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.

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Bleachers Brew #398 A Clear Football Dream (on Clear Dream Match III)

This appears in the Tuesday, June 10, 2014 edition of the Business Mirror.

A clear football dream
by rick olivares pics by ryan ong and me

I am not a Manchester United fan. Let’s get that out of the way. I bleed the other red; of the Liverpool kind and have been for over 40 years of my life. But you have to pay respect to some folks who are legends in the game. Besides, hospitality is a trait we Filipinos are known for.

So with the Clear Dream Match III, the finale of this “sibling rivalry” between James and Phil Younghusband came to a close. And the participation of MUFC legends Andy Cole and Paul Scholes made it even better. Remember last year there was Fabio Cannavaro and Dennis Wise to grace what has become an annual football all-star game.

During the press conference for the Clear Dream Match III, a bemused Cole wondered aloud, “I looked at the scores of the past two games, 4-1, 5-1; does anyone play defense?”

It is a funny remark for someone who was so single-minded in his game when he foraged forward against opposing defenses.

On a clear and humid night, there was good football and yet incredibly it produced only one goal. Must have the mud helped teams score a ton of goals? The University of Makati pitch never looked so good (thanks largely to the event organizers who rehabilitated the pitch for a month). It was in the best shape since it was first built and while still not world-class as you could see the ball take some weird bounces, it was much better than the mud-pit that characterized the first two Clear Dream Matches.

As for the game, you have to credit the goal keepers. Roland Sadia and Patrick Deyto set the tone (as did the other keepers like Nick O’Donnell and Ed Sacapaño) but Sadia…. Holy Guacamole! What a performance. How he turned back those shots by Kenshiro Daniels!

Cole had a chance to score but he muffed it and we were all wondering why it was only towards the end that Scholes was given a chance to take a free kick (c’mon Team Phil, this is Scholes and he scores goals). And the crowd waited with baited breath just like we all did with David Beckham several years ago.

But it all came down to a friend whose move from Stallion to the Loyola Meralco Sparks I facilitated – Joaco Cañas. In his Facebook page the other day (after the dinner with the MUFC legends), he posted, “Great things are happening for me in the Philippines.” And how!

When Cañas first came over as a part of International de Madrid, the player everyone wanted on their team was Rufo Sanchez. And why not? Like Scholes, Rufo scores goals. The other Madrid stars were Sardi Olalia and Juli Bautista. Joaco was a surprise pickup for Stallion.

Now consider this. In four UFL tournaments, Cañas is a three-time winner -- two with Stallion and one with Loyola. He is now helping the Sparks in their Singapore Cup campaign. And to add to his Philippine resume, he was named the Clear Dream Match III’s Best Player and winner of the Best Defender Award.

With the match close to its 70th minute, Cañas felt some pain in his foot and it made moving around difficult. “Just five more minutes,” he thought to himself. “Then I will go out of the game.”

On a corner kick from the right side, Chieffy Caligdong, showed why he’s still got game when he purposely targeted Cañas “who was the open man” as Chieffy noted. The Spaniard rose and headed home the lone goal against his Loyola teammate Baba Sampana.

“To head in a goal from Chieffy, someone I respect a lot and look forward to playing with in this match… it’s a dream,” glowed Cañas on the bench of Team James.

To date, the Spaniard has scored eight goals in the Philippines – four for Stallion, three for Loyola, and this one that gave the trophy to James Younghusband. “Of those eight goals?” Joaco told me on the bench. “I scored seven of them with my head and only one with my foot.”

An amazing bit of trivia that opposing teams should know of and I am telling them here. Hahaha!

People would have loved to see an Andy Cole or Paul Scholes goal but everyone had to settle for witnessing the quality of their play even if they have not played competitively in some time. Cole was finding his teammates with some nifty passes (there’s a lesson for you players, make that pass and stop dribbling the ball like you’re playing basketball) while Scholes displayed deftness in the midfield that he ran with such eloquence. At the end of it, they played simple and fundamental football that may look boring to the casual or non-fan and it was fun to watch if you love the nuances of the game.

And Cole was a fab interview. During an interview with Cedelf Tupas, Anthony Suntay and myself, I asked who he enjoyed playing with. Quipped Andy, “Anyone who would pass the ball to me.” Of course it was a joke.

Then post-match, I asked who he thought was the best player on the pitch, Cole got everyone laughing when he blurted out – jokingly once more – “Myself.”

Here’s another thing, James Younghusband won this “war” but the ultimate winner is Tony Toni of Boys Nite Out. He is the only participant in the Clear Dream Match to have come away with a winner’s medal every year. He played on Team Phil the first year and was with Team James in the last two. Although he didn’t suit up this year, he is still part of the team.

Said the ever loquacious host and radio personality, “Just when I am in the best shape of my life I find myself on the bench. But the pressure, man… the pressure. At least I can say that I have more medals than either brother.”

Hahaha. That’s just like Robert Horry having more NBA championship rings than Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant. Hahaha.

The game was no laugher no and it would have been close to perfect were it not for that horrible mid-air collision between Phil Younghusband and Reynald Villareal. Phil had to be rushed to the nearby St. Luke’s Hospital where he underwent a CT scan and a X-Ray of the cervical spine (as well as a neurologist checking him out). Luckily, he check out all right.

Okay it’s only an exhibition match and calling it a dream finale will not come close if any Philippine club or the national team books a finals wrap in some huge tournament. But consider this… this has been the only “All-Star Football Game” in the country. Since 2010, we’ve seen World Cup qualifiers played here. The LA Galaxy with David Beckham and Landon Donovan come over (the Beckham goal is a priceless memory even if it was scored at the expense of a local side). We’ve had Fabio Cannavaro (dude that’s a legit World Cup, Serie A and La Liga champion right there) here. And we’ve got a World Cup veteran and Bundesliga champion and MLS veteran for a national head coach. The national team made the AFC Challenge Cup.

For those who dreamed of football growing in this country, so much is happening.

It is no longer a dream but a reality.


Thanks Cathy Nazareno, Drew Copuyoc, Aika Lim, Franco Santos, Jojo Durian, James and Phil Younghusband, and the fine folks at TYFA. 

Check out that UMAK pitch! 

These -- for lack of a better term -- drum corps or samba players were a nice touch to the game.

There was a brief water/Gatorade break during the first half (since it is an exhibition game) because we didn't want any cramping episode after the UMAK airconditioner broke down (hahaha there was no AC joking). Of course it was humid so the organizers were concerned.

Tony Toni and I have three fingers raised to celebrate his three winners medals. He has more than the two Younghusband Brothers.

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