Category Archives: Football

Weidenfeller and Kehl

While browsing the history of the German Men’s National Football Team, I came across a section about Philipp Lahm not wanting to relinquish the captain’s armband to Michael Ballack. This happened amidst the 2010 World Cup competition, when the long-time Die Mannschaft captain, Ballack, was unable to play because of an injury.

Still reeling from Borussia Dortmund’s tragic UEFA Champions League exit, the aforesaid squabble came into mind when I saw Dortmund’s Roman Weidenfeller beckon to Sebastian Kehl to come up front. Kehl refused the goalkeeper’s offer of the captain’s armband as the beaten finalists made their way up the stadium to get their second place medals. Kehl is captain of The Black Yellows but was an unused substitute in the final.

Weidenfeller’s attitude towards Kehl could not have been more different to Lahm’s treatment of Ballack.  It’s refreshing to see such gestures of magnanimity still prevalent, even at the highest levels of sport.

By Joboy Quintos

Chieffy to the Rescue!

Emilio “Chieffy” Caligdong scores the winning goal against Vietnam!

David Beckham surprises Team GB fans, makes kid cry!

Check out the kid’s reaction when David Beckham popped into the photobooth. Definitely priceless!

Rafael Nadal vs. Cristiano Ronaldo

Check out this cool Nike ad featuring Rafael Nadal and Cristiano Ronaldo!

Bal David and Chieffy Caligdong: Long-Lost Brothers?

Is it just me, or is there an uncanny resemblance between former Ginebra star Bal David and Azkals striker Chieffy Caligdong?


Photos from Tunying’s Flickr and Mobilemaui’s Tumblr

I first noticed the similarity last night, while watching an old PBA Youtube clip. It has been years since I last saw Bal David on the boob tube and I must say that those two can pass as brothers! Both are agile, shifty speedsters known for exciting plays. Aside from the physical resemblance, their athletic endowments are identical as well.

Bal David and Chieffy Caligdong as long-lost siblings? Perhaps!


Ronaldo’s Farewell Match

I must admit that prior the Azkals, the only football matches I’ve watched are those of Ateneo and UP (because my sisters plays for the State U). My dad is an avid fan, but it never did rub off. I was indifferent to the world’s most popular game. College was an eye-opener, since I got to watch football games in support of the school teams (and because the lady football players are gorgeous and skilled).

Despite my ignorance of the game, one particular name stood out – Ronaldo. This morning, I stumbled upon the Brazilian’s farewell football match in front of his home crowd. I was awestruck at how revered a figure Ronaldo is, to be given the honor of one last national team appearance for your swan song.

And I’m a sucker for dramatic farewells.

UFL Promotional Video

Check out the badass UFL promotional video from AKTV. I just love the drama of the video. It captures the new-found popularity of football in the Philippines. Even if I’m far from a football fan, it got goosebumps watching the ad.

Can Philippine track & field emulate football’s meteoric rise? I hope so. Miracles do happen.

Home Track: Thoughts on the Rizal Memorial Stadium

I’ve been an avid reader of Rick Olivares’ Bleachers Brew since 2006, the year of the Ateneo Football three-peat. I found inspiration in the exploits of that Hall-of-Fame champion team, which Rick so eloquently wrote about in one of his most endearing pieces. Since then, I’ve written incessantly about my experiences as an athlete. Words, when properly written, immortalize moments in a way modern media could hardly reprise.

To be featured in Brew is a great honor. Thank you, Rick!

I was a fifteen-year old high school junior when I first laid my eyes on the Rizal Memorial Track & Football Stadium. I can still remember that big lump of nervousness I felt on my chest, as I lined up for my first ever athletics competition. The track was wet, thanks to a light morning drizzle. Clad in my awkwardly long basketball shorts and spike-less running shoes, I shivered with both fear and cold as I waited for my heat to commence.

Click here to read the rest of the post

*Note: This article also appears in In the Zone.


Thoughts on the Azkals-Al Azraq Match

Thanks to a mild hamstring strain, I stayed home for the better part of the weekend. After my morning class in Makati, I headed straight home to catch the UAAP festivities, the replay of the Monaco Diamond League and the PBA-NBA All Stars match. The Philippines was set to play mighty Kuwait early Sunday morning, in the second round of World Cup qualifying. Despite being exhausted by the heavy trading days the past week and the multitude of sporting spectacles listed above, I soldiered on.

After missing the past few editions World Cup qualifying, the now-popular Azkals made history by bursting into the second round. Pitted against a powerhouse Kuwaiti team that eked out hard-earned draws against regional powers Japan and Australia, the lowly-ranked Philippine team was cannon fodder – on paper at least.

Hence, I just had to endure the lure of sleep dust.

The first-half was action-packed. The Philippines’ ace striker Phil Younghusband had two golden opportunities to score, at one point in the match hitting the crossbar following a thunderous strike. Attacking midfielder Angel Guirado, who is of Filipino-Spanish descent, also nipped the bar with a powerful, point-black header.

A mighty counter-attack by the Kuwaitis ensued after Guirado’s close shave with scoring an upset goal. A Kuwaiti winger let loose an accurate cross to a teammate, who headed a searing shot to the back of the net, eluding the outstretched arms of Fulham’s Neil Etheridge. The home side went on to score two more goals, as it dominated possession all throughout the match. The Philippine defense was in seeming disarray, sans captain Aly Borromeo. Etheridge made some fine saves to keep the deficit from building up.

The Filipinos were unable score in the remainder of the match, against the well-oiled (pun-intended) Kuwaiti footballing machine.

I was disappointed, of course. But we had our chances. Kuwait was indeed at an entirely different level of football, in light of its relatively storied football pedigree. It was the first time I stayed up late for a football match – an unthinkable thought a few years ago for this hardcore athletics fan! Despite the loss, I enjoyed the game. I shouted passionately with each missed goal attempt, saying to myself that, hey, an upset is in the offing!

I don’t see myself following professional football matches or the UFL any time soon. My loyalties still lie with athletics and the occasional basketball (tennis, boxing, etc.) game. Most of the rules and nuances of the beautiful game are still alien concepts.

When the Azkals (or the Malditas) are aired on live TV, I’ll be glued to the boob tube to cheer on my countrymen. Since matches and competitions featuring our various national teams are rarely given media coverage, I might as well take advantage of what’s readily available!

Gattuso Headbutts Jordan

AFC Challenge Cup Qualifying: Azkals Wallop Blue Wolves, 2-0!

A thousand kilometers from Pana-ad Stadium, I could feel the sheer electricity of the venue. The sight of thousands of Filipinos cheering for a sport other than basketball was indeed surreal. I watched the first leg of the Philippines – Mongolia AFC Challenge Cup at the gym. Boy, I could hardly move away from the boob tube!

Firequinito explains the significance of the AFC Challenge Cup here

The Azkals dominated the Blue Wolves from the start. Buoyed by the home crowd, the Filipinos tasted blood at the onset, having more shots at goal than the visiting Mongolians. Chieffy Caligdong scored a magnificent goal in the 45th minute. Tossing the ball to his right to elude a Mongolian defender, the prolific Caligdong accurately kicked the the ball in between the goalie’s legs.

It was an all-Philippines show all throughout. The luckless Ian Araneta had the most shots at goal, hitting the crossbar at several occasions. Simon Greatwich almost made a spectacular bicycle kick hit the back of the net. Despite the best of their efforts, the score remained just 1-0, in favor of the Azkals.

Read Rick Olivares’ post-game wrap-up

Read Miko Halili’s article here

Fulham’s Neil Etheridge looked like he hardly broke a sweat (well, I’m exaggerating), compared to Mongolia’s keeper – who had his hands full deflecting a fusillade of shots from the trigger-happy Filipinos. Having been deprived of a home game during last year’s AFF Suzuki Cup semifinal in light of domestic football’s resurgence,  one can truly understand the goal scoring frenzy! According to an Inquirer report, it was the Philippines’ first home game in 3 years.

In injury time, Phil Younghusband finally converted, nailing the ball home with a looping left-footed kick.

The post-game festivities brought goosebumps to this Filipino sports aficionado. Accustomed to seeing our best athletes succumb most of the time, my heart welled up with pride as the fireworks lit up the sky. The Orange and Lemons song “Pinoy Ako” (the soundtrack of the 2005 Manila Southeast Asian Games) jived perfectly with hometown exultation.

Football still seems alien to me. I scratched my head at unfamiliar calls. I have the faintest knowledge of football tactics and history, unlike the prolific Rick Olivares. Track & field is my area of expertise, but seeing my countrymen play whilst being cheered on by ten thousand screaming Filipino fans made me appreciate of the beautiful game even more deeply.

Video credits:

Studio 23





UAAP 73 Women’s Football: UP vs Ateneo, 1-1 (30 January 2011)

I watched the UP-Ateneo UAAP Women’s Football game last Sunday. For some reason, I just couldn’t prod myself to wear maroon, even if my sister is the State University’s starting goalkeeper. They say that blood is thicker than water. The age old saying proved ever so true, as I found myself cheering for the UP team.

The Ateneo booters dominated the ball possession. They had more attempts at goal, spearheaded by the speedy striker Trinidad (this girl ought to run for the track team). UP’s rare forays into the Blue and White goal were foiled the strong defensive line. The game remained scoreless for the better part of the first 45 minutes. A fierce tackle by a UP booter saw Ateneo being awarded a penalty kick, which the latter easily converted.

Ateneo was up 1-0 by halftime (or shall I say UP was down 0-1?).

The intensity of the game turned up a few notches in the second half. Bodies were flying all over, emphasizing the fact that these girls weren’t pushovers. A couple of lapses in the Ateneo offensive machine prevented the Loyola-based booters from sealing the outcome. But still, UP was unable to hit the back of the net. With the final minutes gradually winding down, all seemed hopeless for the State University.

Well, not for the aptly-named Hope Solis.

The spunky Maroon-clad striker hit the upper left side of the goal from  beyond the goalkeeper’s box.  It reminded me of Cristian Gonzales’ dagger of a goal in the Philippines-Indonesia Suzuki Cup semifinal. Solis’ volley, for a time, flew above everyone’s heads. For once, the vaunted Ateneo defense proved helpless in the face of such a brilliant shot. The UP gallery erupted in wild jubilation.

It was the first time I saw my sister’s team score. It felt strange cheering for UP whilst clad in Blue. Perhaps the outcome of the game signified my mixed feelings.

UAAP 73 Football Opening Weekend (16 January 2011)

Yesterday afternoon, my brother and I went to the good ole Alma Mater for my sister’s first UAAP football game. It was surreal seeing my youngest sibling man the goal at the Ateneo Ocampo Football Field, albeit wearing the maroon and white.

The first half went remarkably well for the State University. After all, the girls finished second behind perennial contenders DLSU during last October’s Unigames so they weren’t really pushovers, in light of their underdog status. During the first half, UP controlled most of the possessions. Much of the action was with UP’s offense. I must admit that it bored me seeing my sister just standing around at her own little box.

The UP booters, however, could not connect. The match remained scoreless after the first 45 minutes.

FEU came out with guns blazing at the second half. In a reversal of roles, much of the action was with the Morayta-based schools offense. For this football newbie, the ball-handling of FEU seemed more refined, more coordinated. Being ignorant of all aspects of football tactics, I take notice of the aesthetics (as well as the physicality) of the beautiful game.

There were some close shaves for FEU at the early part of the half, but the score remained nil-nil.  My sis made one spectacular, Neil Etheridge-esque save as she leaped high up to deflect the ball. However, a botched attempt by my sister to put a stop to a lone breakaway FEU striker proved futile. A splendidly executed corner kick saw another FEU player score, this time by a pinpoint header.

In other news, both the Ateneo Men’s and Women’s Teams succumbed to stronger opposition. The Lady Booters fell 0-3 to UST, whilst the Blue Booters (who once scored a rare three peat several years ago) fell 1-5 to a dominating performance by archrivals DLSU. According to Rick Olivares, this drubbing was the “worst loss to La Salle in over two decades.”

Read Rick Olivares’ account of the UAAP Football Opening

I only root for three collegiate football teams (yes, I must admit that I cheer for the green-clad Lady Booters too!); it sucks how these teams got bamboozled right at the season opener. Such is sport.

Being immersed in that exuberant collegiate atmosphere infused much needed enthusiasm into the flailing basketball season. It reiterated the fact that I am at my best on the track, not on the hard court. It was refreshing to watch a different sport other than basketball and athletics.

“What is your profession?”

Whilst watching the pre-game analysis from last night’s Azkals game, the haughty Star Sports analyst made an interestingly poignant observation. He pointed out that most of the Filipinos, save for a handful of Fil-foreigners, are part-time footballers. When pitted against honest-to-goodness professionals, a glaring difference in “physicality” comes to the picture.

True enough, even the English-born Younghusband brothers are currently unattached. Our homegrown players are mostly members of the nation’s Armed Forces. Even though the Philippines has a nascent semi-pro football league in the UFL, this pales in comparison to its regional counterparts like Singapore’s S-League or the Thai Premier League.

One of the most famous scenes in “300” came into mind. Leonidas asked the Spartan allies, the Akkadians, their respective professions. The answers were diversely mundane. But when the legendary Spartan king asked his crack troops “what is your profession?” a loud and intimidating “ah-woo! ah-woo! ah-woo!” was their answer.

This is certainly the case for most Olympic sports, now that the lines of strict amateurism and professionalism has become porous. Aside from amateur boxing, professionals are allowed to run roughshod over major international competitions, putting the amateur at a major disadvantage.

There lies the underlying fundamental factor that spells the difference between victory and defeat. Take the example of athletics, for instance. I can only name a handful Asian medalists in recent Olympic history. Aside from the naturalized athletes of oil-rich middle eastern countries, only Susanthika Jayasinghe சுசந்திக ஜெயசிங்க்ஹி, Hadi Souan Somayli هادي صوعان الصميلي‎, Dmitry Karpov, Xing Huina 邢慧娜 and Liu Xiang 刘翔 had finished within the top 3. The Europeans have won countless medals in the aforesaid time period.

Truly, an amateur pursues his/her respective sport as a passion, as something on the side. Whereas the professional practices the sport as a career. Having the domestic infrastructure to support a professional league speaks volumes about a particular sport’s development. Take the case of the Philippine basketball. Despite setbacks in international competition the past few years, Filipino cagers rank among the best in Asia. In the newly-established ASEAN Basketball League, Filipinos play for our Southeast Asian neighbors as imports to beef up their respective locals.

The same cannot be said of football, athletics or any other sport not part of the Four B’s (Basketball, Boxing, Billiards and Bowling). In Athletics, for instance, the backbone of the sport is comprised of collegians. A club scene is virtually non-existent, with competition being mostly schools-based. After college, only the most talented and dedicated athletes progress to the national team ranks. A slot in the crack national squad merits a modest stipend. International exposure is afforded only to the elite few. World-class training and facilities are hard to come by. In contrast, the Europeans have a vibrant system of athletics clubs for all ages. Clubs like France’s Dynamic Aulnay Club, Portugal’s Sporting Lisbon and Germany’s MTG-Mannheim have produced successful internationals like triple jump sensation Teddy Tamgho, 2004 Athens Olympic silver medalist Francis Obikwelu and the 2010 European 100m dash Champion Verena Sailer, respectively.

Hence, there is continuity of talent. A career in sports can be a financially-adequate, even lucrative profession – where one is not bound to live in the margins of penury whilst pursuing one’s passion.

Azkals end glorious AFF Suzuki Cup run

The Azkals lose to the Merah Putih, 0-1.

Cristian Gonzales’ accurate shot at the 43rd minute spelled the difference between victory and defeat. The Uruguayan-born striker made the stellar shot after several tantalizingly close attempts. The Philippines’ prolific goalkeeper, Neil Etheridge, did the best he could to stop the powerful volley from hitting the back of the net.

To quote the words of a college friend and football fan, RJ Jalijali, even Iker Casillas couldn’t stop that shot.

Photo from AFF Suzuki Cup

All game long, the Indonesians had more chances at goal. The Philippine defense was relatively more porous this time, with the Indonesians having quite a few close shaves. A combination of sheer luck and superb goal keeping kept the deficit from growing any further.

We had our chances though. Chris Greatwich, who owns 2 of the Philippines’ 3 goals this tournament, had a couple of missed opportunities. The New Jersey-based striker almost equalized with a header that landed on top of the net.

Nevertheless, it was a great run for the Azkals. Let’s just hope that all these new-found attention showered upon our national football team will not turn out to be mere flashes in the pan.

The magnificent Azkals run had piqued my interest on the beautiful game. I am still not a football fan though. I probably never will be. But I am definitely watching the next Azkals game aired on TV (whenever that is) – for flag and country.

There are just some things that transcend personal preferences.

Video credit:


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