Life at Kaya So Far copy

It’s been almost two months at Kaya, and in these past few months, I’ve been constantly peppered by the same questions: “How’s life at Kaya?” “How’s Kaya treating you?” “How’s Kaya?” These questions, said in various tones, from concerned to curious, have become their staple greeting, and “Good” has become my autoreply.

Well, to put an end to these endless inquiries—this is my first and last attempt!—I will blog about my experience. So far, life at Kaya has been good. Oops, here I go again with “good”! I mean, let me give you an idea why that is the best response.

To start off, my expectations have been met, and that is always a good start. Kaya has always been close to my heart, and to be part of it finally confirmed why. Not gonna get into the details, but the work itself is what I’ve always wanted to do. I’ve always wanted to be part of an academy, and here at Kaya, I get to write about young and talented footballers who end up inspiring me instead of inspiring them. I also love working with Chris Greatwich. He is exactly how I imagined him to be. He is funny, witty, and clever! He knows what he wants to achieve and how he wants to achieve it. Goal-oriented and dedicated, and I like that. He is not afraid to say what is on his mind. Straightforward, and I like that. I’ve known him since 2011, and working with him is a privilege. He turns his passion into action—cliché and obvious, yes!—but it is motivating and effective. That is how everything worthwhile starts—with passion. Okay, I should stop here. I don’t want Chris to think I’m his no. 1 fan!

Chris Greatwich with Students copy

Working for the senior team is another thing and is my priority. I work closely with Paul, the general manager, and I know I’m in good hands. I don’t think he would want me to mention his name (sorry, Paul!) on my blog, but I can’t help but give him a shout-out. I know I will learn a lot from him, and we all know my quest for knowledge never ends. “Jack of all trades, master of some” is my tagline and not “A mystery to solve.” I’m truly grateful that he decided to take me under his wing. When it comes to Paul, there is always a way—if you are committed.

Lastly, Kaya is known for its brotherhood, and I’m blessed to be one of them. In my recent feature on Masanari Omura, I said that Masa regards Kaya as not only a team but also his own family in the football world. Kaya indeed has a kind of brotherhood that can withstand anything under the sun. I know it’s too early for me to give a testimonial, but since I was a fan of the club first, I’ve always been familiar. The solidarity and camaraderie are crystal clear, and I hope I can make it stronger one day.

Sure, I miss my friends at Global—who all seem to have left, if I’m not mistaken—but I’m exactly where I want to be. I tell people it’s all good at Kaya because, as vague as it sounds, it is good. Thanks for all the concern, but I think it’s time to put all your questions to rest. Don’t worry about me. I know Kaya’s got my back!

Tokyo Tokyo x Kaya

Everybody knows that my life is not an open book—I have even been labeled mysterious by a footballer—but football is a massive chapter in my life. I am willing to discuss certain things as long as it revolves around the sport. It is my way of interacting with other people. It serves as a bridge that links me to people who share the same passion for the sport. Never mind if the person speaks a different language or comes from a different background. Football is my life.

farewell paalam adieu adios copy

Most football fans and supporters will most probably associate me with Global, but in the interest of full disclosure, the Global FC (and Azkals) part of my football chapter has just officially ended. I am now moving on to a new page with a new club. I have met a lot of good people at Global and the Azkals. A lot of unsung heroes. A lot of friends. I don’t even know where to begin! More importantly, the team became my second family, something that I have always longed for, as it turns out.

During my time at Global, I learned lessons that have shaped me to become who I am today—a champion for the football cause. Looking back, it was an experience that I will never forget. I am no stranger to ups and downs. I have failed and have let failure wash over me until I have learned from it. I strived for improvement just like everybody else, except off the pitch. Just as my school had injected excellence in my DNA, Global reinforced my desire to excel and to discover as much as I could about the sport and myself. I have changed somehow, but I have never stopped dreaming bigger.

After more than two years, I have recognized the need to move on with my career, and I am pleased to announce that I have found the next good step. This may or may not come as a surprise, but I firmly believe that working at Kaya—yes, you read it right—is the next logical step in my career.

Global will always have a special place in my heart; it is part and parcel of my foundation and football career. I am forever grateful. Valuable experiences and life lessons are memorable by-products, but my heart tells me that I belong at Kaya. Sure, there will be new challenges, new faces, new problems, new everything, but I want to face them all at Kaya. I am more than ready to be steeped in the discipline and work ethic of Kaya because I have always been one of them.

From the bottom of my heart, thank you to my Global and Azkals families for adopting me and treating me like your own. I am still working for the same cause as Dan Palami—to promote football in the country and inspire more people to support the sport. My departure will not diminish my love for football. There will be no sliding into mediocrity either. This is an opportunity to continue what Sir Dan has started, but through and with my Kaya family. I hope you will be happy for me.

When Coach Graeme left Global back in February 2012, I felt abandoned. It didn’t help that I saw the news of his resignation on the Internet. I was relatively new to football then, and he was like the grandfather I never had. I was definitely upset, but I understood his reasons for leaving. I wasn’t sure if I would welcome any coach into my life after that, and then I met Coach Brian Reid.

Tribute to BR

In early 2013, Global hired Brian Reid, the former Ayr United manager, to coach Global. I still remember the first time I met him. We had lunch at Racks with the team, and I had to share the same table with the Scottish colossus. Fonz introduced me to him as the boy who doesn’t eat—which isn’t true, by the way—and I was given the Reid glare. Not sure what it meant, but I thought maybe it was “Nice to meet you!” in Brian Reid jargon. He was talking to Fonz most of the time, but I was fascinated by his confidence and attitude. No bickering took place, surprisingly, but I was just laughing about something the whole time like a crazy person. As my favorite cliché goes, the rest is history.

We have had so many great memories together during his stay in the Philippines. For the record, I interviewed Coach Reid twice, as the Global head coach and as the Azkals U-23 head coach, and each was an entirely new experience. He proved to us that he is indeed a top coach who is worth admiring for the rest of our lives. My sister and I should have the rights to write his biography! I had several Starbucks sessions with him, and I have never consumed so much cake in my life. I heard him scream and shout (not at me, thank goodness!) more than my mother had ever screamed during her lifetime. I learned to value timekeeping more than I already do. I was forced to learn how to edit a Wikipedia page even if it was against my will. I had never been called a “top man” until I met him, and it is a compliment that I still haven’t digested.

He may be known for his physical and mental toughness—I know he is capable of throwing me out of the window with one hand or giving me a hair dryer treatment—but I have a different Coach Reid in my book. If only you could see him from where I’m standing, it would change your life. We can just look at each other and know that we’re thinking (or making fun) of the same thing. His sense of humor is impeccable. He is clever, witty, and funny. He is undoubtedly a good storyteller with the gift of gab. I can talk to him all day without getting bored. Such was his brilliance and eloquence! He was the full package, and I was the only one who knew. Ah yes, I miss him already!

If Coach Graeme was the grandfather I never had, Coach Reid would probably be the cool uncle who would defend you and laugh with you in good times and in bad. He knows how to cheer me up. He knows how I feel without having to narrate everything. He knows when it is time to give some advice or impart wisdom. And he knows when I’m lying, sadly!

I will not recount all his good deeds because it might tarnish his tough-as-leather image, but he has done enough to find a special place in my heart. He is probably the best Christmas present I got in 2013, only I got it in advance and lost it before the year ended. 

Photo by Cholo dela Vega

Photo by Cholo dela Vega

This is the unabridged version of “Football legends in Manila: Fabio Cannavaro and Dennis Wise,” an article I wrote for Philippine Star Supreme last Saturday, August 24, 2013. 

Our nation was starstruck when David Beckham paid a visit back in December 2011. Such a syndrome was marked by fainting spells, giggles for the ladies, silent shrieks for the males (or when no one was looking) and perhaps the inception of the selfies. That moment was considered sublime in Philippine history, and who would have thought that the day would come when that would be challenged? That’s right, two more legends of the ball, Fabio Cannavaro and Dennis Wise, have landed in the Philippines and are ready to have us shed more tears as they participate in the Clear Dream Match. Whether you’re a football fan or not—it doesn’t matter—these men can show anyone why they are legendary.

Legend 1: Fabio Cannavaro. Born in Naples, Italy (the home of pizza!), Cannavaro will forever be remembered for being Italy’s captain in the 2006 FIFA World Cup, where the Azzurri won their fourth World Cup title. Next to olive oil, Fabio is perhaps a household name in Italy. In the same year, Cannavaro, “the Berlin Wall,” was named FIFA World Player of the Year ahead of Zinédine Zidane. A heartthrob and a football icon, Cannavaro’s achievements and remarkable playing career—he played for Napoli, Parma, Inter Milan, Juventus, and Real Madrid—have made him one of the greatest defenders of his generation. Naming a pizza after him is in order!

Legend 2: Dennis Wise. A recognized name in English football history, Wise is undoubtedly a Chelsea FC legend—with over 400 appearances!—known for being the club’s most successful captain before John Terry surpassed his record. During his 11-year spell, he was able to lift the FA Cup twice and was voted Chelsea Player of the Year twice. The former midfielder also represented England for 10 years and played in the Euro 2000. He eventually delved into the management side of football when he played at Milwall, where he had a player-manager role. Talk about making a career out of football—now that’s a wise choice! Younghusbands, step aside, we have a Chelsea legend in our midst.

I asked them stuff about the Philippines and football, and it would seem that some legends are actually true—and it just gets better—since a good number of Pinoys will get to see them play on the University of Makati pitch. Cannavaro and Wise may be in the country for a short time but we are glad that they have swept the country with a stronger turbulence—beat that habagat—with their legendary presence and inspirational stories that will make every young Filipino want to be a football pro.


FABIO CANNAVARO: Um, nice country, nice island, nice vacation, friendly people, good food, too many nice things.

DENNIS WISE: To be honest, lots about the Philippines… Obviously, James and Phil, I’ve heard about them. Not too much about the football side of it. But I think what these two guys have done to develop football, help and promote it, is fantastic


FABIO: A lot of rain. (Laughs.) The time. But I hope and wish to come back next season maybe.

DENNIS: The people are lovely. They really are. Obviously since I’ve come here it hasn’t stopped raining. It’s a bit like England, to be honest, so no different. But no, it’s a nice environment. I’m looking forward to training and enjoying the football side of it, which is good, and hopefully we get the result.



ME: None yet? I practiced my Italian for this moment. Tell me if this is right: Voglio piangere perchè sono felice. (“I want to cry because I’m happy.”)

FABIO: (Laughs.)

ME: It’s true. I am a fan!

FABIO: (Laughs.) Good!

DENNIS: No, I don’t, but you can teach me.

ME: Phil will teach you. I’m sure he has mastered it!

PHIL: (Laughs.)


FABIO: Yeah!

DENNIS: Yes, from day one.


DENNIS: I really don’t know. I really don’t know.

FABIO: I don’t know, really, because all my life I think about football.

ME: Not even making pizzas for a living?

FABIO: No, no, maybe you, you! (Laughs.)

ME: I wish! If I were born in Italy… Like you, you!

FABIO: No, all my life I think about football.


FABIO: To be professional. (James Younghusband butts in: “Our favorite word.”) It’s the key to success. If you want to be good players, you need to work and improve your body and performance to be a professional.

DENNIS: I think I have great desire. That was, I think, the main part. And I would go out and practice and practice and practice.


FABIO: Ronaldo, the Brazilian player!

ME: True! I would say that too if I were a professional footballer.

FABIO: (Laughs.)

DENNIS: I think it was Patrick Vieira who was probably the toughest. Very powerful. Strong. Difficult to play against. We had some good tussles over the years, me and Patrick. But also off the field, he is a really nice guy.


FABIO: Too many but it’s better not to tell. (Laughs.)

DENNIS: Wow. You got me there. I’ve never ever been asked that question before.

ME: You can just come up with something now. Like a fan interviewing you. That is touching.

DENNIS: This. A fan interviewing me. Fantastic. Thank you for that!


JAMES YOUNGHUSBAND ANSWERS FOR FABIO: He’s not familiar, but he’s gonna watch them in the future.

DENNIS: Obviously it needs to improve. A lot. These guys [Phil and James] are helping it as much as they can. I think the federation needs to help the situation because it needs to work from below. The grassroots needs to improve and that takes time.


FABIO: To follow their dreams and to be happy with football. Because it’s magic. You can be professional players, but you need to enjoy football.

DENNIS: I think they need to practice and give themselves every opportunity to improve. And I think if they do that, and work hard at everything, and give it your best, and if you give your best, you give yourself every chance of succeeding.

Photo by Cholo dela Vega

Photo by Cholo dela Vega

A new song dedicated to the Philippine National Football Team (Azkals) will hit the streets or, should I say, turf soon. “The Turf” is a catchy and edgy hip-hop song that features vocals delivered by R&B singer Duncan Ramos and rapping by footballer Stephanie Dan. The track from Duncan Ramos’s upcoming album smoothly blends his R&B style with infectious, slick electronic beats that weave in and out of the song. After one spin, I wouldn’t be surprised if the throw-your-hands-up song hypnotically takes you to the turf.

The Turf

Background and Development

“The Turf” was written by Mel Macasaquit, CEO of the Melmac Group of Companies, who also happens to be a friend of Duncan Ramos himself. As we all know, Duncan Ramos is a former member of pop and R&B band South Border that spawned the hit singles “Rainbow,” “The Show,” and “Brown Hand Smash.”

While Duncan Ramos was working on his upcoming album, he needed an Azkal to be featured on a song entitled “Flaunt,” and that was when Melmac Sports entered the scene and recommended Jason de Jong. With Jason’s swagger and bad-boy charm, he is undoubtedly the perfect choice for Duncan’s carrier single. It was “Flaunt” that gave Mel the brilliant idea to come up with a new song for the Azkals.

“While doing ‘Flaunt,’ I realized that since I’m already attached to his album, why not make a song dedicated to the Azkals. A song that can be played or even performed before an Azkals game. I wanted something modern that even the kids would love to sing along. The usual LSS,” narrated Mel.

The track also features Stephanie Dan, the only athlete/singer under Melmac Sports. Mel chose her because he wanted it to sound young and fresh. Her style of rapping blends well with the bouncing club rhythms.

Knowing Mel’s ardor for the Azkals and Duncan’s passion for music, they made it happen. “So I told Duncan, ‘Let’s make a song for the team and make sure it sounds fast and aggressive. The real asong kalye.’ He agreed to the idea. But he asked me to write it. He was probably thinking I know more about Azkals,” explained Mel.

Writing and Recording

Believe it or not, Mel did not live a recluse’s life while composing the song. Sometimes ideas just start flowing and clicking into place, and surprisingly, you end up with a work of art. You don’t have to be composer to write a song; all you need is inspiration. “I was just putting whatever popped into my head. I’m not even a real composer. I was just thinking about the history of the Azkals and the people behind it. When Duncan asked me about the name of the song, I could only think of one word, turf, just because I was passing by BGC Turf. But I guess it makes sense since if a team wants to prove something in football, I’d say, ‘Let’s take it to the turf.’ But it’s just me.”

Some of the lines in the song were inspired by two phone calls Mel received while writing it. “It was funny because while writing the song, I received two phone calls that afternoon. One from Sir Dan. The second one was from Chieffy. He was asking me about an update for his cup in Barotac. Then we ended up talking about his goal in 2012 Suzuki cup against Vietnam,” elaborated Mel. So don’t go wondering why the names Chieffy and Dan Palami are in the lyrics. Speaking of Dan Palami, he was supposed to sing a line or two, but a sore throat prevented him from belting out or rapping.

Lyrically, the song is devoid of some elements present in mainstream hip-hop songs—profanity, pent-up issues, sexual innuendos, and the like. The song is intended for everyone, no parental guidance needed. Stephanie Dan’s mom and sister swung by their recording session and read the lyrics, and Mel said that they asked that the word pump from the line “Pump it up some more” to be changed to spice. Now you obviously can’t go wrong with an upbeat song about the Azkals.

Two songs have already been written for the Azkals, but this new anthem draws power from its talented singers, clever take on football, and vintage beats that would want you to blast your headphones or speakers. This track, which incorporates the genre of this generation, is not just meant for the Azkals but for every Filipino who enjoys music. Filipino pride can be fun; it can even take you to the turf.

Let the Azkals U23 Play

After the disappointing news that Philippine Olympic Committee (POC) and the Philippine Sports Commission (PSC) won’t be including our football and futsal teams in the upcoming Southeast Asian Games in Myanmar, I felt like my heart shattered into a million pieces. Though that would mean I would be dead by now. Anyway, I wanted to write something to express my sadness and disappointment, but if I did, it would have been anger-fueled and would not help anybody.

Good thing I read “Let the U23 Azkals Play: An Open Letter to the PSC and POC” by Bob Guerrero, and it made so much sense that I decided to calm my thoughts and keep them to myself. A day later, though, I still wanted to share my thoughts on this matter. So in the same fashion as Bob’s piece, I’m writing a letter, but this time, I’m pretending to be one of the U-23 players, and this is my “journal.”

Dear POC and PSC

I woke up to the news that football and futsal are off the list for the coming SEA Games in Myanmar. I couldn’t believe it, honestly. Is this verified? Funny how I was just dreaming about my debut for the Philippine national football team, and then I woke up finding that my dream was crushed just like that. It’s worse than stealing my PlayStation from me; it was like stealing my dream and shredding it in front of me.

Ever since the announcement that I would be officially training with the U-23 Azkals, I have never stopped thinking of the SEA Games. I really want to play in front of a big crowd and represent the country through the sport that I’m actually good at. I’ve been training with the team for weeks now, and I’ve been noticing improvements in areas that I was once weak at. I’ve observed my teammates’ remarkable improvement as well. In a recent friendly, we were able to test ourselves and validate that we have indeed improved. Considering that the SEA Games is still in December, we have ample time to jell together and build chemistry to collectively do well in the competition. We’re having training camps too, so I’m pretty sure that would be more than beneficial. Did I mention former Ayr United manager Coach Reid is our coach? I don’t mean to brag, but this is probably the best U-23 squad ever. You just have to take my word for it, though. I wish you would see us from the perspective of our staff, sponsors, fans and supporters. Maybe that would change your mind.

Honestly, I find it heartbreaking when I read that you have to “strictly follow the criteria that allow the inclusion of only the gold medalists in the previous SEA Games and potential gold performers in the national delegation to the Dec. 11–22 biennial meet.” As a born athlete, I have never encountered such a rationalization or philosophy in my life. Growing up, I’ve read and heard a million sports quotes that serve as my motivation and guiding light in victory or defeat, but your criteria seem to defy and negate all of them. My father once told me, “Even if you know and feel you’re gonna lose, you have to play the game and give your best. Because whether you like it or not, there are still people out there who believe in you, that you will win, and I know I am one of them.” As sports savants, you guys are supposed to be believers by default. But what happened?

Why would you only give the gold medalists and potential gold performers a chance to play and represent the country? It’s unfair. Losing and winning will be always part of the game. I’ve learned through experience that losing plays a vital role in a player’s learning process, a never-ending journey that we all go through. I’ve fallen several times, but I always came back stronger. Football is an unpredictable game and will forever be; that’s why you can’t assume anything. In any sport, you can’t assume that victory will come as easily as the last time. Since when did things become predictable around here?

I’m sorry if I’m complaining and ranting, but I just can’t help it. A lot of people have done so much to promote football and to give young Filipino footballers such as myself a chance to shine in football, the world’s popular sport, and prove that we can now compete and excel at it. Football is supposed to bring glory to this country, but you’re depriving it of the opportunity instead of providing it. Aside from your criteria, it’s safe to say that you have expectations too—to win is obviously one of them—but we also have expectations. We expect you to stand by your cause and objectives to encourage and develop sports in the country. Winning isn’t everything. If you stick to winning alone, the whole point of competing disappears.


My Top Three UFL Stories

And just like that, the 2012–2013 UFL season is over! We didn’t win the league this year, sadly. We were this close, though. But that’s football for you: an amazing unpredictable ride! Congratulations to Stallion FC for winning the league. Like I said when we lost in the recent UFL Cup, losing and winning are part of football and part of life, and there is always another trophy to be won.

They say that football has launched a million fantasies and a million stories, but I’m sure every one of us has something to add, bad or good. I, for one, have many, but I don’t even know where to begin. I honestly want to start from the very beginning, but let me just give you my top three memorable experiences (in no particular order) this season.

Global Forces

Having an official supporters club, Global Force, is one of the best things to ever happen to Global. Fans are very important, being the backbone of the club. This year, Global Force has been extra spectacular, and we’re lucky to have an excellent supporters club. They have continued where they left off in the UFL Cup and have consistently and continuously grown in number, stretching beyond the walls of Manila. I’m very thankful to Global Force and will always be, not just for cheering throughout the season at all the games but for showing that fans indeed reflect the club.

There was a time when I thought having local branches of Global Force would be a dream for the club, but surprisingly, this year, I came across Global Force Iloilo and Global Force Cebu. You cannot imagine the joy! Are there more out there?

Global Force Cebu

Despite not being able to go to Cebu, I heard about the rock star reception we received and that Global Force Cebu provided the atmosphere for the President’s Cup. Your devotion to the club is as admirable as what we have in Manila. We are very grateful. Maybe gradually, there will be more recognized branches, and one thing is for sure: Global FC can’t wait to meet you all. Always remember that we are the People’s Club, and everyone is welcome here.

Global Force Cebu too

International Competitions

This year, Global has been blessed to participate in the 2013 AFC President’s Cup and 2013 RHB Singapore Cup, both a first for the club. Despite being derailed from the President’s Cup, it was still an unforgettable experience. To play in front of the Cebuanos and witness the existence and enthusiasm of Global Force Cebu was an honor. To represent the country and the UFL in the tournament was a privilege and an achievement that will go down in the annals of Philippine football history. We can always charge losing to experience, as the cliché goes, but the best thing about that experience is that we really learned from what happened. No worries, we can spring back up stronger and better. We always do.

Global FC Fanfare

After a month or so, we faced the defending champs of the Singapore Cup in the preliminary round. Defeating the champions was, of course, redemption. Warriors FC is a great team, but in that match, we emerged victorious. Maybe Global somehow possesses the Manchester United spirit: “It is the need to win, the hunger for it, and the ability to find a way.” Don’t let the results of the President’s Cup and the UFL undermine that spirit! Our next match is in July against Duli Pengiran Muda Mahkota Football Club (DPMM FC). Cheer with us!

A Friend in Reid

I will say this with as much neutrality as I can muster: Coach Brian Reid is probably one of the best coaches, if not the best, to ever land in the Philippines so far. From the perspective of some spectators, he is the shouting Scot on the sideline, but that, my friends, is what you call coaching. Every note of that “scream” has an impact on the team—orchestrating and influencing the team indirectly, maybe—even though it gets misunderstood or misinterpreted for something else. I wouldn’t question his respect for his players and staff because he has that in abundance. He respects everyone and treats everyone equally. He is very professional, and l like that. Moreover, I love that he trains and plays with the players during training. It’s not just coaching; it’s passion in action.

But being professional doesn’t mean he doesn’t have his fun moments. True, he relishes hard work and practice—who wouldn’t want that?—but we actually have lots of incredible moments together! This season has paved the way for me to learn from him, the fountain of football knowledge, from everything football to life in general. In the words of Brian Reid himself, “You’re always learning. Even when you’re 70, you’re still learning.” This season was never easy; we’ve experienced ups and downs, but at the end of the day, you’re a team—one family, one goal—and you have to stand behind your team no matter what happens. Every game is a learning experience. As you can tell, he gives sound advice, not in a preachy way, but because it’s necessary and in your best interest.

Brian Reid Quote

Gary Neville once said, “You might not like the explanation, but at least you’ve been told, to your face.” Some people comment that they don’t understand him, perhaps because of his accent and all, but the trick is to listen and not just hear him. Listening and hearing can be different; in fact, they are, when you think about it. Listening is a skill that requires you to give proper attention to what you are hearing. If you want to understand him and learn from him, you have to listen to him, and believe me, you won’t regret it.

Now that Briad (that’s what I call him!) is the new U-23 coach, the U-23 staff and players are in luck. They have the perfect opportunity to learn from my dear mate as he passes down his knowledge. It’s up to them, of course, if they want to listen to him and suck in the experience. They should.

Well, that would be my top three! What’s yours?