Wednesday, May 25, 2011

It's Hard to Be a Gooner

This season was a frustrating season for the Gunners and Gooners alike.At the start of this year, Arsenal were on the brink of getting a quadruple for this season, thus ending the team's 5 year trophy drought. And they were in form, in spite of Robin van Persie's absence due to injury, beating archnemesis Chelsea and Barcelona in an emphatic fashion.

                    Arsene Wenger holding our last trophy, the FA Cup in 2005.

But the dream of doing a quad came to a halt after the Gunners were defeated by now relegated Birmingham City in the Carling "Mickey Mouse" Cup. The 2-1 defeat was due to the miscommunication between defender Laurent Koscielny and goal keeper Wojciech Szczesny (Boy, I have a lot of trouble for the spelling!). From then and there, as they say comes the domino effect. They got knocked out by Barcelona in the Champions League, then were eliminated by another rival, Manchester United in the FA Cup, drew at Newcastle, at Tottenham, Liverpool and Blackburn, well in fact they were leading or have a man advantage. And last but never the least, lost at Stokes and Aston Villa. They were still title contenders at the start of April, but at the end of the season, they slipped to fourth, and will fight off other clubs in Europe for a spot in the Champions League group stages next season.

 There were factions among the worldwide Gunners fans who were calling for Arsene Wenger to be sacked or resign as Arsenal manager.Instead of pulling an "In Arsene We Trust" slogan, it became "In Arsene We Rust". The Arsenal manager is known to be the most shrewd among managers when it comes to signing players. He is more into signing players with potential, rather than those established ones with a hefty price tags.He also let players over 30 years of age to sign only one-year contracts.His managerial skills can be very good for a club with a huge debt (because of the construction of the Grove), but if you want to win trophies, it's about time for Arsene not to be prudent. The exodus of the Invincible batch took it's toll, with Clichy, the remaining Invincible is set to move to either Anfield or Munich in the summer. 

I see potential in the current team, but these are children. With a 45 million pound summer transfer budget, it's about time for Arsene to re-revolutionized this well-loved club as he did 15 years ago. Arsene Wenger inherited a "Boring, Boring Arsenal" club, and transformed a team that plays the sexiest kind of football the world has ever seen.

If you ask me at which faction I belong, well, all I can say, "In Arsene I Trust".

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Happy Birthday

Two of the Azkals are celebrating their birthdays today.

Ian Araneta
 (March 2, 1982)


  photo taken from jph's Facebook account.

Patrick Hinrichsen
(March 2, 1991)

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

NBA: End of the Franchise Player Era

photo taken from this site.

Upon hearing the news of Carmelo Anthony to the New York Knicks last night, the inevitable has come, the Era of Franchise Players has finally come to an end. NBA superstars will have to leave the franchise that made them in order to get the much coveted ring, and team up with teams (and another legitimate superstar) with greater chances to go to the playoffs.

In the current roster of playoff bound teams, they always have this "triumvirate", or what the NBA analysts affectionately call them as the "Big Three". In Boston, they have Ray Allen, Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce. In San Antonio, they have Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili and Tim Duncan. And in Miami, they have LeBron James, Chris Bosh and Dwayne Wade. The "big three" are the franchise's main players that will lead the team to their ultimate goal, the NBA Championship. The team from Boston and San Antonio already proved to be of that championship calibre, already. Miami is still in "wait-and-see".

In NBA's yesteryears, each team is building up an individual to be it's franchise player. Every time you hear, Dr. J or Julius Erving, you associate him with the Philadelphia Seventy-Sixers, as to Hakeem Olajuwon and Patrick Ewing were synonymous to the Houston Rockets and the New York Knickerbockers, respectively. And of course, Michael Jordan to the Chicago Bulls. It's so funny how my paternal grandmother would say "Bulls" every time she sees Michael Jordan's face in his Gatorade commercials.

Having a "triumvirate of superstars" is okay in basketball, but the reality is, basketball is a team sport, that involves 5 people on the court, and some 7 other people coming off the bench (plus the coaching staff and trainers). The key to the real success in basketball is having role players who are willing to step up their games in case their superstar is under the radar or injured. Remember, Steve Kerr?

Monday, February 21, 2011

Congrats, Jun!

Congratulations to Nonito Donaire, Jr. for winning against Fernando Montiel for the WBC Bantamweight crown via technical knockout (TKO) in the second round!

We are so proud of your achievement, Jun! 

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Azkal Fever- When Stray Dogs Devoured the Wolves

I have a question, which is stronger a pack of stray dogs or a pack of wolves?

In the first leg of the AFC Challenge Cup Playoff match between the Philippines and Mongolia, the pack of stray dogs were mightier than the pack of wolves from the steppes. The Azkals (the Philippines) won 2-0 against the Mongolian Blue Wolves.

I was one of those who witnessed the match live at the Pana-ad! I was really standing in the front of the grand stand! Wow, I was so blessed! 

The match was a sellout!

 The Azkals deployed almost the same line-up that played in the Suzuki Cup with the exception of Simon Greatwich, who replaced his older brother, Chris. The Filipinos also has a new coach. Simon McMenemy was replaced by Hans Michael Weiss, a German.

The match started at 7 pm. We were parallel to the Mongolian goal, where 21-year old, Neil Etheridge awaited. Early on the Filipinos controlled and dictated the game. The fans, especially the girls, were screaming and shouting either Phil or James Younghusband's names every time they touched the ball. Upon hearing this, I was rolling my eyeballs. True, the Younghusbands can be cute and they are our football poster boys, but there are players in the Azkal XI that is worth shouting for. I was cheering for all of them, calling them by their first names, as if we are friends in real life. I guess this is where you can decipher which is a real football, don't you think?

 Neil Etheridge. I like calling him as "Baby Goalie" because he is so young. I want to be his big sister.

 The Filipinos continued their onslaught towards their goal, but somehow the Mongolians either parked the bus in front or were simply lucky that the ball swiveled away or was blocked by the post, or was caught by their keeper. There were also moments when either Anton del Rosario and Jason de Jong (not related to the Manchester City/Holland midfielder, Nigel de Jong) had the ball stolen from them, that Mongolia almost scored a goal.The Azkals got frustrated, the crowd got impatient. Then as the first half of the match was about to close, Vice-Captain Emelio "Chieffy" Caligdong struck what was the goal of the match! It was a display of excellent ball control by Chieffy. He got a rebound, dribbled it, then kick the ball in between the Mongolian keeper's legs! It was pandemonium! I like how Chieffy celebrated his goal. He went to the crowd, turned on his back, and signal on what his back jersey's writing, "Caligdong, 13". Now, those Younghusband screamers know that there is someone like Chieffy in the squad. Chieffy, by the way, is one of the most revered Philippine born and raised player in the squad.

 This is the Chieffy goal. Chieffy proved that in football, height does not matter. Take that, Basketball.

With a man down and a goal down, I was thinking the Mongolians might unleashed it full fury in the second half. I was really praying that the Mongolians will not score a goal in Philippine soil, so that we may not have the dilemma of home and away goal rule in case of there is a tie after the two legs. But I guess the once mighty Mongols cower in the fury of the rabid Filipino attacks. The Mongols had almost all of their players scram in front of goal to block every Filipino potential goal. Ian Araneta, Phil Yonghusband's strike partner had a lot of missed opportunities. It would have been nice if Simon Greatwich (or was it Ray Jonsson's?) bicycle kick goal could have found it's way at the back of the net. Once again, the Azkals got frustrated, the crowd went impatient, when out from a James Younghuband's corner, Phil Younghusband scored a goal. The crowd went wild, but I saw that he used his hand, not foot to tuck the ball into the net. And the linesman saw it, too. Phil was given a yellow card.

The game was extended with a 4 minute stoppage time. This is the estimated amount of time used for breaks since football's clock is a running clock. Just before the stoppage time ends, Phil Younghusband scored a legitimate goal to the delight of fans!

The match ended 2-0. Could this 2-0 win be enough for the Philippines to secure a place in the AFC Challenge Cup 2012, and have the right to play against Myanmar, Palestine and Bangladesh? We'll have to wait and see this March 15.

Azkal Fever - The Journey


I was wondering where to start. The feeling of watching the Philippine Men's National Football team playing in home soil and live at that still seemed so surreal for me. My journey to Pana-ad started when the Philippines lost the semifinal leg of the AFF Suzuki Cup to Indonesia. Their Cinderella run on that tournament particularly their win over then defending champions Vietnam, stirred the interest of the Filipino people to this once forgotten sport. It too, awaken my interest again to Filipino Football.

 The game that introduced the Filipinos to the Azkals. Their 2-0 victory over Vietnam in Vietnam. Photo taken from Rob Gier's Facebook Fan Page.

After the match against the Indonesian Garudas, it was announced that the "Azkals" will be playing in a play-off game against Mongolia some time in February. My father was assigned in Bacolod and is staying there until February, so I called up my father to confirm it. When it was indeed confirmed that Bacolod will play host to the first leg of the match, I booked myself and my mother to a flight to Bacolod. Good thing we got the ones that was on sale! Plane tickets-check, accommodation (courtesy of my dad)- check,match tickets- nil. I filed a vacation leave as soon as I got hold of our plane tickets.

I got the match tickets 2 days before match day. I scoured every nook in the internet where to get those tickets. I first e-mailed the Philippine Football Federation for ticket reservations, only to find out that I have to fly to Manila just to get it. I had a Plan B. I asked my father to score some tickets in Bacolod. But he was not successful of scoring tickets for us. Good thing the Cebu Football Association were giving three hundred tickets. I quickly grabbed the phone and reserved my tickets to Martin.

It's not easy to be an Azkal fan. The journey I had was all worth it!