QUEZON City, Philippines (January 18) – Baltazar: “My blood is not Pinoy, but my heart is Pinoy.”
Foreigners or half-Filipinos playing for a sport team is not new in the Philippines or in other countries, for that matter. Other countries are also recruiting other players from a different ethnicity. In our country, where being able to speak good English is a source of pride, still, there are some who are raising issues against someone being a half-Filipino and not being a pure-blooded Filipino.
I don’t have any problem having ahalf-Filipino playing for our country. Actually, it is inspiring that these so-called not-so “pure” Filipino are giving their service to the Philippine flag, they do their best just to give pride and honor to our beloved country. The Philippine Azkals contributed so much in introducing the sports football in the Philippines, coz’ if it weren’t for them, some of us would still be ignorant of this kind of sport.
Definitely, some of us are also dreaming of having all pure-blooded Filipino in the Football team or in any sport representing our country, but producing something like this is not easy. Yes, there are a lot of talented and enthusiastic football players in our country but it takes time, effort and of course, money to support and train them to be as good or should I say, better than the Azkals players today. Maybe, if the government gives funds as well as their full support to this kind of sport perhaps, it may be possible to have a football team that has all pure Filipino members.
A true Filipino is when you’re giving honor and serving your country with all your heart, the Azkals is a great example of this and I’d bet the team members are proud to represent the Philippines even those members who grew up in other countries. Choosing the Philippines instead of the other country they grew up is a big sacrifice already.
In spite of all the victories Azkals brought to our country, it is heartbreaking that some of us are still making big issues about Azkals, being only half-Filipinos. Even the Constitution does not discriminate between the “pure” Filipino and the half-Filipino so why should we? In fact, these people are Filipino whole-heartedly. Those people who called the Azkals as not pure Pinoys are the people who doesn’t know the meaning of what a real Filipino is. For me, looks, language or race doesn’t matter. What matters is what’s in your heart? If your heart utters that you’re a pure Pinoy then you should follow it. Bashing and raising issues against our fellow Pinoys will bring us nowhere.
(written by Mia Lydia Caragay, edited by Jay Paul Carlos, additional research by Lovely Ann Cruz)
RAMPAGING FULLBACK | Stephan Schrock move good for UFL, but at what cost?:
After days of persistent rumors, it has finally been confirmed: Stephan Schrock is coming to the UFL.
Local football fans were understandably agog as Ceres-La Salle FC confirmed the loan deal for the 2.Bundesliga veteran Stephan Schrock.
“April fools no more; the long awaited moment is happening for Philippine football, International Filipino Footballer Stephan Markus Schröck is heading his way to the province of Negros Occidental next week to join the pride of Negros Ceres La Salle Football Club in preparation for AFC Cup, UFL Cup and UFL league 2016! #ceresfc”, read the Ceres La Salle Facebook post.
After the initial euphoria died down after the announcement, a question was foremost in most football fans minds: Why did he make the move?
The question is neither intended to disrespect the Bacolod-based club or the UFL, nor to be dismissed simply as a matter of rhetoric.
After all, for all the UFL could be, its level is nowhere near the level of 2.Bundesliga, where Schrock has consistently plied his trade for the most part of his career. Thus, some fans view this move by Schrock as a step down, a demotion if you must.
Arguably, Schrock playing here is good for Philippine football. The Azkals will get a Stephan Schrock sans jetlag, plus have him play regular football with most of his Azkals teammates in Ceres.
For the UFL, Schrock is an instant draw and massive attraction, perhaps even displacing Phil Younghusband as the face of the league.
Azkals fans, who we know from experience are not necessarily even football fans, will be drawn to the games. This will hopefully translate into more people in the stands and more media mileage for the league.
With the likes of Schrock playing in the league, quality of play in the league will no doubt increase as well.
If there were any threats to Ceres-La Salle retaining the League crown, it surely would have been dispelled by now. Ceres are now prohibitive favorites to win the league and the UFL Cup, but it is the AFC Cup where Ceres expect Schrock to deliver.
With Schrock’s signing, Ceres has spared no expense in the 2016 AFC Cup campaign, a year after narrowly missing out in the group stages.
But at what cost?
Three years after marking the likes of Bayern Munich’s Franck Ribery out of the game, Schrock will now be forced to track back against much lesser opposition, including youngsters keen to test their skills against Schrock.
Against the likes of Kaya, Loyola, Global, and Stallion, Schrock will be tested. But what will happen when he plays against the league’s minnows such as Agila and Forza?
Because of his experience playing in Europe, Stephan Schrock will surely stand head and shoulders above everyone else on the field.
Experience that was honed, it has to be said, by playing against the best players in the 2.Bundesliga.
Would he be able to find similar challenges in the UFL, challenges needed to keep his game sharp once his loan deal ends in August?
Ryan Fenix is InterAksyon.com’s resident football analyst. His football column Rampaging Fullback appears exclusively on the site. He runs the football blog The Prawn Sandwich Brigade, covers football for Sports5 and serves as a FIFA Ballon d’Or juror. He is also huge tennis fan. You can follow him on Twitter. http://j.mp/1Q8mgTH
It’s the end of the year and it’s the time for us to sit back and take stock of what happened the past year. It is an important ritual among sports buffs and sports fans alike, as it provides us vital lessons to prepare us for the year ahead, even as it allows us to reminisce the highlights of the closing year.
So what stories stood out from this year’s sports calendar? What were the key drivers that should give us a glimpse of what to expect for 2016? Finally, what should we do this 2016? From the ‘feel-glad’ stories of inspiration and heroic triumphs, to the ‘feel-bad’ tales of heartbreak losses, to the outright ‘feel-mad’ nightmares of boners and dysfunctions, here are the top sports stories of the year:
The Gilas Surprise at the FIBA Asia 2015 Championship in China
Easily standing out among the year’s sports headlines would be the Gilas Team’s heroic campaign at the FIBA Asia Olympic Qualifier in China. They were given up for dead after an underachieving stint in the Asian Games in 2014 that led to the ouster of then-coach Chot Reyes. They endured the pull-out of some key players at the start of the tryouts and had to contend with a relatively lightweight line-up. Then they had to contend with a radically shorter preparation time. They then proceeded to choke on their very first game in the tournament, absorbing a heartbreak loss against a Palestinian team that was not even fancied as a contender for the crown.
Everyone thought that this team was going down with a whimper. But no, this spunky group of international remakes and energized rookies had travelled to China with a serious intention to give everyone, most especially overwhelming favorite and host, China, a run for their hard-earned yuan.
Gilas takes the silver medal. (courtesy of philstar.com)
In the absence of marquee behemoths Jun Mar Fajardo, Greg Slaughter and Japeth Aguilar, Coach Tab Baldwin had rebooted the 42-year-old vet, Asi Taulava, and Sonny Thoss to back-up Andray Blatche at the paint. Without deadly perimeter gunslingers and team leaders Jimmy Alapag, LA Tenorio, Paul Lee and Jeff Chan, we had rookie internationalists Terrence Romeo, Matt Ganuelas, JC Intal, Calvin Abueva and another old reliable, Dondon Hontiveros. Those who remained to provide stability and continuity for the Gilas culture were super-guard Jayson Castro, Gabe Norwood, Ranidel De Ocampo and Marc Pingris. Still, the Gilas 2015 model was clearly no revved-up sedan compared to what it could have and should have been.
No matter!!! Despite the would’ve, the could’ve, and the should’ve beens that just didn’t work out for them, this Gilas model roared off and zoomed to the finish line to a dramatic 2nd place finish against a too-big, too-strong Chinese juggernaut in a too-hostile, too-partisan local environment that produced a too-biased, too-ridiculous hometown decision.
Emotions ran high as charges of biased officiating marred the final game. (courtesy of philstar.com)
Kudos to coach Tab and the Gilas Team! For a brief period of time, you gave the country something rare nowadays, something to be truly proud of. And you showed our trying-too-hard leaders how hard-earned victories can bring the country to unite and work as one. Clearly, you are worth emulating.
What needs to be done now is to prepare for the 2016 FIBA World Olympic Qualifying Tournament. With a heavyweight line-up that should include Jun Mar Fajardo, Greg Slaughter, Japeth Aguilar among others. With Fajardo and Slaughter beefing up the middle, our Gilas team should have a better chance of competing for that coveted slot in the Olympics.
It was not so much the loss that Manny absorbed, but the lack of drama and decisive fistic action in the ring that made the fight a ho-hum downer to many fight fans. Adding more controversy to that sleeper-of-a-match, it would later be revealed that Manny had an injured shoulder, but had decided against postponing the mega-fight. Be that as it may, the bout was a big win for Las Vegas business, with gate receipts and pay-per-view records reaching previously unheard-of highs.
After the non-event, Manny had his shoulder fixed. Now, he seems more focused on a possible seat in the Senate than on the boxing career that had lifted him to iconic status. Manny is poised to announce his last fight soon, to be unveiled before the May elections.
A new frontier for Manny Pacquiao. (courtesy of theguardian.com)
What needs to be done now is to prepare for Philippine boxing’s post-Pacquiao era. With Manny getting ready to move on full-time to the political arena, will Nonito Donaire, Donnie Nietes and the Pagara brothers be ready to take the cudgels for Philippine professional boxing?
Women’s Volleyball on the Rise
The year saw the popularity of women’s volleyball soar even higher. With the Ateneo-La Salle rivalry spilling into the volleyball court, and the likes of poster girls Alyssa Valdez, Rachel Ann Daquis, Michelle Gumabao, Gretchen Ho, the Santiago sisters Jaja and Denden, plus a bevy of lookers parading the courts, women’s volleyball never had it so good.
NU takes the Shakeys crown, upsetting heavy-favorite Ateneo. (courtesy of inquirer.net)
Credit goes to the UAAP and Shakey’s for engineering the resurgence of the sport. Through the years, the school rivalries in the collegiate leagues have provided traction in developing a loyal volleyball fan base. Shakey’s would later respond to the call with regular tournament offerings to give our lady players hope for a career after college ball. With the popularity of women’s ball reaching the roof, a new league – the Philippine Super Liga (PSL) – has since followed suit. And with exciting beach volleyball tourneys driving interest further, there’s nowhere else to go but up. Today, women’s volleyball has towed its men’s counterpart, and appears to have overtaken football as the second most popular sport in the country.
Women’s volleyball is definitely on a roll! (courtesy pf inquirer.net)
What’s needed now is a coordinated schedule of tournaments so that players are not pulled in different directions, and ensure that fan appetite is maintained. With conflicting tournament schedules, fans get confused to the point that some even give up on the sport. There has to be a higher body that will regulate and pace the schedule of tournaments. There has to be a steady group of teams that fans can identify with, so they can grow their loyalties slowly. That said, players should refrain from jumping from one team to another, as it hinders the development of a solid fan base which is vital in nurturing the sport.
The SEA Games Debacle in Singapore
No matter how the PSC and the POC try to sugar-coat their performance in the latest SEA Games in Singapore, the country’s haul of 29 gold medals was way short of its modest target of 41 to 50 golds. This can only be classified as another dismal performance and another failed mission. The country fell flat at 6th overall; last among the original 5 countries (Thailand, Singapore, Indonesia, Malaysia), and even overtaken by a relative newcomer, Vietnam.
The Philippine contingent takes 6th overall. (courtesy of gmanetwork.com)
In 2005, we were SEA Games champions, although this was obviously helped by the fact that the Games were held in the Philippines then. By 2013 however, we had tumbled down to 7th place, the first time we had gone so low in the medal tally. In this year’s SEA Games episode in Singapore, we improved slightly to 6th place, overtaking Myanmar.
There are traditional parameters with which we can gauge a country’s sports potential and relative strength. There’s population size (the bigger the population, the more the potential); and economic capacity (the richer the country, the more potential). But then, Singapore’s population pales in comparison to that of the Philippines. So with Thailand, Malaysia and Vietnam. Vietnam’s economy is not as robust as that of the Philippines. In 2013, cash-strapped Myanmar even overtook the Philippines in the medal standings.
Philippine sports fans have upgraded as well. (courtesy of philstar.com)
Something is clearly wrong with the country’s sports direction, and if the PSC and POC continue to cover up our mediocre performance and heap false praises, then that complacency will only lead to bigger embarrassments in the future. There is a problem in our national sports program, and our sports leader are simply blind or refuse to see it for what it truly is. What is obvious right now is that it is not just the lack of economic resources that is clearly hampering our sporting bodies.
What needs to be done is an honest-to-goodness performance evaluation of all National Sports Associations (NSAs), to be made by an outside unit not affiliated with the POC and the PSC. The leadership of all non-performing NSAs will have to be relieved. As they have been found sleeping on post, they must be replaced by young, dynamic sportsmen who could bring in better ideas to get us on the right track. So with the PSC and POC. Both are peopled by senior citizens with antiquated senior ideas and frequent senior moments. The sad fact is that many of our athletes harbor the impression that the present leadership is more concerned with perpetuating themselves in power rather than in genuinely developing the country’s sports talents. This has spawned a growing insensitivity among athletes and a lack of trust among would-be sponsors and corporate sponsors. Clearly, in order to get us out of that quicksand of failures and mediocre standards, there is a need to infuse new ideas, new direction and a new drive – in short, a new leadership – in both the POC and PSC.
Azkals’ Brief Fling with Glory
Our souped-up Azkals took a fast 2-win, 1-draw start; beating Yemen, upsetting Bahrain and drawing against a strong North Korean squad; to get everyone excited over the prospect of advancing in the 2018 World Cup Qualifying Round. But hopes for a grand entrance to the next round were dashed when the Azkals suffered consecutive losses to Uzbekistan, Yemen and North Korea.
Our Azkals gave us something to dream of before a string of losses took them out of contention. (courtesy of inquirer.net)
Still, the international seasoning has definitely elevated the game of our local booters. Previously suppressed by the POC, this international experience will bear fruit in the years to come. If only for that, football’s development in the country is slowly being achieved.
What needs to be done now is to infuse more grass roots development for football. While it is good to spot Fil-Euro talents to beef up the Azkals’ line-up, the development of home-grown talents will have an even bigger long-term effect on the country’s football program.
Triumphs and Debacles
There were other feel-glad stories that provided our athletes and kids golden opportunities to shine. The PBA continues to grow, with its wonderful outreach programs that have endeared the league with the masses. Eric Cray and Kayla Richardson were the fastest man and woman in the SEA Games. The Philippine Volcanoes also made waves in the recent SEA Games. Nikko Huelgas and Claire Adorna ruled the SEA Games men’s and women’s triathlon. Our Boxing Team regained its spot as boxing’s best in the region. The UAAP and NCAA games are bringing in more interest in the Philippine sporting arenas.
But there too were stories that surfaced other emotions. The lost bid to host the FIBA World 2019 was one such feel-bad episode. The controversial win by NU in the cheerdance competition brought in mixed reactions. The shortfalls in such sports as dragon boating, where our crews have always been considered as world-class; or swimming, rowing, canoeing and sailing, with our vast expanse of seas; or other medal-rich sports such as taekwondo, shooting and gymnastics; it is such a pity and a mystery that we cannot cash in on such events. It seems that our sports leaders have not been paying too much attention on charting a course for the future of Philippine sports.
As 2015 draws to a close, we pray that ‘The Force Awakens’ so that a clear focus, and sincere and deliberate steps are made to finally bring us back to the correct path to sports advancement.
Happy New Year, everyone, and may the Force be with us this year!
I’ve been to Ciudad many times. Nadaanan ko na lahat ng pwedeng madaanan dun. Umaga, gabi, at isang beses bumabaha! Hahaha! Wala lang. Gusto ko lang sabihin na napakadaming sumuporta sa #ALDubEBTamangPanahon! (#TeamBahay lang ako. Haha!) Congrats, @eatbulaga! I hope maging ganito din kadami ang tao sa Ciudad sa game day ng #Azkals. Time will come..
Manuel #Neuer is set to makes his 300th #Bundesliga appearance. He could also keep his 143rd clean sheet - then only three keepers will be ahead of him. #packmas #MiaSanMia by fcbayern http://bit.ly/1T7M2G9http://on.fb.me/1MmRDD2
#realmadrid:🇵🇹1️⃣0️⃣⏳ #RMHistory @Luis__Figo A nightmare for defences, a dream as a teammate. Figo was pure quality and his dribbling and eye for an assist made him one of Real Madrid’s all-time greats. Una pesadilla para los defensas, un sueño como compañero de equipo. Figo era pura calidad, su manejo de balón y su último pase le convirtieron en uno de los más grandes de la historia del Real Madrid. 🚩 Matches: 163 ⚽️ Goals: 38 🏆 Trophies: 7 #HalaMadrid #tbt http://on.fb.me/1kwmneQ