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, January 26, 2013

Green Archers United and their field of dreams

Green Archers United and their field of dreams
story and photos by rick olivares

Bro. Dennis Magbanua, FSC, quoted the seminal line from the baseball film, Fields of Dreams: “Build them and they will come.”

And they did on a Friday night. First there was the home team, the De La Salle Junior Archers football team. Then came the alumni teams – Green Archers United and Forza. The last one to arrive was the college team, the DLSU Green Archers.

Former player Kim Smit summed up the green booter alumni’s thoughts for the evening, “After we graduated then they come up with a turf field.”

“Look at it this way,” I said. “You guys paved the way for this.”

Smit’s eyes flickered. “Yeah,” he smiled. “Yeah.” Somewhat tired from his day job at Citi Bank, he welcomed the regenerative powers of the weekend. But the new turf field at De La Salle Santiago Zobel, was the true elixir and everyone felt that way.

“We have our own turf field,” exclaimed Green Archers second keeper Josh Cruz. “That gives us some piece of mind.”

The new 6, 600 meter all-weather artificial turf football field at the DLSZ campus took 30 days to build at a cost of Php 15 million. It isn’t a regulation-full size pitch but its still good enough to be played on. It was constructed by Australian expat Jeremy Rollin's company Advantage Sports + Leisure using the Prograss exclusive Tapex Duroturf yarn. The turf is engineered to last more than 10 years and has a low abrasive index in both dry and wet conditions that passes the skin friction requirements of FIFA. “It’s a fine piece of turf,” said proud father Rollin who is at DLSZ for the unveiling program.

Edison Manalo, head coach of the DLSZ Pep Squad said that since the turf field went operational a few days ago, his cheerleaders have preferred to practice on the field. The soft grass, much more gentle on the legs and knees, according to Manalo, makes his troupe want to jump higher. “We still sometimes practice on the mats,” said one petite cheerleader who I failed to ask her name. “I wish we could practice her all the time because the football teams have first dibs on the field.”

This field is for their football teams all right. But there are other pitches to conquer.

There’s a quiet confidence in Green Archers United. The player additions of the last few months have given the team new weapons. The piece de resistance is the arrival of one Emelio Caligdong. More popularly known by the name, Chieffy.

“When we used to play teams like Loyola or Kaya, our players would sometimes be in awe, ‘Oh, it’s the Younghusbands or Anton del Rosario.’ explained GAU team manager Monchu Garcia who is the man with the plan. “Chieffy gives the team confidence. We have our very own bonafide star not to say that Tating or Arnie are not stars but Chieffy… who doesn’t know of Chieffy?”

Team manager Deeg Rodriguez says the upgrade of the team and the addition of Caligdong was met with a lot of interest and support. “O, you guys got Chieffy,” Rodriguez recounted of just one of the many messages or congratulations for the team.

Garcia named three huge pluses surrounding the addition of Caligdong for GAU.

One, the confidence booster: “Adding more quality players gives the team more confidence that they can compete with the best of the UFL and the country. He adds tremendous leadership in the locker room because of where he’s been and what he’s done. People listen to what he has to say. And they’ll follow him. He leads by example. After the goal that sent us to the semifinals of the Smart Club Championships – wow. Everyone’s hungry.”

Two, the spike of activity on the team’s Facebook and other social media sites: “It used to be a certain number on a day-to-day basis. Now, it’s doing very very well. We love the engagement we get from the fans not just from La Salle alumni but also from people all over the country.”

And three: the marketing mileage: “From a marketing standpoint and a point scale of 1-10?” added Garcia. “This one is off the charts. We feel we have a Filipino icon.”

When GAU played recently in Dipolog, the team was besieged by autograph seekers and people wanting photographs. Garcia admits that this could have happened to any other UFL team as well but for GAU, it’s huge. “It adds to our team’s prestige and for our players, a boost in their confidence.”

However, not everyone seems to be pleased with the addition of Caligdong to GAU’s ranks. The long-time Air Force mainstay has received a lot of messages calling a traitor to his former club and a sell-out. After he scored the winning goal against Pachanga, Caligdong, knelt down on the pitch and stretched his arms in an archer’s pose. The old fans were upset that he had ditched his “plane” celebration with his outstretched hands as a sign that those days with PAF had been chucked to history and memory while he has embraced his new club body and soul. “The ‘plane’ celebration was there bago pa ako dumating sa Air Force,’ explained Caligdong. “Minsan lang may dumating ng mga opportunity na ganito at pagtumatagal yung panahon, iniisip mo pamilya ko. Yun ang desisyon ko at siguro kahit sino gagawin din yun. Nagsilbi din naman ako di ba? Ten years and two months. Siguro time for a change din.”

The changes up and down GAU’s lineup has made many players happy. Tommy Escoltero, a long time Iloilo football star who suited up for Stallion and new club Sta. Lucia is now with GAU. “Very professional yung Green Archers United,” he remarked. “Pagnaglaro ka ang unang iniisip mo ay gusto mo manalo para sa kanila dahil grabe yung support.”

“Pagkatapos ng practice dito sa bagong turf field, meron mga shower dito na may malamig at mainit na tubig, may lugar para sa mga gamit mo para hindi mawala, aircon yung mga banyo, may kape… hahaha. Maliit na bagay siguro para sa ibang tao pero sa football player, malaki ‘to.”

Rodriguez told how Monchu Garcia personally does the groceries for the out-of-town players who now stay in a nearby dorm. “I told Monchu how he and his wife have 25 new children. The family that plays together stays together.”

The DSLZ pitch alone is a huge morale booster. The pitch has a sign on the adjacent grandstand, “Home of Green Archers United.”

“Hindi na namin iisipin na ma-injure kami sa Cuenca o sa ibang field na pagumulan eh, bugbog yung field,” explained defender Reynald Villareal.

“Hindi na madudumihan yung spikes mo, yung damit mo,” threw in defender Manji Marcellana.

The program launching the new artificial turf field is short and simple. The main part of the program, of course, is an exhibition game between Forza and the DLSU Men’s Football Team. Before the program comes to an end, Bro. Dennis is called back front and center to make one final address to the small assembly.

“When I think of the old football field here, we used to have a sign that said, ‘Keep off the grass’. Now with the new turf field, we can keep that ‘Keep of the grass’ sign away.”

With that, longtime La Salle football coach Hans Smit closed the program, “I now invite everyone to walk around the grass. Take a walk on the wild side.”

With contractor Jeremy Rollin whose company Advantage Sports + Leisure built the turf field at DLSZ.

 With good friend Hans Smit who I just had to get a photo with as he was NOT in his usual shorts, kicks, green/white shirt and shades.

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