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.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Bleachers Brew #377 The top UFL stories of 2012-13

This appears in the Monday, June 17 edition of the Business Mirror.

Top UFL stories of 2012-13
by rick olivares

There are in principle, a few more matches to play. But the trophy is awarded. Here are the top five stories of the 2012-13 United Football League season (in descending order).

5. General Trias, er… Team Socceroo got promoted!
General Trias came out of nowhere to become the surprise team of the UFL Cup. With its Korean line-up (playing out of General Trias in Cavite), they made it all the way to the semifinals by playing possession-based football although they had a devil of the time scoring. Once there, they were dispatched by Stallion, one of three local clubs with a heavy Korean flavor (the other being Loyola).

After the cup, General Trias was hoping to join the UFL’s Division Two but the league opted not to expand. On the outside looking in, they got it by following the method of former Division Two club, Diliman.

Diliman, the University of the Philippines-flavored side, bought into Pachanga that was promoted to Division One at the end of the 2011-12 season. This year’s model is Team Socceroo that was languishing from all the defections of key players like Hector Zaghi and Daniel Matsunaga.

With the Koreans running amuck all over Division Two, they followed Global and Pachanga by winning the league title without losing a single match.

So Team Socceroo, that once got massacred by scorelines like 13-1 and 10-0  (they were also in the news due to the untimely passing of its founder Wool Reyes), will play Division One football next season albeit with a different look.

4. For Loyola, the song remains the same.
After Loyola made the 2011 UFL Cup Finals (where they lost to Air Force, 2-0), people thought they’d win the league with ease. The Sparks looked well on their way to accomplishing that until some late draws and losses saw them drop to a disappointing third.

For the 2012-13 season, they added former national and Pachanga striker Freddy Gonzalez, center back Rodrigue Nembot from Union, and saw the return of Matthew Hartmann from a yearlong suspension and an in-form Simon Greatwich. They had all the regulars from the previous season back. The thinking was they needed to grow together as a team; mature some. After all, they had bonded well during their four trips to Singapore for the 2012 Singapore Cup. And boy, the formula looked good. Except, Global ousted them in the UFL Cup semis. In league play, Loyola once more led for much of the season before running out of gas.

Sure they won and drew their final two games of the league but there was hardly any pressure as they were long since eliminated and another third place finish was already assured.

In terms of local football clubs, the Sparks are one of the most professional with player contracts, strict adherence to rules and regulations, proper kits, tournaments here and abroad, and more. They even changed their head coach. After a second success year without any title to show, the onus is on them to prove their worth. But you figure they’ll want to go through another season like that?

Real changes must be made or else the pressure will mount on this club that is at the crossroads.

3. Global didn’t win a championship.
Of all the new football clubs that formed recently, Global has been equal parts thunderbolt and trailblazer. The number of honors accorded them is unmatched in the brief history of the club – a Division Two title, a UFL Cup, a PFF Smart National Club Championship, and last year’s league title. And there’s a smaller tournaments such as the Alaska Cup where they have brought home the trophy as well.

This year, they got even better with the addition of players like Ben Starosta, Roland Sadia, and Koray Gunduzoglu to name a few. Scottish head coach Brian Reid improved their offense as their passing game became much better (after being a club that thrived on speedy wingers beating defenses). They’re defense was top-notch as well except for a few matches (they conceded six goals to Kaya and three to Loyola).

They looked to continue their run of championships but they ran into Stallion that defeated them 2-1 in the cup finals of 2012.

In league play, Global defeated Stallion twice but their inability to defeat Kaya and Loyola saw them cede their title as they failed to win a single championship this year.

2. Air Force got relegated
How the mighty have fallen!

During the 2011 UFL Cup Finals between Air Force and Loyola, I wondered aloud during the television broadcast if the former was like the vanguard of the old guard of Philippine football clubs trying to stem the tide of change. Change where the modern Filipino football club resembles those of its Western counterparts (note I said Western and not Asian) – heavily cosmopolitan.

After that cup title, Air Force had to weather a difficult league campaign that saw them fail to defend their title and fall to fifth.

During their cup defense, PAF failed to even get out of the group stages. Then they lost almost the entire core of their previous title teams including the team’s heart Chieffy Caligdong who transferred to Green Archers United. Air Force’s soul, Ian Araneta, has remained where he soldiered through a most difficult and embarrassing season. They took to the field with a wholly different look (they took in the Illongo refugees of Stallion) although the style of play was still the same. But it just wasn’t the same.

A few months later, the once proud military club has been relegated to Division Two with a 2-0-16 record following the heels of Navy the previous season while Army will have to battle Division Two’s second placer for survival.

The military clubs, the last bastion for home grown talent in UFL football, are down and nearly out. What does this all mean for homegrown football? This has yet to be answered.

1. Stallion won the double.
At the start of the 2011 league play, Stallion head coach Ernie Nierras called out television carrier AKTV for the non-inclusion of any of his players (as well as other clubs) in the television plug while only the Azkal-heavy clubs were featured.

No Azkals? No problem. Nierras and company built a team of Illongo stars (a vanishing breed though they are), Iloilo-based Koreans, and a dash of foreign players. The result? A double (cup and the league) last accomplished by Air Force during the 2009-10 season.

The accomplishment makes them the first non-Division Two champion (they were promoted as second to Nomads that won the title) to win both trophies and in only their second year of Div One play. That also earns them a trip to the AFC President’s Cup next year (Global represented the Philippines this year).

For Nierras, all the criticism about him and his team (you can thrown in the Malditas as well) feeds his motivation. You think Nierras is done? He’s still hearing everything. He’ll spend time with his family now (and the women’s national team but I’ll bet you lunch he can’t wait to take to the UFL pitch next season.

Next: What the UFL should look into for the next season or two.


  1. Nice nice Piece sir ric . parang ikaw lang ang writer na nag cocover ng UFL / Local football na very informative + good football insights , I don't know but ang iba jan , na writer jan parang piece of shit journalism / copy edit paste.. sorry but that's it . you're one of the best bloggers / writers about local football . i think

    1. Thank you. You are most kind. Will try to catch up. The last weeks I've been out of it.

  2. haha. Request sir ric , gawa ka ng piece about UFL XI for this season . Golden ball , golden glove , youth player of the year . hehe. I just like your football insights sir .