Friday, April 29, 2011

Theater and Diving in the Beautiful Game

Video evidence that we are actually watching not one but three disciplines. Football, Diving, and Theater.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Final Try-outs for the Homeless World Cup Team Philippines

After months of try-outs all over the Philippines, the day of reckoning for the Philippine Team for the Homeless World Cup is upon us.

On April 30, 2011 at 2pm, in the Megatent Events Venue in Pasig, 16 aspiring footballers will undergo a Final Try-out for the chance to represent Team Philippines in the upcoming 9th Homeless World Cup 2011 to be held in Paris, France on August 21-28, 2011.

From the hundreds who participated in the try-outs conducted from Boystown in Manila to Bacolod in the Visayas Region to Iligan City in Mindanao, 16 aspirants were chosen to participate in this Saturday’s final try-outs.

From the 16 survivors, only eight will be chosen to represent our country. Let us all be witnesses as these young men take one small first step to football glory and one massive first step to kick poverty.

Here is a flashback at the Manila Leg 1 Try-outs held in Boystown, Parang, Marikina on February 26, 2011.

Coach Rudy giving instructions to Goalkeeper Bert Sennis :

Mark Rosales, part of Team Philippines 2009 to Milan, acts as a coach for the Manila Boystown Complex.

Watching Coach Rudy run the drills for the aspiring footballers, one cannot help but feel his passion and love for the game. "The game has given so much to me,"  he often says. "That's why I want to give back"
With Coach Rudy del Rosario of Team Philippines
Coach Rudy is ably assisted by Homeless World Cup 2010 Goalie Mark Maravilla. He acts as the assistant and goalkeeping coach for Team Philippines.
Assistant Coach Mark Maravilla
Let's give these kids the same love we are giving the Azkals. Head on over to the Megatent this Saturday, April 30 at 2pm. Amongst the panelists are Azkals Captain Aly Borromeo, Fifa Women's Committee Member Ms. Cristy Ramos.

Remember, three current members of UFL side Kaya FC came from Team Philippines 2010. Collectively called the 'Rio Trio', they are Lexter Maravilla, and twin brothers Abdula and Hammid Pasion.

More details on this Saturday's activities in their Facebook Page here.
See you all!

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Adidas : Ryan +10

This certainly brings back a ton of memories.

I had the honor of having shot a video with Zinedine Zidane, David Beckham and Jermaine Defoe.
Heck I even shook Oliver Kahn's hand. What a pleasure to meet Steven G and Miroslav Klose  too!

Friday, April 22, 2011

Reaction to Real Madrid 1 Barcelona 0 : King's Cup 2011

Clearly, Jose Mourinho hasn't lost the plot. Nor his penchant for winning titles, everywhere he manages. That he has won at least ONE trophy since 2003 is simply amazing.

It means that whoever employs him is all but guaranteed of one title to be won under his charge every year. And for a club like Real Madrid, who are so thirsty for success, any success, that is one heck of a proposition that is very difficult to ignore.
His tactics have not been exactly typical Madridismo. Very ironically, he is the embodiment of somebody who is anti-Madrid. 

Typically, Madrid fans are very, very demanding of their team and of the players. It is imperative not just to win, but to win THE Madrid way. Which is to say, win with panache, with aplomb, with slick one-twos and through balls and some fancy football along the way.

This demand does not just come from the fans themselves, but it is demanded by management and the club president. Many a manager has learned to his detriment that to win, but not win beautifully is to be given the sack after the season (sometimes not even till the end of the season). 

Success is not enough. Winning the Madrid way is the only way. You can look no further than to ask a certain Mr. Fabio Capello, who was sacked (twice!) after leading the club to titles under his charge.

That said, the marriage between Jose Mourinho and Real Madrid is very, very uneasy at best. You need not look further than the backlash he received after Madrid drew with Barca in the league last April 2011. 

He was criticized by Real Madrid living legend Alfredo di Stefano had to say : "Against Barcelona, Real Madrid didn’t have its personality. Barcelona controlled the game beautifully and Madrid had to play catchup. "

Others have been more vociferous in their criticism of Mourinho, saying he fielded a Internazionale de Madrid against Barca. This, of course, in reference to his Inter team who beat Barca over two legs in last year's Champions League whilst playing the most unattractive football on the planet.

Being the pragmatist that he is, he always lets the end justifies the means. If the end means beating Barcelona by any means possible, he will utilize it. Even if it means some "shirt-pulling, injury-feigning, time-wasting and transcendental negativity"  as writer Henry Shawdon puts it.

I will tend to side with Jose Mourinho on this one. After all, he did indulge Madrid fans' attacking philosophy against Barcelona once. And the result wasn't exactly pretty, either. Madrid got hammered 5-0 in the Nou Camp. To expect Madrid to go into the four el clasicos with the same strategy, but expecting a different result, may be a bit too much for The Special One.

Putting Pepe as a defensive central midfield player was a masterstroke. Essentially, he sought out to defend the midfield by putting in three defensive minded players in Pepe, Khedira and Alonso, whilst not employing an out and out striker up front. Utilizing a 4-3-3 formation, he essentially had a very compact midfield and a very industrious front three in Ozil, Ronaldo and di Maria who tracked back to defend.

With Barcelona very poor on the wings, width was not a problem defensively for Mourinho. A very deep bench consisting of Adebayor, Kaka, Benzema and Higuain also made good options for him to replace tiring players.


Will this be a springboard for the Champions League success? Fortunately, we only have to wait for two more weeks. A defeat in the King's Cup would have been devastating for the Merengues. 

I am not sure about the celebrations in the Cibeles Fountain, as I understand it is usually reserved for winning the Champions League and La Liga. But Madrid have waited for 17 odd years for the Cup, so I don't think we should begrudge their celebrations there.

Sergio Ramos doing his 'Raul' matador celebration.

As it is, victory has instilled in them a belief that Barcelona are beatable after all. Indeed, a feisty two legs between the two Spanish giants await. A delectable treat for the neutral fans (are there any?), and two masive, massive games of football for both sets of fans.

Photo credits to : 

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Comic Relief -- Victor Valdes and Ibrahim Afellay FCB

Some comic relief before the start of four 'el clasicos'. 

Man, this video had me laughing so hard. Pique even had a 'cameo'

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Role Players : Article for the Inquirer (Youngblood), Year 2006.

*This is certainly a blast from the past. 

The following article appeared in the Youngblood Series in the Philippine Daily Inquirer on August 26, 2006. 
Who would've thought that after four odd years, football is finally here in the Phlippines.The author probably should have had more faith in us Filipinos!

Role Players
by Ryan Fenix

HAVING been following football for the last four years, and having had the chance to witness it being played on the biggest stage in Berlin, I dare say there is little hope for us Filipinos in this game.

It has been said so many times that we Filipinos have what it takes to be successful in this beautiful game. We have the agility, the speed and even the cunning and creativity to do very well on a football pitch. 

However, it has to be pointed out that football is not won by such skills or traits alone. It’s already a cliché, but I must say that football is, more than anything else, a team game -- even more so than in basketball. And this is an area where, I feel, we Filipinos are lacking. 

To win in football, we must totally get rid of the “kanya-kanya” [every man for himself] system, which pervades our lifestyle and has even spread to sports. We have to shed our “me instincts” and develop our “team instincts.”

But can we get rid of this mentality? 

Have you noticed what sports Filipinos excel at? Manny Pacquiao is in boxing, Efren Reyes in billiards and Paeng Nepomuceno in bowling. All these are individual sports. There’s no doubt that we are strong individually, but can we win as a team? And when I say team, I mean a team -- not a collection of superstars or “galacticos,” as the Spanish press calls them.

Consider the case of Real Madrid in the Spanish Football League. Back in 2003, after the team signed David Beckham to a multiyear contract, it was said that the team of so many attacking talents would simply run over the opposition. 

With Zidane, Ronaldo, Raul and Figo already in the team and now Beckham, indeed that seemed to be a foregone conclusion. However, football is not won by individual talents, and Real Madrid quickly found that out by failing to capture the championship.

To win in football, there must be defenders who are not looking for goals and glory but staying back and defending the goal, much like Italy’s captain Fabio Cannavaro and Lilian Thuram of France in the recent World Cup. Their job is not glamorous, they may lack grace or juggling skills, but they are the rock upon which the team is built. 

To win in football, there must be people who do the dirty work, tackling in midfield and winning possession. Unappreciated though some of them may be, they provide the stability and the impetus for the attack to take place. Gennaro Gattuso of Italy and Claude Makelele of France come to mind. Their names may not make the headlines as much as, say, a Zidane or a Henry, but they are every bit as important to winning games.

Claude Makelele for France

Now my question and challenge to our countrymen is: Do we have Cannavaros and Thurams out there who will help us succeed in the sport? Can our Gattusos and Makeleles do the job? In fact, is anyone even willing to play that role? For our team to succeed, we need this kind of people.
Gennaro Gattuso for Italy

I would love to see the Philippines make it to the World Cup. The feeling of solidarity, of togetherness, of being one is seldom more evident and more deeply experienced than on this grand stage. 

When we arrived in Europe, especially in those countries which qualified for the World Cup, the tremendous outpouring of national pride was so palpable and overpowering. National flags were flown by every passing car or draped on shops and windows. People were wearing their “national uniforms,” their teams’ football colors. Imagine a whole square in Amsterdam full of people in orange shirts!

This is what the World Cup means to people. They are bound together by one common cause, cheering for their countries. There was no Rome, Milan, or Torino, there was only Italy. There was no Manchester, London, or Newcastle, there was only England.

Had we played in the World Cup, there would have been no opposition, no Lakas-CMD, no faction -- only one Philippines. Football would have brought to us something we desperately need: Unity and national pride.

But if we feel mortified by the state of our nation, who can blame us? What is there for us to be proud of? Almost every other guy I meet wants to leave. How can that enhance national pride? But that’s for another article.

In the meantime, I’m looking forward to seeing Cannavaro quietly do his thing in his own efficient and glamour-less way, and make his team better in the process. 

And somewhat ironically, this year he will be doing it for Real Madrid.

*Credits to Google for the pictures.

Raul -- Class Wherever He Plays

At the start of the season, it was with mixed emotions that Real Madrid fans let go of Raul. He was not being utilized as much the previous season, and Raul felt he had still some football left in his tank.

Madrid fans were all wondering if that was still true, or was Raul just being proud to admit that his aging legs were not the same as before.Well, wonder no more. Raul has scored  times this season for German Bundesliga side Schalke 04, and his goals in the Champions League has guided S04 to the semi-finals against Manchester United.

Drifting from the left, he latched on to a pass from Jurado (?) and as typical Raul, dummied the goalkeeper before burying it in with his right foot.What is it with Raul and the Champions League? He has scored time and time again for Real and now Schalke.

It would be an interesting return to Old Trafford for the Spanish legend. Sir Alex Ferguson once famously said that Raul was the main threat amidst the galacticos of Real Madrid.

What is unmistakable though, is the class of Raul, on and off the pitch. He celebrated with the fans after the final whistle, up in the stands. Now, how many players do that?

Still going strong: Raul joined the Schalke fans to celebrate his goal against Inter
I wonder how his German speaking skills are now, but heck, scoring goals for your club is one hell of a universal language buster. Here is the video :

The rest of the team stayed on the center of the pitch, while Raul led the cheers from the stands. Wonder how many English Premier League teams or La Liga teams do that. That is what I noticed about the Bundesliga : the team almost always celebrate and acknowledge the fans after each game, be it a league game or an important Champions League game.

They often do it in Germany, quite possibly the best domestic league in the world. It is called the Humba. Uli Hesse has written an excellent piece on what the Humba is. Below is a video of Raul leading the cheers, in German!

I will have to put aside my loyalties for Borussia Dortmund for the meantime. Raul, go on to the Final!

*Photo Credit : Associated Press.(Lifted from The Daily Mail Online.)

Wednesday, April 6, 2011


I know you've all heard of Craig Burrows' term for it : Azkalitis.

Let me introduce the origin of the disease whence Azkalitis originated from : Footballitis.

This 'disease' was initially diagnosed in 2002 in the Institute for the Study of Footballitis by Adidas.

Prior to the 2002 World Cup in Korea/Japan, symptoms of this illness was apparent in international football stars such as David Beckham, Zinedine Zidane, Alessandro del Piero, Goalkeeper Fabian Barthez, Pablo Aimar and Raul.

Even referees were not spared. Pierluigi Collina was similarly diagnosed with footballitis as well.

Below are the video findings :

Even the Japanese were not spared. Here's the video evidence : 

More evidence :

Further evidence : 
What is happening to these men?

It seems all warnings were not heeded. Footballitis has finally reached Philippine shores. It has since mutated into Footballitis with a strain of Azkalitis. 

I certainly hope those who are already infected will find a way to spread the 'disease' to others.

How to Score Two Goals -- with ONE shot. By Messi

On the eve of Barcelona's UEFA Champions League game vs Shaktar Donetsk at the Nou Camp, the Prawn Sandwich Brigade brings you some Advanced Football 101 c/o the great Lionel Messi. : 

Let's see you try that in the training ground.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Wins, losses, and the World Cup : The Azkals and the Philippines as a football country

This first appeared in the award winning sports blog, Fire Quinito.

Next up for the Azkals is the small matter of trying to qualify for the FIFA World Cup 2014 in Brazil, a competition that we all but ignored prior to the Azkals coming to fore. 

But first things first: Make no mistake, we are NOT going to win the World Cup. Not by any stretch of the imagination. 

We can however, attempt to qualify for it, first by beating Sri Lanka in the first round. 

Interestingly, manager Dan Palami has signified his intention to form the Azkals “dream team.” Not satisfied with luring Angel Guirado and Jerry Lucena to the Azkals, he could possibly bring on board right back Stephan Schrock, of Bundesliga 2nd division side SpVgg Greuther Fürth, a Bavarian side which has consistently finished in the top half of the Bundesliga 2nd division table in the last ten years. Schrock is a bona fide Fil-European with footballing pedigree and will be of immense help to the Azkals. 

If Dan gets everybody on board, we could potentially have this starting eleven:






Coming off the bench would be Anton del Rosario, Dennis Cagara, Roel Gener, Simon Greatwich, Jerry Lucena, Ian Araneta, Jason Sabio and Yanti Barsales. 

Quite a formidable line-up, don’t you think? It has a bit of everything, from attacking prowess, to speedy wingers who can deliver the ball, to a very stingy defense.
The underlying problem of course, would be team chemistry. How would all these players get on the same page on the pitch? Just as importantly, can the respective egos be left at the door? Can the manager get it right?

We all know one of the reasons for the success of the Azkals in last year’s Suzuki Cup was the camaraderie between the players. We could never underestimate that importance on the pitch.

There is also a fear among some football people that should we be drawn in these qualifiers against a very strong team, we could be annihilated by a baseball score, which would turn off some new fans of the game. No one would want to root for a loser, right?


We root for a team knowing that it tried its very best, even in defeat to a superior team. We would not want to root for a team that concedes defeat even before a match has been played. We root for a team that even in defeat fights tooth and nail for every possession, for every loose ball.

In short, we won’t mind losing, as long as we lost leaving our guts on the pitch. Wanting to qualify for the World Cup signifies our intention to go beyond our Southeast Asian borders. It’s something we need to do in order to succeed in that goal.

But beyond the wins and losses, we should also cherish how sports in general, and football in particular, unite people of different races, religion and nationalities. This is best demonstrated by this picture of the Azkals before the team’s tune-up game against the Kanto Gakuin University team.

Azkals in Japan

Another very noteworthy example of this unity was after we played Palestine in the group stages. Here is what Football Palestine Blog had to say: 

“Let me start off by saying that the outpouring of support on Twitter from followers of Pinoy Football has been immense. In the past 24 hours our following has increased by nearly 40% thanks to passionate Azkal fans. A couple of years ago, the Philippines were regarded as a footballing non-factor. I can say that they are now very much a side (and a fan base) that should be taken seriously. They remind me of ourselves when we made our re-appearance on FIFA's stage. Everyone thought we would be whipping boys but we played with passion. Ramzi Saleh (much like Neil Etheridge) in goal kept us in games and we bloodied a couple of noses on the way. I wish the Azkals the best of luck and although we are almost assured of qualification (see below) I hope the Fursan lend the Azkals a helping hand.”

Let me respond with this: We wish Palestine the best of luck. Till we meet again next year at the AFC Challenge Cup! 
This is what football is all about. Respect among opponents, and respect among fans. No taunting and badmouthing between players and fans alike.

It is all but confirmed now, and the symptoms are for all to see: We are all well and truly afflicted with football-itis, with an added strain of Azkal-itis. It’s an affliction that we’d happily share with anyone in this country, and one that I personally have no intention of seeking a cure. 

For the Azkals, the journey continues. For us Azkal fans, we are only starting the journey. And what a journey it is going to be.

Friday, April 1, 2011

A look at the Azkals and our Unheralded Heroes

This first appeared in the award winning sports blog, Fire Quinito.

Going into the group stages, there was apprehension about the loss of Phil Younghusband due to injury. Although Phil’s loss was tempered somewhat by the inclusion of Fil-Spanish striker Angel Guirado, the team was also missing the services of midfielders Chris Greatwich and Jason de Jong. 

Were they missed? 

Phil’s exclusion turned out to be a blessing in disguise for Yanti Barsales, the Azkals’ 38-year old veteran. Apart from being a huge factor in our attacking third, his primary role was holding the ball while waiting for support from both flanks and the midfield. 

Chris has been absent since the Suzuki Cup, and the team has arguably adapted to life without the attacking midfielder. There are reports he could be back for the World Cup Qualifiers in June.

With Jason de Jong’s absence, Coach Weiss employed numerous players to fill in his defensive midfield slot, with varying degrees of success. Ray Jonsson started in that role against Mongolia, but in my opinion, he isn’t really a defensive midfield sort of player. Aly Borromeo filled that role to good effect against Myanmar in the first game of the group stages, but he is much too important for our defense to be playing a holding midfield role.

Jerry Lucena seems to have settled into the role, and has claimed it as his own in the last two games of the AFC Challenge Cup qualifiers, againstPalestine and Bangladesh. Assuming both de Jong and Lucena are available for the World Cup qualifiers, it would be interesting to see who will be tasked with the defensive midfield role.

If Coach Weiss pleases, he could employ the “double pivot” alignment, with Jason de Jong and Jerry Lucena both in midfield, but that strategy would effectively curtail the attacking football he promised and used to good effect against Bangladesh. But this “double pivot” could still be employed when the Azkals are playing matches away from home, when the concern would be to not concede any goals. 

This is especially important in the upcoming World Cup qualifying rounds, where the home-and-away format is again in effect. The Philippines will be playing in Sri Lanka for the first leg of its qualifier, so the strategy might be to try not to concede goals and play for a scoreless draw. The “double pivot” would help shore up the backline, essentially giving the Azkals a six-man defense. 

Newcomer Angel Guirado, who scored two goals against Bangladesh, looks like the real deal. Lively on the ball and a constant attacking menace, opposing defenses seem to panic when he gets the ball in the box. He is good in the air as well, scoring his first goal with a header. We will certainly see more from the Man from Malaga.

The aerial ability of the Azkals is also something I am sure the coaching staff is keen to exploit. James Younghusband, in fact, has ceded his corner-kicking duties in order to be available to score headers off those corners. Phil Younghusband, Aly Borromeo, and now Angel Guirado are no Frodo Baggins either, so opponents would become wary of conceding free kicks and corners to the Azkals in dangerous positions. With the monster throw-ins of Jason Sabio and Anton del Rosario, the Philippine side is indeed a dangerous proposition in dead-ball situations.

Then there’s Neil Etheridge, the star man of the group stages. Solid as a rock between the Azkals’ sticks, he provided the confidence boost needed by a defense that consisted of three different combinations for the three group stage games. 

The Azkals started the games against Myanmar and Palestine in the back foot – that is, on the defensive – so Neil was almost always the busier of the two keepers. Against Bangladesh where we had to score, we took the game to the opponents right from the off, so Neil had much less work in that game.

The flexibility of our players has also been to our massive advantage. It is not unusual to see Roel Gener, Ray Jonsson, Jason Sabio, Aly Borromeo, and Anton del Rosario playing multiple positions on the field. To brand them as “utility men” would be extremely harsh, as all excel in whatever position they are tasked to fill.

Football is a game that relies on very few statistics. Goals scored. Goals attempted. Saves. Yellow Cards. Red Cards. Fouls. Unlike the detailed statistics of baseball, football gives no mention to other elements of the game such as interceptions, crunching tackles, last ditch tackles, shoulder barges leading to lost possession for the opponent, etc. It is high time we highlight the people who do these as well.

Roel Gener
Photo by S. Kieron Tan of SKT Digital.

In fact, let me take a few paragraphs to celebrate Roel Gener. He never gets interviewed by the press, and he is often overlooked by local football sites, but he has really let his play on the pitch do the talking for him. Out of the spotlight, he quietly goes about his business on the field. 

Small in stature, but big in heart, he has ably filled in the left back slot against Mongolia, where he was Man of the Match for me. He also held the right back slot against Myanmar, and ably replaced the injured Chieffy Caligdong in midfield in last year’s Suzuki Cup.

Never complaining and working tirelessly, his presence on the team sheet gives a massive boost to the coaching staff with the multitude of options he brings to the team.

Personally, I hope that the major networks and media in general would find it important to give time and attention to the unheralded players of the Azkals like Gener. They are every bit as important as the people who score goals. Without them doing the little but essential things, goals would certainly be very difficult to come by.

Another case in point: Ray Jonsson, who was Coach Weiss’ personal choice for Man of the Match in the second match against Mongolia, was nowhere to be heard from after that game. Instead, it was Phil (who was substituted due to injury), James (who scored the only goal) and Aly (the Captain) who were interviewed after the match. While I have no gripes about the media interviewing those players, but shouldn’t the head coach’s choice for Man of the Match deserve an interview too?

For every Ian Araneta/Phil Younghusband/Angel Guirado goal, there was a tackle or an interception behind it that started the move. Difficult as it is to imagine, it is the truth.