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, December 5, 2013

Hector Zaghi realizes his football dreams in the Philippines & the UFL

From Brazil with love:
Hector Zaghi realizes his football dreams in the Philippines
by rick olivares photo from hector zaghi's FB page

Who would have thought that a faraway patch of land, or football pitch if you will, would give rise to a Brazilian’s football dreams?

It’s not a local version of Linsanity but the journey of Hector Zaghi is unusual as it isn’t every day where you hear of a Brazilian realizing his football dreams in the Philippines.

The long ball drifted towards Hector Zaghi who was just outside the box. The Brazilian midfielder for Stallion was unable to control the ball as two Global defenders converged on him. Although the ball escaped him neither were the Global players able to take possession. Knowing that he had one chance to fire a shot, Zaghi extended his right foot and just managed to boot the ball towards the right corner just past the extended arms of keeper Jerome Etoundi.


Zaghi’s Stallion teammates celebrated with him on the pitch.

The celebration however, was short lived, as Global came roaring back with two unanswered goals for a 2-1 win.

Despite the loss, Zaghi and his Stallion teammates eventually lifted the league trophy completing a most unexpected double for 2012-13.

Unexpected is right.

With a population of close to 190 million, you can expect the football scene in Brazil to be crowded. “In our country, football is our way of life,” elucidated Zaghi. “Every little kid has a dream to be a professional footballer. It doesn't matter what their situation in life is --  if they have a soccer ball they know how to have fun.”

The Sao Paolo native grew up loving the game. “I always played street football since young,” Zaghi recalled. “As a boy, you dream about playing in the big stadium but first, that's there’s street football. I think I don't know anyone in Brazil that never played street football.”

And if one is from Sao Paolo, the third largest city in the Western Hemisphere, most likely one is a Corinthians fan.

The 113-year old club is one of the country’s most popular football teams. Affectionately known as Timao, they have seen some of the best that Brazil has to offer in Corinthians black and white: Socrates, Marcelo, Dida, Gil, Ronaldo Fenomeno, and Robert Carlos are but a few and are the stars of the current and recent generations.

Gushed Zaghi, “They will always be my favorite team.”

The Timao’s home pitch is the Estádio Municipal Paulo Machado de Carvalho yet like every Brazilian name, it is also known by simply one name… Pacaembu.

“I've Corinthians twice at the stadium,” said Zaghi. “If I can’t get in, I always watch them on TV. Even today if I can.”

But life in Sao Paolo is expensive. “If you don’t have a job it is not easy,” underscored Zaghi.

So Zaghi let go of his football dream to work in an office. He did everything from fix computers to working in a t-shirt stamping business.

While his best friend, Zaydan Timpani moved to the Philippines for a modeling career, Zaghi stayed behind in Sao Paolo. Timpani joined Team Socceroo at a time when football was bursting on the Philippine scene.

Timpani called Zaghi and invited him to come over to give the local football scene a try. “He called me asking if I wanted to come to Philippines and try to play here,” Zaghi recalled of that fateful phone conversation that would eventually change his life. “He said that he would buy my plane ticket but I would have to take care of myself. I said yes I can go and try and he said that I don't need to pay him back if nothing happened here.”

During Team Socceroo’s UFL debut, they had the living crap kicked out of them by Loyola in a 15-1 thrashing in the 2011 Cup. But the team got better and eventually advanced to the knockout stages where they were felled by Kaya, 2-0.

Despite the rawness of the team, Zaghi was one of the few who stood out. Eventually, teams sought his services. He joined Pachanga as they were ascending from Division II before moving to another rising team, Stallion.

In a team like Stallion that at that time a bevy of goal scorers like Ruben Doctora Jr., Lee Joo Young, and Rufo Sanchez, even Zaghi could not be overlooked. Once he got into game shape and was focused, he ran the midfield with a deft touch and spry feet.

Noted former Pachanga teammate and national player Anto Gonzales, “Hector is very good and confident with the ball on his feet. He likes to beat defenders 1v1 because he has good speed and strength.”

The Sao Paolo native scored seven goals for Team Socceroo in 2011, one for Pachanga in 2012, and three for Stallion in 2013.

Imagine this… a young man from perhaps the most football crazy of all nations on God’ green Earth finding nirvana playing professional football in the Philippines!

“I've never played professional before Philippines,” revealed Z. “That's why I'm so thankful to this country and the UFL. It is where I got the opportunity to make my dream come true.”

After trying to help Stallion defend its cup title (they were ousted in the knockout stages), Zaghi is looking forward to go home for a vacation in Brazil. He hopes to join any club that hopes to acquire his services.

“I don't know yet what's gonna happen but the only thing that I want is keep playing professional football doesn't matter where! Football For me is more than a job, that's a dream!”

With next year being a World Cup year and in Brazil no less, Zaghi is excited.

“But yes, I’ll be watching it from my second home, the Philippines.”

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