IT WAS the perfect opportunity to pull a prank and I took the chance to troll Dan Palami and his Global FC team.
Everyone was wearing black, the colors of Global FC, during the welcome dinner for Global FC slash birthday party for host Ricky Dakay at his sprawling mansion.
So I came wearing the yellow Una Kaya shirt of their fierce rival Kaya FC. Boy, talk about eyes in your back.
I got in late, about an hour or two after the program started, and when I walked in, well, let's just say they were surprised to see a guy in an Una Kaya shirt in a Global FC welcome dinner.
Of course, I approached Paolo Pascual first, a player I've seen go through the age group ranks to the national team roster.
"Hala, Kaya man na!" Paolo said when I shook his hand, and I could see his teammates wondering why the Cebuano keeper was shaking the hand of the odd guy. Then I spotted Dan, the owner, and I had a silly grin on. I've been planning to do this for some time, but it was foiled by his last-minute non-arrival. I had the Kaya shirt on for the Thirsty Cup, when Dan was supposed to play, but...
Of course, wearing a yellow shirt in a black team's party wouldn't be an issue, if not for what the United Football League has achieved in the past few years for club football in the Philippines. I'd be just a guy in a yellow shirt. But now, there's a growing following for the clubs in the UFL, especially teams like Global FC and Kaya FC, which has the fierce Ultras Kayas by their side.
Last year, the two clubs figured in an intense final round for the UFL Cup title, Kaya beat the Stallions to get the provisional lead with 42 points but in the next game, Global FC hang on for a 1-1 draw with Loyola to get to 42 points and win the UFL title on goal difference.
And that's why the Cebu Football Association hosted a welcome dinner for the team, who are here to play in the AFC President's Cup as the representatives for the UFL.
And leading them now, is Brian Reid, an experienced player and manager who has seen action for Newcastle United and coached Ayr United to the first division of the Scottish League. And he knows a stunt like that wouldn't have ended the way it did--with the owner, coach and consultant smiling--if it was pulled, say, in Scotland or England. It would have probably made the odd news, “Stupid editor mauled for rival’s shirt in welcome dinner!”
It's more fun in the Philippines, though for Reid, fun can be relative, especially for Global FC's stint in the AFC President's Cup.
Reid has seen the best of the football world--scouting reports prior matches, complete choices for the squad, check! But for the Asian Football Confederation's President's Cup, he won't have that luxury.
Global FC will be going against Dordoi of Krygystan, KRL of Bhutan and Yeedzin of Pakistan, and the coach will essentially be going in blind, having no idea who he'd be up against aside from the spare info gathered online.
"If Manchester United plays, say, a team from Australia, they'd probably send three or four scouts there to check on the team," he said during a brief talk with the press."
It's unfortunate that we are not in a financial situation to have that."
The only info they have of Dordoi, one of the top teams as it is a regular in the AFC President's Cup and a former winner, is that 17 members of Krygystan's national team, plus the coach, is in the squad.
Based on the Fifa rankings, the former member of the Soviet bloc is at 142, just a notch above the Philippines.
These unknowns aren’t the only things in Reid’s mind. Though he’s been with the team since January, he essentially has a new squad as AFC rules limit the number of foreigners to two, and he regularly plays four or more in the UFL.
This is what Philippine club football is in right now, taking baby steps against the established names, armed only with guts and the belief that it belongs with the big boys.
On May 8, we’ll find out and of course, there won’t be trolls this time around.