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.

Friday, March 1, 2013

Coach Maor Rozen: Ole Blue Eyes on Kaya and his football odyssey

With Coach Maor Rozen and a keepsake he gave me from Andaluza and Xerez.

Ole Blue Eyes on Kaya and his football odyssey
by rick olivares

“I can tell you that Kaya did not hire me for my blue eyes.”

Maor Rozen and I laughed aloud. A Sinatra fan, I offer. He smiles broadly.

We met up at the Coffee Bean café that is a stone’s throw away from my office and Rozen’s Burgos Circle residence for a chat about his sudden departure from Kaya and the next stage of his life.

In a few days’ time, Rozen, the Uruguayan national is moving back to Spain. He is a frequent traveler teaching and coaching the game he leaves. His work has taken him all over the world; a virtual traveler, jetsetter, and football lifer.

He has a UEFA coaching course to give in Spain in few months. With his time done, at least for now, in the Philippines, he wants to arrive a little earlier and to see what else the Iberian country has to offer. “My friend Juan Cutillas was recently there to watch football matches, Atletico Madrid, Madrid, whoever… the best football in the world is currently played there. Coaches should continue to watch, learn, and to adapt.”

Rozen talks about the sport with the passion of a poet. He tells of his travels and his work abroad. Then he segues on how he got to the Philippines (through Negros Occidental Football Association President Charlie Cojuangco).

If the passion is there, I ask, then why did the club’s fourth head coach in the past three years leave so abruptly? He insists that he wasn’t fired or pushed out of Kaya and it was simply time to move on. Maybe it isn’t the right circumstance.

The Uruguayan leaves with a 3-1-2 record that includes matches from the recently concluded PFF Smart National Club Championship and the UFL. He leaves behind a legacy of having the shortest coaching stint with the club and having opened eyes with what the kids brought up from the Kaya Academy can do. And there’s beating Loyola – a source of club frustration at losing a pair of highly forgettable matches, at least from their point of view, and conceding a late draw for another heartbreaker-- for the first time in more than a year.

He doesn’t have anything bad to say about his former club, any other club for the matter, or any other player. From the time he coached several Philippine Youth Teams to taking over Union a few years ago, the coach has remained professional in his dealings. “The world is a small place,” he explains with a shrug. “Maybe one day I will be back here to coach a Philippine club. Who knows? So why burn bridges?”

“I think I can only do so much and I think I did it to the best of what I can,” he said. “You have to remember that we lost a lot of players. We lost three of our four starting defenders. We lost a few midfielders. It takes time to grow and develop a new team. No championships are won over night.”

I ask if the club tried to stop his resignation; his answer was ‘no’. “I told Santi (Araneta, the club owner and UFL Chairman) that I wish I had more Dhen Alegres around (the ever helpful team manager).”

The answers to my questions are cryptic.

“Icons,” he says then pauses for a second for effect. “There are club icons. When Jose Mourinho came to Real Madrid, he brought in all these new players. Angel Di Maria, Ozil, Khedira, Alonso… Raul knew that his time in Madrid was coming to an end. And Raul is an icon. But he never said anything. He moved to Schalke and some Middle Eastern country after. But he never said anything about Madrid. One day, Raul will be back in Madrid. As a manager, an ambassador, or in some other capacity. But that is the way with icons.”

“Any coach will not come in a continue what was previously done. Or else why get a new coach?”

He was brought in December of last year but only planed in to Manila early January. Even while in Spain, he sent over to team management on drills and other exercises they must do. “When the Smart Club Championships started, we only had a few days’ of practice. It’s a new team in many ways.”

Rozen reiterates a statement: “One does not win overnight when you lose players as crucial to what we lost.”

After leaving Kaya, he watched his former club play Stallion in a 2-1 loss. From the bleachers section of the Emperador Stadium, Rozen rooted for his former team. “I want them to win. It is strange. I’ve only been with the club for a short time but I love it. I hope my leaving will be a blessing for the team.”

Even before going to Kaya, Rozen could be seen in almost every tournament in the country from the NCAA to the UAAP to tournaments in the Visayas and Mindanao. He studies local football and takes down extensive notes on what he sees. He also looks for bright young talent that can be honed and taught. He once had Ateneo players Carlo Liay and Nick O’Donnell with the Under-19 team. He saw them progress all the way to their eventual enrollment in Ateneo where they helped the school to their first UAAP football title in seven years. He got them to agree to go to Kaya but with his departure, their status remains unclear.

“I wasn’t just looking to this tournament but the next. Kaya has a good team but needs help everywhere. If we cannot get the big (name) national players then we build our own.”

Ever the student of the game, Rozen refers to the time when Manchester United brought in young players like Ryan Giggs, David Beckham, Paul Scholes, and the Neville brothers from their youth system and powered the Red Devils to English Premier League dominance. “Some times you take chances,” he says. “Some times you have players play other positions because you do not have the right players at the moment. The challenge for any club is to fill up the holes and make them work. You work with what you have not what with you do not have.” 

With that in mind, he unleashed Kaya’s younger players especially the call-ups from the youth academy. Rozen is happy for the playing time that Junior Muñoz, Jiggs Mendoza, Enzo Pinga, and Kenshiro Daniels got. OJ Porteria flourished and suddenly became perhaps Kaya’s biggest scoring threat with Eric Dagroh working his way back from an injury.

“These days, the results, will mean something to club later. I do what I do for the club. It is as they say, ‘Una Kaya’ and everything that has happened and maybe including my leaving is for the best.”

Safe trip and journey, coach! 

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