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.

Saturday, January 27, 2018

Brazilian and football great Zico urges Pinoys to learn and to not let go in football

Brazilian and football great Zico urges Pinoys to learn and to not let go in football
by rick olivares

Arthur Antunes Coimbra known to the world at large as “Zico” the great football player arrived in Manila Friday, January 26, for a whirlwind promotional tour for less than 48 hours.

The 64-year old Zico is a guest of Seven Seas Properties that promotes Philippine real estate and Philippine stocks in the Japanese market Philippines. The Brazilian made a name for himself as an attacking midfielder first for Flamengo in his home country, then Udinese in Italy, and with the national team where he had a brilliant career. After he hung up his boots, the Brazilian found his second calling in coaching where he’s had a remarkable career with Fenerbahce in Turkey and Bunyodkor in Uzbekistan where he led both clubs to multiple championships.

Yet for all his coaching achievements, it is in Japan where he tasted his biggest international success. Zico is revered in the Land of the Rising Sun for leading the Blue Samurai to the 2004 Asian Cup title as well as to the 2006 FIFA World Cup in Germany.

Prior to stopping over at Sparta (Sports and Recreational Training Arena) along Pioneer Street in Mandaluyong City to give a talk to participants in the Brazilian Soccer Schools, Zico dropped by the Manila Cathedral to pray.

“I am a man of faith and religion plays a large part in my life,” related Zico through an interpreter. “I am getting older now and I constantly pray to God to give me strength to carry on in coaching the young. It is also through football that I honor him.”

“The game keeps me young. On the other hand, the kids today make me feel old,” he joked.

There is much to learn from the footballer who was voted as the eighth greatest football player of the 20th Century.

“Although my time in Manila is short, I hope the kids listen to what I have to say,” underscored Zico. While coaching Japan’s national team, the Brazilian says he was best able to impart his knowledge of the game and especially regarding free kicks to Shunsuke Nakamura who scored one of the best free kick goals in modern football history for Celtic FC (against Motherwell FC) and Yasuhito Endo who is still playing for Gamba Osaka in the J. League.

Nakamura was nominated for the 2007 Ballon d’Or Award for the best football player in the world.

And Zico underscored the need to work hard. “Everybody says, ‘work hard’. But you need to put in a lot of work if you want to be successful. I trained even when my teammates went home. I found ways to work even if I was alone.”

With regards to Philippine football, the Brazilian said that it cannot all be smooth sailing. “Even the Selecao (Brazil’s national team) has had to endure embarrassment and difficulties. You have to learn and be patient. And to always work on what you aren’t good at. That’s life. Do not let what you worked so hard for to fade away.”

Zico reiterated this message to the Brazilian Soccer School students. And despite his age, the football great also but on a simple display of defense to the young kids by stopping one of them from nutmegging him. He also scored a pair of goals that he accurately flicked towards the net.  

One of the Brazilian Soccer School coaches, Hector Zaghi who used to play for Socceroo and Laos in the UFL (he is now also coaching in Ceres FC’s youth academy), was really excited to meet his compatriot. “As a Brazilian, it is a pleasure to meet him. He’s been team captain of the national team. I think it is easier to meet them here, in Brazil, you cannot get close to those people because they are surrounded by a lot of people. It is a nice feeling to meet an icon. He isn’t just one player. Zico is an icon.”

Added former Philippine national player Rely San Agustin who is handling the few Zico in Manila activities, “It is not much time, but we must learn what we can. When a player of Zico’s stature talks, you listen.”

Friday, January 26, 2018

Eagles in the hole: Ateneo’s golf team comes alive.

Ateneo's golf team: (L-R) Nikki Bruce (co-captain), Adrian Romero (Team manager), Raphael Diaz (captain), Enrique Diaz, Marc Salandanan, Alodia Ricafort, Hans Samaniego (student manager), and Andie Dy Buncio.

Eagles in the hole: Ateneo’s golf team comes alive.
by rick olivares

I met with the members of the Ateneo Golf Team three weeks ago at the Moro Lorenzo Sports Center inside the Ateneo de Manila University campus. At that time, they booked a place in the finals of the Inter-Collegiate Golf Tournament against powerhouse Lyceum of the Philippines Cavite.

Behind the nervous smiles of an underdog squad there was hope and optimism. “We have to be at our very best if we even want a chance to beat the top college golf teams,” said team manager Adrian Romero.

There’s a story to Romero’s statement.

For years, more than a decade it seems, the Ateneo college golf team seemed to go through the motions. Although sanctioned by the school, the teams, according to current team captain Raphael Diaz, just played for the heck of it.

“Before it was a relaxed atmosphere,” related Diaz. “Kung gusto mo pumalo ngayon, sige. If you can make it to training, cool. If not, no biggie.”

Added Nikki Bruce, “When our schoolmates learned we were in the golf team, they’d say, ‘o, meron pala tayong team.’ They didn’t know maybe didn’t care. But how can they when the teams weren’t winning?”

However, the winds of change are blowing Ateneo’s way.

In 2015, the team made the finals of the Inter-Collegiate Golf Tournament for the first time since those early years of the new millennium.

“We wanted to be more dedicated, stricter in our approach and training,” threw in Bruce who was a freshman in 2015. “We didn’t just come here to get blown off and not have a care. We care and losing wasn’t fun.”

“Bakit kami team?” wondered Romero. “Kasi marami kami naglalaro rito sa Ateneo. and to represent the sport and the school, we decided to get serious about competing.”

With some help coming from the Ateneo Golf Foundation as well as from alumni like Lovell Gopez of Mizuno (who is also from Ateneo), and the recruitment of talented players, the attitude towards golf has greatly changed.

“We’re trying to replicate that 2015 finish or even better it,” succinctly put Diaz.

“We are also taking note of the players who aren’t getting scholarships abroad so we can recruit them”, added Nikki.

One of the Ateneo team’s new members is Marc Salandanan. If his name sounds familiar, it is because he won a UAAP Juniors basketball crown in Season 77 alongside Matt and Mike Nieto, Jolo Mendoza, and Gian Mamuyac. He currently plays on Team B but seems to have found his calling in golf. “I’d still love to make it to Team A and play in the UAAP but I love what I am doing now.”

Salandanan has incidentally be named as next year’s Ateneo golf team captain. It is an honor he is proud of. “I hope I am worthy of it and can lead the team and school to glory. Unlike in basketball where you just get your shots up, in golf no matter how many times you play a course, you can always screw things up. In the golf course the weather conditions also matter so it takes intense concentration.”

“I think we can achieve things because we love the sport,” added Andie Dy Buncio. “Our passion gets us going. We also try to help out one another through study groups and in the game. Plus, we get a lot of support from our parents.”

“Right now, it comes down to dedication and time management,” bared Diaz. “There’s the school work where there is no let up and there’s training. We can’t get away from school work and just can’t cut. But even in our team, we have a cut system. We have training Monday to Saturday at Camp Aguinaldo but only allow three cuts.”

And the paradigm shift has worked. Although right now, the Ateneo Golf team is in the Inter-Collegiate Golf Tournament finals against heavily-favored LPU. They are down 0-2 with LPU needing to win one more match to secure the title. If Ateneo wins the two matches this coming Sunday, January 28, they will forge a playoff on the same day.

“Right now, everything is a learning experience,” summed up Bruce. “If we can get this, wow. But don’t think we’re fine na we’ll just try to give LPU a fight. We want to win this. Andthis is what it is all about – developing a winning mentality.”

Opinion: On Willie Marcial as the new PBA Commissioner

Opinion: On Willie Marcial as the new PBA Commissioner
by rick olivares

Willie Marcial, the former media bureau chief of the Philippine Basketball Association, is now the league’s 10 commissioner. This was announced yesterday by PBA Chairman Ricky Vargas.

Marcial moves up from, officer-in-charge to full-fledged commish with a three-year contract. And I for one think this is a good move. He deserves it. He’s another ‘batang PBA” working his way up the ranks. He has literally seen the league from inside and out.

In my time working for the PBA – first with their website and next as editor-in-chief for a year for their magazines aside from working as one of the media officers for the 2013 FIBA Asia as well as the Olympic Qualifiers of the other year – I got to work with Willie. And my experience working with him was great. He isn’t one to pretend he knows things. If he doesn’t know, he asks. If a certain matter isn’t his core competence, he will ask for ideas and help. And that is a sign of a good manager. He doesn’t pretend to know. He doesn’t like to micro-manage and will defer to those who can get the job done. But if you don’t get the job done that is something else.

I got to speak with Marcial this Friday morning via cellphone and he told me that he didn’t see this “promotion” coming. And very humbly, he asked for help. “Alam mo naman, pare, that I will need a lot of help here kasi grabe rin yung challenges,” he said. “Hindi tayo maghe-hesitate to ask for ideas from our friends who are knowledgeable about the league. Yung mga nagmamahal sa liga.”

Marcial has been with the media group for quite some time and I think that this gives him a unique perspective of the PBA. He knows the pulse of the league and the people around it. He gets to hear a lot of opinions, not just from the team officials but also the various members of the PBA Press Corps. He also gets along with coaches and players that is a huge advantage.

I believe that accessibility is good for all. After all, working in media, a huge part of that is relations. Although his dealings with people will be on a different level now, I am sure that he will not want to change certain things. He will remain as approachable.

He is accommodating but not to a fault. He will stay within the bounds of the work that needs to be done.

Hardly two days into his official capacity, he said that he wanted to simplify certain things, “Alam mo naman tayo, minsan kailangan tawagan na lang sa cell with a coach at mag-usap. No need na to summon sa office lagi. We can get things done faster.”

I recall during the making of the short-lived PBA Life magazine (that was closed because of someone who must not be mentioned), we surprisingly did not get help from that person for certain shoots and interviews. We wanted to do some of the shoots at the PBA offices in Libis to save on costs since we didn’t not have a huge budget for shoots) and this person who was supposed to be helping us didn’t lift one finger at all. That person even made Life extremely difficult. Willie pitched in to help immediately. He got us the venue in less than a minute. Of course this made the other person look foolish.

One phone call. Done.

I also recall him personally flying over to a PBA Legend who was in an uproar over a certain matter – caused by someone else. Not a phone call but the trip to the province was a nice personal touch.

Of course, managing a photo shoot or someone’s bruised pride is different when teams are contending over matters such as draft picks, policies, trades, fines, or what not. I suspect it will take more than a phone call for Willie but I have no doubt that he will look for a solution.

It won’t be easy but that’s the challenge.

Good luck, Willie Marcial.