Villaflor: Busy week for footie fans-A A +A
Wednesday, October 10, 2012
IT was one hectic weekend for football fans.
Overseas, Loyola Meralco Sparks FC ended a spirited campaign in the Singapore Cup with a loss to a more experienced Tampines Rovers FC.
Hours later, FC Barcelona and Real Madrid drew 2-2 in their La Liga El Clasico.
Back closer to home, the whole-day 9-a-side All Cebu tournament last Oct. 7 ended on a high note with the resurrected Ramos FC dethroning defending champs Rising Sun FC at the Aboitiz Sports Field.
That same afternoon, the USJ-R collegiate squad also unseated the reigning titlist USC 1-0 to emerge Cesafi champions in a heated final that reportedly had a referee punched by a drunk and an injured player waiting for ages for medical treatment.
(I missed both the All Cebu and Cesafi final matches as we had a visitor at home.)
Since the El Clasico and Cesafi are both established fixtures, I’d like to tackle the newer additions to the football scene —the Singapore Cup and the All Cebu 9-a-side tournament.
While both differ in size and scope, the two tournaments illustrate how awareness of football has accompanied the growth of the sport here.
This is a good sign that the development of the sport is on the right track. I’m not saying there haven’t been setbacks and roadblocks, but the expansion of the sport at two fronts bodes well to the country’s football enthusiasts and stakeholders.
The All Cebu 9-a-side tournament, organized by Rabanes Sports and a brainchild of Donn
Frank Rabanes from three years ago, drew 16 clubs. More clubs wanted to join but they had to be turned down.
A festive but respectful atmosphere prevailed during the tournament. And with the nine-a-side format, there is more organized team play and more purpose with the ball.
Surely, this isn’t the last tournament from Rabanes Sports.
As for the Singapore Cup, sure it was a losing campaign for the Loyola Sparks on foreign soil, but having reached the semifinals against a tough field speaks of how much national club football has improved.
It was impressive how Loyola dominated for roughly three-fourths of the second-leg match against top team Rovers before succumbing to Singapore’s most prolific goalscorer Aleksandar Duric, who opened the scoring for a 3-0 rout (5-0 on aggregate).
But it almost didn’t turn out that way. If not for the heroics of an inspired Rovers’ goalkeeper, the Sparks would have been easily two goals ahead (2-2 on aggregate). But a fingertip save by an outstretched Sasa Dreven followed by a reflex block moments later denied the Sparks’ a date with history.
Both wicked strikes, which came off the boot of Phil Younghusband, would have slipped past the hands of a less-able goalkeeper, but not this Dreven guy. Those were Loyola’s best two chances, and while they orchestrated wave after wave of assaults deep into Rovers’ territory, the back four held its ground.
On the 78th minute, Loyola’s Singapore Cup campaign was over, after the quick Duric, all of 42 ripe years, showed his lethal footwork that left the lone defender on the seat of his pants and goalkeeper Ref Cuaresma without a chance.
After two more goals (including one more from Duric), Rovers were on their way to snatching their fourth Singapore Cup title.
Loyola was picked to join the competition after topping the first round of the United Football League early this year. Its 5-0 aggregate loss is no cause for shame, as the score line does not tell the entire story. Instead, the two legs showed the Sparks were up to the challenge against more established sides.
The Sparks’ performance also showed a maturity that might be said of other clubs in the United Football League. Perhaps UFL defending champions Global FC or runners up Kaya FC could do just as well, if not better.
Loyola not just represented the UFL well, it might just have paved the way for fellow UFL clubs to more international competitions. As the country’s representatives, the Sparks offered a good idea of where Philippine club football stands.
And it’s a promising one.
Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on October 11, 2012.