what I am seeing is we need more servicemen in the disputed Scarborough Shoal than on the pitch.

Hopefully, this clears up some things. Pun intended.

------------------

When I first got involved in the Clear Dream Match, there was nothing firmed up for any of the national team's plans. But my immediate thought was to the client and organizers is that this must be held on a day when it doesn't coincide with any of the UFL or Azkals plans. When the US trip came up, I immediately informed all parties about potential conflicts. Anyways, I planned on writing this last but opted to wait. I understand my colleagues and good friends Bob Guerrero and Ryan Fenix also touched on this. I didn't want to read what they wrote so I would not 'borrow' any of their ideas and instead focus on what I felt and knew. Now that I have posted my piece I an read their stuff. Incidentally, the national team head coach asked the brothers to make the first half of the trip and return in time for the Clear Dream Match. Will inform everyone on further developments.

Friday, June 29, 2012

Euro 2012 Portugal & Germany will rue those missed chances

This appears in philstar.com


Portugal & Germany will rue those missed chances
by rick olivares

It is invariable that the television cameras will pan from the victors to the vanquished and Euro 2012 has not been lacking in emotion and drama.

The Portugal side of Paulo Bento showed promise as not much was expected from them. It was after all a young side with only Cristiano Ronaldo and Helder Postiga the remnants of the side that made the finals of Euro 2004 (where they lost rather unluckily to Greece in the finals in their homefield of Lisbon no less).

This squad is firmly Ronaldo’s but the team received a huge lift when Postiga carried them in the group stages before CR7 got going. But the team does not have the depth of the previous teams as Bento jettisoned Ricardo Carvalho and Jose Bosingwa over disputes about roles and playing time.

Nelson Oliveira is to this squad what CR7 and Postiga were to Portugal back in 2004. Ronaldo was 19 years old then with the latter two years older. That squad was led by luminaries like Luis Figo, Deco, Rui Costa, Pauleta, Simao, and Maniche to name a few.

Against Spain, even if the defending champions dominated possession, the Portuguese show dangerous intent on many occasions. Spain wasn’t fluid all the time maybe as Xavi and Xabi Alonso were mostly quiet and not influential at all. Xavi is the player who must – at least in Barcelona’s system and the last World Cup title team – have at least 100 touches or else he’ll murder someone. Portugal’s maligned midfield of Miguel Veloso, Raul Meireles, and Joao Moutinho played well enough to disrupt Spain’s midfield play.

Both teams started out with 4-3-3 formations but gradually switched to counter each other’s moves. Portugal played well in the first few minutes and had to chances before Spain got the bearings going. Credit should go to Spain’s Iker Casillas and Portugal’s Rui Patricio for making great stops and saves.

Come penalties, Portugal was handed a gift when Alonso flubbed his country’s first spot kick. Only Moutinho gave it back when he took a terrible shot himself. At this point, I figured Bento would let Ronaldo take the second or third penalty only he was slated to take the last shot.

There was confusion in the order of the PKs to be taken when Bruno Alves trooped to the line only to have Nani pull him back. I had no doubt Nani would make it but not Alves. The thing about penalties is it requires a lot of concentration and focus. The ‘sudden’ change in order, if you ask me, somewhat affected Alves’ concentration. And true enough he hit the woodwork. Cesc Fabregas closed out the scoring as Ronaldo never even got a shot off.

The look on his face said it all. They had Spain on the ropes but it was they who were going home for the summer. And that was loss #16 (the Portuguese have bean La Roja nine times and drawn on 13 other occasions).

If there’s anything about Euro 2012, it’ll be about missed opportunities. England had another ‘penalties, again’ moment that is sure to weigh heavy on their minds. The early exit of the Dutch will have to force them to reassess how they play their game and approach the tournament. The Danes, who narrowly missed booking a quarterfinals seat have served a great lesson – it’s not about the stars but the team. The French on the other hand have a promising team but the two orders of the day are consistency and the dire need of a leader to carry them. Sadly they have not had one since Zizou (pre-Materazzi).

And there are the Germans. No doubt they played one of the best attacking brands of football in this tournament. They sure were not of the same form as when they were in South Africa but they were exciting to watch. I did make note however of their weakness at the back. With an ailing Per Mertesacker, Jogi Low went with Mats Hummels, Jerome Boateng, Philip Lahm, and Holger Badstuber. Not to so bad but lacking in resolve. Maybe I am wrong with that assessment but in this regard – their attacking style that stretched them all too far throughout the tournament – I’d staunchly back up.

They would attack in numbers and leave one or two central backs who were not exactly the speediest of players. Portugal exposed that from Day One. Denmark nearly made them pay. And well, Italy’s Mario Balotelli did his best impression of Didier Drogba by barreling his way to a pair of goals that saw Italy advance all the way to the finals against Spain.

I thought that Low would address the holes in the defense as the tournament went on but I didn’t see it. Maybe they though they could outscore the opponent into submission. Only when their offense bogged down their defense was all the more vulnerable to the Italian counters.

I was stunned. I shared that same look on Low’s face after Balotelli’s superb strike that left Manuel Neuer looking for a second straight time. The Bayern Munich goalkeeper could only applaud Super Mario’s goal for it was indeed wondrous and worth watching again and again.

Low’s got a grand plan but this was when the German’s ascended from their last few third place finishes. Looks like the tinkering needs more tweaking. They scored the most goals heading into the semifinals with 10. But the Germans also surrendered six.

Italy on the other hand do not score but they also do not concede a lot either. And it seems that every time there are problems on the domestic front regarding match fixing, they perform well.

In 1982, the Azzurri won the World Cup with Paolo Rossi, who was banned for two years for match fixing, leading the way. In 2006, following the calciopoli that saw Juventus return its trophy while relegated to the second division (not to mention their core scattering throughout Europe), Italy won the World Cup in Germany. Now that is resolve in the face of adversity and everyone else would do well to learn from that.

You can imagine what the drama and pressure will be like when two years from now these teams take their game to Brazil. Portugal and Germany hope the heartache and stunned looks and all will be worth the wait.


Wednesday, June 27, 2012

On the 20th anniversary of the US Dream Team: You can’t cover the sun with your finger



You can’t cover the sun with your finger
by rick olivares

“You can’t cover the sun with your finger.”

Perhaps among all the platitudes heaped upon the 1992 United States Olympic Men’s Basketball Team or more commonly known as “The Dream Team”, it was that quote from Miguel Calderon Gomez, then head coach of Cuba, that best describes them.

Gomez’ charges were the on the receiving end of a 136-57 annihilation during the Dream Team’s debut at the Tournament of the Americas on June 28, 1992. In all 14 of their matches from the Tournament of the Americas in Portland, Oregon to the ’92 Summer Olympics in Barcelona, Spain, the Americans blew their foes off the court by an average of 47 points a game. The one time an opponent took the lead was the Olympic gold medal game when Croatia’s Zan Tabak scored a three-point play following a flash in the lane and a zip pass by Toni Kukoc. David Robinson fouled Tabak and the Croatian center made good on his free throw to give their side a 25-23 lead with 9:41 to play.

On the other end, Charles Barkley answered with a three-point shot of his own (he was six-for-six prior from the three-point line at that point) that allowed the US to re-take the lead; one they would not relinquish again en route to another blowout.

Even during Croatia’s run (at that point only two players from Croatia had played in the NBA – center Stojko Vrankovic and gunner Drazen Petrovic as Kukoc and power forward Dino Radja would join the NBA a year later), Dream Team head coach Chuck Daly never called a time out. Not one.

The 20th anniversary of the debut of the Dream Team – June 28, 1992 – is just around the corner. Even before I caught a whiff of the nostalgia in the air, this collection of 12 basketball Beatles had been in my mind almost like in a fevered state.

I couldn’t wear a replica Los Angeles Lakers jacket the way a classmate of mine used to do back in school. I didn’t have an original copy of Michael Jordan’s ‘Come Fly With Me’ documentary until years and years later. I didn’t have the sweet jump shot of Larry Bird just like a schoolmate of mine did have on the JV. But in 1992, I could own a Dream Team shirt.

They were selling the “caricature” souvenir shirt of the ’92 Tournament of the Americas where the Dream Team made their spectacular debut. There was only one shirt left and I kept going back and forth debating its purchase as it was a bit pricey. Eventually, I walked in and forked over the dough and hightailed it home with my bounty. And when I wore it, it was with pride.

In the pre-cable and internet days that’s obviously ancient history, it was my slice of Dream Team. Anything NBA or foreign sports for the matter, were difficult to come by locally. If I did get to watch these NBA superstars, it was on one recopied betamax tape after another never mind the generation loss. I would eventually add a few more pieces of memorabilia – the Sports Illustrated issue with Patrick Ewing, Karl Malone, Charles Barkley, Michael Jordan, and Earvin Johnson on the cover as well as the Dream Team book written by Alex Sachare that was autographed by the late Chuck Daly and team assistant coach Lenny Wilkens.

Today, that souvenir shirt --  all worn out, faded and now several sizes smaller for me – is still there in my closet. I even wore it to sleep a few weeks ago.

I opened up a box of my old belongings that my mother packed away when I moved out all those years ago. Inside were all those videotapes that had corroded and melted with age. But the magazines, brown with ages and all, were still there.

In my younger days, I was transfixed when Doug Collins hot two clutch free throws to seemingly give the US the win against the USSR during the 1972 Munich Olympics. Only game officials gave the Soviets three chances to win the match which they eventually did. There have been many heists in sports since but that Olympic finals game is right on top alongside the recent controversial decision that awarded the boxing match to challenger Timothy Bradley over defending champion Manny Pacquiao who pummeled his American foe.

While the NBA was shown sparingly in the Philippines unless you were one of the lucky ones who has that antenna that connected you to the US Armed Forces’ Far East Network emanating out of Clark Air Base in Pampanga. What was shown on a regular basis (if you can say that the four-year cycle of the Olympics counts as one) were the games of the Olympiad. So I saw in the intervening years the team of Michael Jordan, Patrick Ewing, Chris Mullin, Sam Perkins, Steve Alford, and company blow out foes en route to a 1984 Gold Medal. Then there was the debacle of 1988 when head coach John Thompson put on the floor a team that was good enough to win the Big East Conference where his Georgetown Hoyas played but not the Seoul, Korea Olympics.

Sure there were the annual gatherings of NBA All-Stars in the mid-season classic but they were mostly the stuff of showtime. The Olympics were big time. It was theorized then that the world had caught up to the Americans in the sport. Barcelona was meant to take it back and show the world that it was still a myth.

For all the hoopla surrounding the Americans the manner by which they were first introduced to the world at large during the Tournament of the Americas was drab and simple. “A six-eleven forward Christian Laettner,” the Rose Garden announcer said almost dryly as he opted not to show any favoritism. He then continued his roll call in order -- David Robinson, Patrick Ewing, Larry Bird, Scottie Pippen, Michael Jordan, Clyde Drexler (who got a resounding ovation from Portland fans), Karl Malone, John Stockton, Chris Mullin, Charles Barkley, and Earvin ‘Magic” Johnson.

When the ball went up for the jump ball, the Americans dived right in like a pack of sharks. They dismantled foes in different ways and the first few minutes of the game against Cuba in the Tournament of the Americas provided the world with a view to a kill.

Half-court offense
In the very first possession of the Dream Team’s debut against Cuba during the Tournament of the Americas, Magic Johnson fed the ball to Larry Bird who worked his way inside the lane for a fadeaway.

Fastbreak
This is where Angola’s head coach criticized the Americans as a running team that didn’t play any defense. The US actually topped the Olympics in defensive stats. They had the most steals (177) and blocks (47).

Against Cuba, Bird hauled down the board. Passed to Magic Johnson who drove the length of the court. Magic took off, surveyed his options in the air before he handed it off to Robinson on the trailer for a two-handed stuff.

The spectacular
One failed Cuban offensive after Robinson’s jam, Jordan saved the ball from going out of bounds at the Dream Team’s halfcourt line by whipping a behind-the-back pass to Bird who straddled the baseline. Bird fielded the ball and in one motion hit a baseline jumper. One stop after, Magic on the break found Barkley cutting under the baseline. The Round Mound of Rebound drove in and turned around 360° for an emphatic slam.

Gomez was right. You really couldn’t cover the sun with your finger.

They continued that romp all the way to Barcelona where they were arguably the first crossover team of any sport with such immense popularity.

Their legacy is that basketball has become truly a world game. The number of foreign players plying their trade and not just in the NBA is staggering. If the Dutch football teams that espoused total football changed the sport forever so did the Dream Team for basketball. Twenty-years ago today, Sgt. Pepper taught the band to play and the world is better for it.

Enjoy this wave of nostalgia because it’s all good. As for me, I’m going to rewind television announcer Marv Albert’s line during the Olympics when he said (adding to one of the best platitudes about the Dream Team aside from Gomez’ quote): “Do you get the feeling that Angola’s last basket was yesterday?”

Rick Olivares used to tape NBA matches on those old betamax tapes until he accumulated a massive collection to go with his magazines, books, posters, and jerseys. He says that writing for NBA.com completes his life. Oh, he still goes to bed wearing his Chris Mullin Golden State Warriors #17 that he first bought during the Run-TMC years.


Bleachers' Brew #317 Global are champions and as LBJ said, ‘It’s about (damn) time.’

This appears in the Monday, July 2, 2012 edition of the Business Mirror.
Global FC owner/manager/playing coach Dan Palami is given the world famous Gatorade bath by his players following their UFL championship after a 1-1 draw with Loyola.

Global are champions and as LBJ said, ‘It’s about (damn) time.’
by rick olivares picture by brosi gonzales

In football, it is essential that one must be deft of feet, skillful with the ball, and good with the hands if one is a goalkeeper. And it also pays to be good of hearing.

Following a David Basa long ball, Global forward Izzo El Habbib positioned himself to control the pass but was challenged by Loyola defender Lawrence Ikegwuruka. Sparks’ goalkeeper Ref Cuaresma rushed out yelling, “My ball. My ball.”

El Habbib heard Cuaresma’s admonition and the Sudanese forward jumped as high as he could to flick the ball towards the goal. Much to the horror of Loyola as well as to Kaya FC and their own faithful, the ball bounced into an empty net while the Sparks’ Min Ho Park gave futile chase. One-nil to Global in the 65th minute as the stands at the venerable Rizal Memorial Football Stadium erupted in cheers of celebration and mutters of disbelief.

Global team owner-slash-manager-slash-playing-coach Dan Palami pumped his fist on the sidelines. El Habbib’s goal brought them one step closer to what has been a two-year pursuit of Philippine football’s ultimate prize – the United Football League championship.

In Global’s very first year in 2010, they romped undefeated in the UFL’s Division II to merit promotion. The following year, the won the UFL Cup in a thriller at the University of Makati over Air Force. However in the league competition, the military team pipped them to retain their crown.

Following the ascent of the Philippine Men’s Football National Team and the rise of local football, Global looked to be on the outs as clubs beefed up their rosters. Global went out in the semifinals of the 2011-12 cup to nemesis Air Force while at the start of the just-concluded league tournament, lost their first match to Army. They would lose another game, this time to Loyola, 1-0 before tightening up its defense and overtaking erstwhile leader Loyola that faded in the homestretch.

Heading into the penultimate playing date of the UFL where the outcome of both matches would decide the league champion, Global garnered 41 points while Kaya had 39. For Kaya to win the league, they had to beat Stallion the in the first match of the day’s doubleheader and hope that third-running Loyola defeated Global. Given a Kaya win and a loss by Global, the title would be theirs. A win or a draw by Global and the title was theirs.

Complicated?

Not exactly but the matches were long protracted battles. “This game is for pride,” revealed Loyola striker Phil Younghusband who won the UFL’s Golden Boot Award for scoring 23 goals. “We’re not going to win it but either Kaya or Global will have not beaten us either. So we’re going to put our best foot forward.”

In the opener, Kaya took on a spirited Stallion squad that had lost its finely tuned passing game. But the Kale Alvarez-coached team showed how pumped up they were for the challenge as they dominated possession and scoring chances. In the 18th minute, it finally paid off when Jonah Romero set up Nate Burkey for a laser of a volley that beat Stallion keeper Wilson Muñoz for the match’s only goal.

Kaya had numerous other chances to add to their lead but they couldn’t finish the job. In the last 20 minutes, Stallion stepped up their attacks and had Kaya on their heels but keeper Saba Garmaroudi, adjudged the best net minder of the tournament, turned back one shot after another.

Kaya celebrated their win and with one foot inside the championship door, they prayed for a Loyola win. Following Byeong Yeol Jeong’s stunning equalizer in the 76th minute, the entire Kaya squad went down to the VIP section of the grandstand to cheer Loyola on. But Global’s top-rated defense with its heady back line of Jerry Barbaso, David Basa, Ange Guisso, and Carli de Murga not to mention the terrific goalkeeping of Jerome Etoundi held fast as they turned back numerous chances by Loyola.

As referee Michael Barajas blew his whistle to end the 94-minute long match, the Global players celebrated with wild abandon as de Murga stripped down to his underwear. The African contingent of the squad knelt down in prayer and pointed up to the heavens. And Palami, who has played a huge role in the rise of the beautiful game in the country, was given a freezing Gatorade bath and the traditional victory ride by his players.

Palami through chattering teeth could not hide his elation, “It’s a big achievement and it completes our cycle of titles from Division II to the cup and now the league. It wasn’t easy but this is worth all our hardships. It’s about time.”


Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Clear Dream Match: The country’s best footballers take sides in a showdown for charity

This appears in the Thursday, June 28, 2012 edition of the Business Mirror.


The country’s best footballers take sides in a showdown for charity
by rick olivares

The sport of football is said to break down borders, languages, and cultures. On August 25, 2012, it will provide hope and inspiration for the abandoned as well as the orphaned when the Clear Dream Match kicks off with a celebrity all-star football match at the University of Makati.

The Clear Dream Match was launched yesterday at the Rockwell Tent with brothers James and Phil Younghusband headlining the event.

The two teams will be captained by brothers who will for the first time in their lives, will find themselves on opposing sides. Their respective squads will feature fellow national, UFL, and collegiate players as well as football-playing and loving celebrities.

The Clear Dream Match was inspired by Steve Nash’s Showdown In Chinatown; the annual soccer all-star benefit game in Manhattan’s Lower East Side. And the beneficiary of the Clear Dream Match will be the Tuloy sa Don Bosco Foundation which has provided players for the Philippines’ Homeless World Cup Teams through the years.

There’s a slight twist to the composition of the teams as fans can vote for who plays on the respective teams of the Younghusband brothers. Beginning June 25, 2012, fans will have a pool of 50 players to choose from that includes local football stars like brothers Anton and Armand del Rosario, Eric Dagroh, and Nate Burkey who play for Kaya; Anto Gonzales, Jake Morallo, and Pat Ozaeta of Loyola; Wilson Muñoz, Ojay Clarino, and Jovanie Simpron from Stallion; Patrick Bocobo and Tating Pasilan from Green Archers United; Freddy Gonzalez, Yves Ashime, William Guerridon of Pachanga, and Daniel Matsunaga and Fabio Ide of Team Socceroo among many others.

The country’s universities will also be represented with the addition of footballers like UST’s Shirmar Felongco, Ateneo’s Mikko Mabanag, De La Salle’s Patrick Deyto, and UP’s Michael Simms to name a few.

A couple of Philippine Volcanoes, Andrew Wolff and Eric Tai, who both love and play football when they are not playing rugby, will be playing as well.

Celebrities who have thrown their names in the hat include popular radio talk shows hosts Slick Rick and Tony Toni of Boys Night Out; television and radio host Paolo Bediones, actor Jake Cuenca; ABS-CBN artist Rafael Rosell; and a few more. Rock star Rico Blanco was one of those who wanted to participate but begged off due to a nagging knee injury. 

Aside from the free admission to the match, fans will also be able to choose their seats at UMak by logging on to Clear Facebook page and selecting the “Reserve the Seat” tab. The feature also allows them to print their tickets to the match.

Fr. Rocky Evangelista, SDB, Project Director and President of the Tuloy Foundation said that he was extremely happy that Clear and its parent company Unilever have chosen their foundation as the beneficiary of the celebrity match. “It’s the beautiful game for a beautiful cause where they get to help many children achieve a brighter future.”

Slick Rick joked that he began his preparations for the match by loading up his Playstation console with FIFA games. “Hopefully, I will learn from the likes of England’s Wayne Rooney by studying his moves.”

National player Anton del Rosario who admitted to being a fan of Boys Night Out said that he “looked forward to either setting them up for a goal or tackling them if they try to score on me.”

“The Clear Dream Match is the first of its kind. Some of the best football players in the country playing in one game – it’s going to be an amazing show,” boomed John Imperial, Clear Brand Manager.

“We hope that this will be an annual match much like what Steve Nash is doing in the States,” pointed out Phil Younghusband. “We haven’t really kicked off yet but being a part of this is already a dream come true for me.”

Monday, June 25, 2012

Australians rule the first Philippine 5150 triathlon

This appears in the Tuesday, June 26, 2012 edition of the Business Mirror.

Australians rule the first Philippine 5150 triathlon
by rick olivares pic by brosi gonzales

Excruciating. Suffering. Challenging. Pain.

These were some of the words that were often thrown around over the last few days that one could have thought that he were in Guantanamo Bay except this is Subic Bay. And they aptly described the first ever 5150 Triathlon held in the Philippines last Sunday, June 24. The Olympic distance event features a 1.5k swim, 40K bike, and 10K race and is the sporting event from which the world-famous Ironman and similar cousins like the Xterra, an off-road triathlon, sprang.

A total of 619 participants with 45 relay teams and eight international professional triathletes participated in the race.

Australian David Dellow, one of the three professional athletes competing under the banner of Alaska Team TBB, crossed the finish line in spectacular fashion by completing the race in two hours, three minutes, and three seconds.

Dellow, a member of Australia’s World Champion triathlon teams in 2007 and 2008, exchanged leads with Hungarian Csaba Kuttor throughout the race. However, Dellow tapped into one last reservoir of energy to outsprint Kuttor in the last three kilometers of the run to win the prestigious triathlon race.

Kuttor, an Olympian for his country in Athens, Sydney, and Beijing, expressed a mixture of disappointment and satisfaction over his finish. “I had a bad race in the last triathlon I competed in so I trained hard for a good one here in the Philippines. I thought I had it but credit the big guy (Dellow) for his strong finish. But second is not so bad.’ Kuttor who was first out of the water and led for much of the entire race had a time of 2:03:27.

Ben Allen, the overall winner of the second staging of the Xterra Philippines held in Liloan, Cebu earlier this year and a strong favorite to win this 5150 Philippines, finished third with a time of  2:04:43.

Dellow and Allen overtook Kuttor in the bike course that took riders around the difficult and challenging uphill climb around the former US naval aerial station at Cubi Point. But the Hungarian regained the lead during the run race.

It was in that final leg that took them around the golf course where the heat and the humidity finally got to many of the triathletes. Kuttor and Allen faded while Dellow egged on by the crowd and an iron determination to win, blazed to the finish line.

Australian Belinda Granger, who along with husband and fellow triathlete Justin once lived in Olongapo for several months while on training, won the women’s professional category with a time of 2:22:35. Canadian Ali Fitch, also of Alaska Team TBB, came in second with a time of 2:27:47. The third woman pro, Jacqui Slack, who won the women’s race of the second staging of Xterra, came in a dismal third with a time of 2:52:33 following a difficult bike race that saw her stop twice to change two flat tires.

In the Male Filipino Elite category, John Leerams Chicano bested favorites Neil Catiil and Arland Macasieb by finishing fifth overall with a time of 2:11:35. “I ran the race of my life,” Chicano humbly quipped. “I hope I can build on this and get better at the sport because there is so much to improve on.”

Catiil finished second with a time of 2:19:46 while Macasieb was clocked in at 2:19:46 for the bronze podium finish.

Monica Torres and Lea Coline Langit came in first and second respectively in the Female Filipino Elite category with times of 2:36:33 and 2:37:32.

Said Granger after the race, “We all know that Fred (Uytengsu, Alaska Milk Corporation President and CEO whose Sunrise Events, Inc. stages the Ironman, Xterra, and now 5150 triathlon races) is old school where he designs the courses to be very difficult and challenging. He simply puts us through a lot of suffering but we somehow appreciate it because it brings out the best in us.”

Dellow concurred and summed up the race in one word: “Survival. This was all about survival. I guess if the US Special Forces trained in these jungles for jungle warfare then I guess we got the triathlon version of it. But I am pleased with the race and my result.” The temperature last Sunday was a sunny 27°C.

“If there were any trees or cloud banks,” chipped in Allen, “we tried our best to get some cover even if only for a few more seconds. But thankfully there were hydration stations of Gatorade and water almost every step of the way and that was huge in helping us finish.”

Added a disappointed Slack about her finish owing to the flat tires, “When there are problems on the course, you have to remain calm and not get frustrated. Once you lose all that time then it’s all about finishing and trying to better your time. I guess given the heat and difficulty of the course, yes, it was all about surviving.”

The 5150 triathlon was sponsored by Century Tuna, Alaska Milk, Gatorade, David's Salon, 2XU, Timex, Intercare, Oakley, and The Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority. 


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Check this one out on the 5150




With 5150 winner David Dellow (above) and interviewing Ben Allen (below). Dave was such a great guy with great quotes. These triathletes are amazing.