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, February 28, 2013

UFL Power Rankings as of Wednesday February 27, 2013

UFL Power Rankings as of Wednesday February 27, 2013

We asked four regular UFL watchers – Rick Olivares, Cedelf Tupas, Ryan Fenix, and Bob Guerrero -- to rank the Division One teams and here’s how the poll went.

1. Global
2. Loyola
3. Stallion
4. Pachanga
5. Nomads
6. Kaya
7. Green Archers United
8. PSG
9. Air Force
10. Army

The top three teams – Global, Loyola, and Stallion remain undefeated and have to face each other.

Global has been very impressive with its possession-based and passing game. This club has seen players who have contributed mightily to their championships in the past but incredibly, this club look even better now. Moving up Carli de Murga to an attacking position to go with spectacular new find Ben Starosta gives this team more flexibility in their attack. Now opponents cannot simply key on Izzo El Habbib. And there’s the matter of their top-notch defense.

A lot of teams reloaded in the off-season. Loyola stood pat on its lineup opting to work with the players they have. The only significant addition is striker Freddy Gonzalez who has added a frightening dimension to this squad. In the past year, they were predictable – you know the ball was going to Phil Younghusband. This year, PYH has been playing in a midfield position where his passing ability and defense have been a boon in the wake of the departure of Anto Gonzales. With brothers Matthew and Mark Hartmann playing an incredible stretch of football, Loyola looks good. Of course the true test for their title aspirations is when they match up with Global and Stallion, owners of the last two trophies in the UFL.

Stallion falls to three because their penchant for surrendering late goals. They’ve got a terrific starting eleven but there’s not much on the bench. Fortunately for this club, they do not give up cards in the manner they did in the previous season. This club has a potent attack owing to the high intelligence of its players. They have looked terrific for about 75 minutes but of late have surrendered goals to opponents giving them a glimmer of hope. This despite the addition of tough central back Jeremy Hohn who looks like to have a wicked boot of his own.

Pachanga are a game back behind the leaders. They’re tough on defense but still lack offensive bite. Maybe their sudden discovery that they have Joven Bedic will help.

Many didn’t expect much from Nomads this year. Some even picked them to be a candidate for relegation. Thus far, they’ve been bullish on defense. The problem is they need to score as well. James Woldring is a nice addition up front for this team that mainly used to count on Steven Borrill. When Phil Connolly rounds out into form this club should hum better in the midfield. But Nomads is playing good. They just need to score.

Why are people surprised that Kaya is struggling? You do not lose a firebrand in the midfield (Lexton Moy), a pest in the flanks (Prince Boley), and studs in the back (Jason Sabio, Nico Bolzico, and Adrien Semblat) and expect to rock. At least not right away. Now they have gone through their fourth head coach in three years. There’s no sign on who is the replacement for Maor Rozen who tenure with the club is the shortest at five matches (including the Smart Club Championships). At 1-1-2, it is an understatement that this club is struggling. Their next few matches are crucial. Obviously, it’s time for them to make a stand.

Perhaps no team has been more disappointing than Green Archers United. The good vibes of the Smart Club Championship have clearly worn off. The team has been wracked with personnel and personal problems and it has shown on the pitch. The on-field fight with Kaya has clearly not help and has hurt the team’s image. This club is too talented to be mired in the bottom. The only place for them to go is up. But they can ill afford another loss.

PSG is another club that looked impressive in the Smart Club Championship. But they’ve been exposed as a team lacking a system more so a cohesive attack. Clearly, midfield maestro Hamed Hajimehdi needs help but then again, they need a lot of help. Look for them to address part of their concerns in the March transfer window.

How the mighty have fallen. Their UFL Cup win of 2011 is looking more and more like their last hurrah. Air Force is retooling for the future and head coach Sgt. Edzel Bracamonte knows that this is just a bad stretch for the club. Even with an almost entirely different roster, Air Force has shown glimpses of attacking potential. But for that to be realized they have to finally put one in the back of the net. They are the only club yet to score after three games. The reason why they aren’t at the bottom of the power rankings has been their defense and heads up play by keeper Kenneth Dolloso.

Army is another team that is taking it on the chin, on the nose, and in the kisser. They have conceded 12 goals in three matches for an astounding four per match. Army has shown toughness and an ability to score early in the match or in the late stages. The problem is the long middle of the match – something like for about the 60 minutes in between. When they concede a goal they begin to lose shape. The question is for this proud military club is – what can they do to stave off relegation?

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Kaya ‘til the day they die: Ultras Kaya

Kaya 'til the day they die. Ultras Kaya try to lift up their club even after Kaya falls into a two-goal hole.

Kaya ‘til the day they die: Ultras Kaya
story & photos by rick olivares

There was a scrum in front of the Kaya goal. The Kaya defenders vainly tried to clear the ball away from the danger zone but Stallion forward Ruben Doctora was quicker to the ball. Doctora got a boot on the ball and it beat keeper Saba Garmaroudi for the opening goal of the match.

“Score some goals!” cries out Xerxes Garcia.

And the Ultras Kaya – all 14 present; two-thirds of the listed members present began to pogo and chant “Score some goal. Score some goals.”

It doesn’t look good for Kaya. Minutes later, Stallion doubles their lead when Bervic Italia's long range shot curves right in for a goal. Stallion’s supporters let out a loud cheer but not as loud as the Ultras Kaya who redoubled their efforts in spite of the deep hole their cherished club had fallen into.

Ultras Kaya head Xerxes Garcia
Welcome to Ultras Kaya, one of four organized booster groups of UFL club (the others being Air Force, Global, and Loyola). The group was organized in 2011 by club fans led by Garcia. The “Do-It-Yourself” spirit is prevalent among the club members. They receive no subsidy, food or material gifts from the club yet they produce their own shirts and scarves using their own money. “We’re hardcore,” smiles one group member who refused to be identified. “Hardcore.”

Garcia says not receiving anything from Kaya is fine. “No true ultras group asks for anything in return.” The acknowledgement of the players after matches is good enough for them. It’s love for the club and the game itself. Once in a while, the parents of some of the players bring over chocolates. If there’s left over bottled water or Gatorade from the match, Kaya team manager Dhen Alegre brings it over. “Of course, we’re grateful for what is given.”

Currently, there are 21 listed members of the group. During games there are always at least seven members present. Garcia and drummer Anton Pateña are the regulars. Tonight, leading them on a microphone is a young kid who looks like he should be in bed getting ready for school the following day instead of being at the Emperador Field in BGC. Ten-year old Shane Clemente by no means is a mascot. He holds his own and is deadly serious about cheering.

All ultras have 20 songs and chants to learn from. All 20 are cheered every game non-stop for the entire game (the only respite they have is during halftime). The songs and chants are mainly Eastern European based. They are posted in a private online site for the members for them to download and learn the words. “The songs and our inspiration is researched and studied. We take time to develop them to see if it works in a local setting. We have no rehearsals” says Garcia. “We expect everyone to know every word to every song and chant when they get to the stadium.”

Kaya midfielder OJ Porteria is felled just outside the box eliciting a free kick and a chance to pull back one goal. Porteria measures his shot but its high and wide. The ultras switch to their version of the Atlanta Braves’ famed “Tomahawk Chop” complete with the chopping hand gesture. It’s the closest chant they have to anything that resembles aggression. Stallion fans taunt the ultras but the Kaya booster group isn't biting. “We promote the peace and brotherhood that Kaya espouses,” clarifies Garcia. “We’re not about violence. We are about peace and love for football and Kaya. Until the day we die.”

Ultras Kaya drummer Anton Pateña

Monday, February 25, 2013

From Maor Rozen on leaving Kaya

Manila, February 24, 2013.

Dear Sirs,


Hereby I would like to give answers to all your questions about my resignation of yesterday, Feb.23, 2013 as the Head Coach of Kaya FC.

This resignation was informed by writing yesterday to the President of the Club, Mr. Santiago Araneta. KAYA ́s statement was already published in the website of the Club, and according to what I explained you (and I appreciate your kind understanding), after this statement I can give you the main reason of this hard decision.

This is the first time in my 28 years as a Football Coach, which more than 20 as a Professional Coach that I resign. It means the decision was not easy. The pain is deep.

But sometimes Coach has to sacrifice himself for the good of a team, his players, the Club, the fans. And unfortunately this time came now after so many years of coaching in different continents of the world.

It was my failure not to have been able to extract the best from the players who were part of the roster of the Club, who have a supreme quality as footballers. I take my responsibility thereon.

I understood that the best and the most honest decision that I could follow was to facilitate to the club to look for a different alternative in the professional management of the team. I am talking about commitment, feelings and other values that I received along my life, also and especially in the Philippines.

My honesty and professionalism was in play and even sacrificing my own interests, I owe fidelity and respect to the President of the Club, his staff and the players.

I will continue assisting the football in the Philippines as I am doing since 2007 from different positions. Philippines is in my heart and I will try from my trench to continue fighting for the improvement of the football here with the humility of always and the respect by the Filipino values.

Moreover, I encourage you, the media people, to continue supporting the best development of the football in the country, for the good of the sport, your rich culture and the new generations to come.

Thanking you in advance I would like through you to thank all the innumerable demonstrations of support I receive daily from here and from abroad from people that know my professional and human behavior and that know the hard time I am living.

At the end, I would like to express my deep gratitude to KAYA FC in all its stratums for the support, respect towards my professional work and the human warmth of its components.

Any other questions you want to ask me, it will be a pleasure for me to answer you personally.

Maor Rozen
UEFA Pro License Coach

Ateneo wins the UAAP Men's Football Championship

An unexpected but welcome championship
Ateneo bags an unlikely UAAP football title
by rick olivares

A season has many images. When a team wins, the image most often associated with it is when the players lift the trophy amidst a cacophony of emotions.

My memory of this season begins with the second round match against FEU.

The Tamaraws went ahead in the 12th minute of play when striker Eric Giganto fired a thunderous shot that beat Ateneo keeper Nick O’Donnell for the first time all season. FEU rejoiced. Revenge for their first round loss seemed at hand.

However, once the second half began, Ateneo took over as they began to outplay the talented Tams. The problem was in the finishing.

The two teams have much history for the core of both squads battled for several years in the juniors ranks. Both claimed a pair of titles off each other. There’s respect and a dash of animosity. But in this match, it was the latter than reared its ugly head as the game turned more physical.

Ateneo lost its previous match; it’s one and only loss for the entire season to La Salle, 2-nil. And a second consecutive loss would be costly as it would drop them further in the standings.

With time running out, freshman Carlo Liay headed in a cross by Mikko Mabanag that found the back of the net. It was an 89th minute miracle. And the Blue Booters went on to salvage a hard earned 1-1 draw that kept them atop the standings.

As soon as the final whistle blew, defender Luis Mendoza ran onto the pitch and tugged on his shirt to emphasize the “Ateneo” emblazoned in front. “Hindi kayo mananalo sa amin,” yelled Mendoza after the contentious and heated contest.

All season long I wondered if Ateneo could win it all? That confirmed it. What kind of men are these to dare the favorites? The passing machine and joga bonito-style side known as the FEU Tamaraws? Are they mad? Yet even so they also must be good.

Somehow not too long ago that didn’t seem so.

Flash back to Season 74, the Blue Booters finished second to the last. Somewhat better than the previous year where they were dead last in the standings. It was the first and only time Ateneo had fallen to the cellar since the school transferred to the UAAP in 1978.

In Season 74, the team oft lost in the final 10-15 minutes of play. Oh, they were a tough team to beat all right.

The highlight of that season were its two wins over La Salle, a much better and deeper squad. If anything, it said something of their promise.

When Nick O’Donnell, Carlo Liay, Val Calvo joined the their fellow freshmen in Eric Figueroa, Chris Sumulong, Emilio Pelaez (from the Ateneo High School), Armand Gozali and John Christopher Aw Young from Xavier, I got excited and felt that we had a young and talented team. But it frightened me too because in many ways, it reminded me of the composition of the 2008 Blue Booters team that lost to FEU in the finals.

That 2008 team had a stud goalkeeper in RS Mantos, the Rookie of the Year in Migs Tuazon, backup keeper Yu Murayama, scoring sensation Gerard Cancio, and veterans Pat Ozaeta, Alvin Perez, and Gino Tongson. There were a lot of youngsters and a few vets. In Game 2 of the finals, the pressure got to them and the Tamaraws won that pivotal match.

My indelible image of that game was team captain Pat Ozaeta gathering his fallen and grieving teammates. “Get up, guys,” Ozaeta firmly commanded. “Atenista tayo. Let’s take this like men.”

When Ateneo figured in a scoreless draw with UE to start Season 75, they looked promising. They held the ball, dominated possession, and had scoring opportunities. But that’s UE, the devil’s advocate in me said.

Now when they beat UP, 1-0, in their first round encounter and FEU by the same scoreline, I began to feel good about our chances.

Incredibly, they kept winning. No matter if the scorelines were 1-0. They were collecting the three full points available. Liay began to play better. Calvo was a scoring revelation. The defense was a tough nut to crack.

Ah, the defense. I remember Enzo Bonoan’s freshman year. He was in and out of the lineup as he looked soft and inconsistent. Not this year. He was solid on the right back position.

And there was Mikko Mabanag. Time was he was too feisty for his own good. Always getting into fights. I have been mentoring Mabanag since his fourth year in high school all the way to the NCR U-23 team he made. The kid had talent but lacked the composure to become the true wizard he is in the midfield. I had seen him in high school and he was a talent. The trick was to help him rein in those emotions and become a better leader on and off the pitch.

I included him in the Clear Dream Match that was held at the University of Makati last year. In that match, he was named the “Best Midfielder”.

The way he raided opposing midfielders, set up plays, made those crosses, and helped out on defense has been a massive advantage for Ateneo. The only other player who did the same thing for their team was FEU’s Arnel Amita.

After dusting off La Salle in a penalty shootout, there was one team left – the University of the Philippines Fighting Maroons; winners of three titles in the last four seasons. If Ateneo wanted to be champions, they had to go through the champs.

In one of those weird déjà vu moments with the 2008 season, I remember UP making noises about finally having a team that could compete for a title. They had Stephen Permanes, Allan Serna, Deo Segunial, Andoni Santos, Nacho Mendezona, Andrei Mercader, Jay Eusebio, Nathan Octavio, and Jed Rances to name a few.

In the second round, Ateneo got back at the Fighting Maroons with some players saying that this wasn’t their time.

Well it wasn’t for UP just yet but it wasn’t for Ateneo either that season.

And this season you had Ateneo players yapping at FEU that it wasn’t their time yet. Could this be the time of the blue and white?

Despite the graduation of much of its title core over the years, UP still was a terrific football team. They had an up-and-coming keeper in Ace Villanueva and old reliable Ty Caballes who once backstopped for Ateneo. They had the bullstrong Daniel Gadia, the speedy Michael Simms, the slippery Albert Yatco, and veterans Valmayor, Segunial, Fernandez, and company. And on the bench were to of the brightest tacticians in local football – Anto Gonzales and Frank Muescan.

In their trophy case are 16 gleaming UAAP football trophies. They are one of the best footballing schools in the country.

Ateneo has 11 football titles. Six in the NCAA: 1924, 1941, 1951, 1953, 1954, and 1967; and five in the UAAP: 1996, 1999, 2004, 2005, and 2006.

The last time both teams met in the UAAP Finals was in 2004 where the Blue Booters piped the Ariel Zerrudo-led squad.

UP has their fearsome striker in Jinggoy Valmayor.

Ateneo has no striker. None. Zip. Nada. All season long we played without a natural striker.

UP has its national players in Valmayor, Raymark Fernandez, and Deo Segunial.

Ateneo has none. Their only players with UFL experience were Jacobo Lorenzo who was on Kaya’s bench a year ago and Nick O'Donnell who had gotten a little playing time with Loyola two years ago.

In Game One, the Blue Booters were obviously nervous. They were slow, they missed their spots, and couldn’t really control the ball. They conceded a first half goal to Vincent Aguilar.

I noted that even in the first half, Ateneo made all its runs on the right side of their field (the Maroons’ left). UP was funneling the Blue Booters to the left where their defense in the middle and the back was stronger. Once the ball got there, they trapped the ball carrier and went on the counter. I passed on the notes to Greg Madrona, the Ateneo's goalkeeping coach, who in turn in he gave to head coach JP Merida who was making adjustments on the midfield and on defense.

In the second half, part of the Ateneo coaching staff's game plan was to continue the assault on UP's weaker right side. The substitutes for Ateneo – Chris Sumulong and Luis Mendoza – were impact subs and it was the former who launched the cross – from the right side – that Yu Murayama headed in. Yu's header sent the match into extra period and into penalties where the Blue Booters pulled out another rabbit.

In Game Two, Valmayor was back after missing the first match. However, their top rookie, Daniel Gadia, was out on account of two yellow cards. But so was Ateneo's Jico Noel who was a bedrock at the back four.

Basically, the team had to make a stand now. A Game Three would be disastrous. Six players had yellow cards. There was no telling how the officiating would go and if any would be docked another card as well. A loss would give UP the momentum and they would surely use their championship experience to the hilt.

I sent a message to Merida (with his permission), Mabanag, and Bonoan with an idea on stopping UP. I always thought that one of their problems offensively this season was putting Michael Simms in a holding position. I thought the previous year, he was electric on the wing. Placing him in the back deprived UP of that speed on the flanks.

Having watched almost all of UP’s matches this season, I thought they fell into a predictable pattern. Simms and Nathan De Guzman would move up and force the midfield to confront them. That would open up some space then they would launch those long balls in Valmayor’s direction.

The idea was to stop those two from sending those long balls and to force them to put the ball on the ground; something they were not adept at I felt all season long. They preferred to led Gadia or De Guzman run up. Not having Gadia was huge. He was like Valmayor; knowing how to use his body on the turn before firing.

They weren’t really a team that liked to build up their attack from the back unlike Ateneo. If the Maroons could be forced to put the ball on the ground then players like Mabanag, Calvo, and Figueroa with their pesky defending could strip them of the ball and go on a quick counter.

And it worked. Ateneo had a lot more dangerous runs inside but couldn’t score.

At the start of the match I also noticed that two physical therapists were working on Valmayor’s leg. Maybe he wasn’t 100%, I thought to myself and relayed the message to the coaches. And true enough, he didn’t seem to have that speed.

That meant he would conserve himself and pick his spots to run. Just do not give him space where he could hurt us.

If UP was expecting Ateneo to attack from the right, this time, they did the reverse. They attacked the left side with better support. They had plenty of scoring opportunities on this side but still couldn’t finish.

By the extra period, the team was running on fumes. It was as if they were just waiting to send the match into a penalty shootout. The team was quite confident of their chances there. After all, they had won their last two shootouts and they had a safety net in goalkeeper Nick O'Donnell who was undoubtedly the top keeper in the league.

And so it went to another shootout.

Eric Figueroa sent Ty Caballes the wrong way and a 1-0 Ateneo lead.

As for UP, I was surprised when it was Evan Mendoza who went to take the first spot kick.

The first thing that came to my mind when it wasn’t Valmayor who took the first penalty shot was Cristiano Ronaldo not getting a chance to shoot against Spain in the last World Cup. Don’t you want to start a little sure footed?

Mendoza had come in late in the extra period. But who knows? Maybe he was fully confident. Except that he scuffed his shot and it went wide setting the tone for the Maroons.

Caballes trooped to the goal with his shoulders hunched. The body language said it all.

Calvo also sent Caballes the wrong way and now it was 2-0, Ateneo.

Then it was Raymark Fernandez’ turn but O’Donnell parried it away. The Maroons were now in trouble.

Caballes guessed right for Mabanag’s shot but the ball was high and in; 3-nil Ateneo.

Finally, Valmayor took his spot kick and he buried it; 3-1 still Ateneo. But there was no show of emotion.

Liay sent his shot way up high and suddenly there was a glimmer of hope for UP.

Fe Baya caught O’Donnell looking with his shot and it was 3-2. Now it was up to team captain Yu Murayama to end a six-year title drought.

His shot was similar to Mabanag’s – to the keeper’s right but high. Caballes flailed at the ball but it was gone.

Ateneo had done the improbable. They had won three consecutive penalty shootouts –one against La Salle and two against UP to annex their sixth UAAP Men’s Football Championship.

It was a most unexpected but welcome title considering that the team was never mentioned as a pre-season contender.

But they showed a lot of heart and resiliency. They conceded the fewest goals all season long – four. They had beaten every team in the league.

And now... they were champions.

After Migs Tuazon’s bittersweet 2008 season and the succeeding years where the team floundered, he thought of giving up. But former Ateneo captain Gab Siojo told him to keep on trucking because before his time would be done, he would win a UAAP title. “I held Gab to his promise,” said a tearful Tuazon who hugged Siojo post-match.

Mabanag also was in tears. After his senior year in high school where the juniors team lost to FEU, he thought about not playing in college. But the youngster persevered and now he had a title to go with the one he won in high school.

Murayama was another unlikely hero in the most unlikely of seasons. After tending the nets in the second round La Salle match that Ateneo lost, he was pulled out after the second goal. Yu was in tears as he sat on the bench.

In Season 74, he played a field position as Joel Faustino was the starting keeper. In the second round match against the Green Archers, Faustino got injured and Murayama put on the goalkeeper’s gloves. He went on to stop a barrage of shots that preserved a win for Ateneo; one of three wins for the tournament.

In the penalty shooutout against La Salle in the semifinals, Murayama missed his spot kick. Yet in the Game One shooutout against UP, Merida kept him in. He repaid his coach’s faith with a match-winning penalty.

And now he did it again.

Val Calvo buried his father not too long ago. There’s been a void left behind but he still kept trucking. “I know that he is cheering for me up there,” he said with red eyes.

JP Merida took on a team that was fractured. There wasn’t one practice where this player fought that player. There were people who didn’t like one another on the team. It was that bad. But Merida slogged on. He reminded them every single day that the only one who can help them on the pitch was their teammate. He worked on players and got them to believe.

The result is the first time since 1941 that Ateneo bagged the men’s basketball and men’s football titles in one season. And Merida is the first Atenean to win a football title as a player and as a coach.

As the celebrating crowds thinned out. There was an unobtrusive reunions of sorts on the pitch. They were the two men who collectively led Ateneo to the three-peat of 2004-06 and the 2013 championship.

Arnulfo “Ompong” Merida and his nephew JP posed with the trophy. “Magaling si JP,” said the elder Merida. “Sana start ito ng panibagong championship run.”

The two walked towards the bench arm in arm.

And maybe that’s the best image to remember this championship season.

Ompong and JP Merida: the last two men to lead Ateneo to a series of football championships. God bless you both!
For the 2013 Ateneo Men's Football Team and the teams of 2008-12.


In 1941, Ateneo won the NCAA Football Championship when Simon La’O scored the game winning goal in the dying seconds of the game against La Salle. The La Salle keeper at that time was Louie Javellana who would later transfer to Ateneo and win a title with Spanish coach Teo Erenchun at the helm. The day after Ateneo won the ’41 NCAA title, the Japanese bombed the Philippines signaling the start of the Pacific War. 

With the Blue Booters right before Game One. 

Giving the Ateneo side a pep talk.

I had good teachers - Chris Monfort and Bert Honasan. Thanks for teaching me the game.

Much respect to Anto Gonzales, Frank Muescan and John Gutierrez. UP Fight!