Thursday, 9 December 2010

Band of brothers

Rick Olivares
Business Mirror

NAM DINH, Vietnam—Roel Gener and Ian Araneta both know what it’s like to be on the other side of a beating. That 13-1 loss to Indonesia back in 2002 is something they will never forget. But right now, they are creating new memories—wonderful and electrifying ones.
For the better part of the men’s football team’s nine-day stay in Vietnam for the 2010 Suzuki Cup, this band of football brothers has taken the Asean region by storm with their feats on the pitch.

After their final stretching session around the lake behind the massive statue of General Tran Hung Dao who twice defeated Mongolian conqueror Kublai Khan’s armies, several Vietnamese fans asked to have their pictures taken with the team.

The squad spent its first night at Nam Dinh City that is 90 km southeast of Hanoi where they are to play their final match against Myanmar for the right to move on to the semifinals of the Asean region’s most prestigious football tournament.

Team captain Aly Borromeo, battling a stomach illness in the last few days, promised to give it his all for the match where a win or a draw will send them to the next round. “I’ll find the energy for that,” said the long-time national player. “Everyone’s going to give it a maximum effort.”

Seven of the current squad of 22 have been together for some six years now. Borromeo, Gener, Araneta, Anton del Rosario, Chris Greatwich, Peter Jaugan and Emelio “Chieffy” Caligdong have been with the national team since 2004, back when the Suzuki Cup was called the Tiger Cup. Then nationals played four matches that tournament where they won one and lost three. Caligong scored three goals and became a budding star for the squad.

“We’ve come a long way,” said del Rosario who smiled at the memory of a long journey. “Chad Gould was with our batch. We didn’t have the support system that we have now but those were memorable times.

“I think it’s good na nakita namin ’yung progress ng team,” added Caligdong. “Parang sana kabaliktaran naman ngayon at maganda ’yung mga resulta.”

This tournament is probably the last that Caligdong is going to suit up for. Now in his eighth year with the Philippine Air Force and sixth year with the national team, the Barotac Nuevo native is planning on hanging up his boots and take up coaching. “Tignan natin what happens pero kung di ko subukan mag-coach ngayon baka ma-iwan na ako nito.”

Del Rosario recounted how the nationals have had a hard time against Myanmar in the past. “It was a combination of being young and not having the support structure to constantly train. Now we have a team that can compete. Myanmar of course has many new guys and so do we.”

Team assistant coach Edzel Bracamonte explained that this is the longest this national team (under manager Dan Palami) has been together. “This is the longest they’ve trained and been together—eight months. Dati two months lang and usually before a tournament. ’Yung eight months na magkakasama ’tong team na ’to has really helped this team grow. Sana tuloy tuloy na ’to.”

“Wouldn’t that be great?” summed up Borromeo. “We saw the tough times and now we—the seven of us—have a chance to really see the turnaround. We live to play the sport and to see the kind of attention Philippine football gets now—that is all you ever ask for.”

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