Dreams are for real!

Dreams are for real

When the Clear Dream Match 3 was announced, I knew that at least one Manchester United player would come to the Philippines, but I didn’t know it would be Paul Scholes. Did I freak out? Yes. And that was only the announcement that Scholesy will be participating in the last Clear Dream Match. So when David Milan asked me to interview Paul Scholes and Andy Cole, I almost passed out. Dreams are for real!

Scholesy is one of my football heroes. I grew up seeing him play on television or reading about him everywhere. I found him interesting as a player—and after the interview, I guess I still do—because he didn’t have time to waste on words during his career. He did his talking on the pitch! Never mind if he is the third most booked player in Premier League history. His pinpoint passes and touches are world class—present tense because we witnessed at the Clear Dream Match that he still has it! His love for football and Manchester United is so genuine that he retired twice in his career. I even blogged about his first retirement back in 2011 and stressed the importance of a midfielder’s role.

As a massive Manchester United fan, it only took me a few minutes to prepare hundreds of questions. I only submitted around 20 plus questions, though, and the Manchester United staff had to screen them a few days before the interview.

Thinking of questions was easy-peasy, but interviewing would be the problem as always. I get nervous whenever I meet my heroes! And Phil Younghusband would know. I gave him a heads up!

Fast forward to June 6, the day of the interview, I woke up all thrilled, and yes, with the usual raging butterflies in my stomach. When I arrived at the venue, a guy handed me the approved questions and they were like thirteen left. I was like, “Why did you remove the juicy stuff?” He laughed and said they didn’t want anything controversial. To be honest, I wasn’t planning to cause a stir; I was just being a curious fan. Of course, I wanted to ask about Sir Alex, David Moyes, and the World Cup! It was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. I’ll never see Scholesy again.

Interviewing Paul Scholes and Andy Cole

When I was summoned to the room, a nice British lady told me she had to reduce my questions. I felt bad and disappointed, but I had no choice. There was even a United employee beside me the whole time. I think he was there to make sure that I would only ask the approved questions. I was able to sneak in one, though! I’m sneaky like that.

Paul Scholes, Manchester United staff, Younghusband brothers

After the interview, I told Phil Younghusband that I wrote a letter to Paul Scholes. I sort of asked him to give it to Scholesy, but I ended up going with Phil. I was so embarrassed when Phil handed him the letter. I wanted to jump off the building! Everyone said “awww!” in chorus so I did the honest thing and clarified that it wasn’t a love letter. They all laughed. I guess they didn’t believe me.

Asking Scholes

When I left the hotel, I saw James Younghusband and his friend, and we crossed the street together. “You did well,” said James Younghusband, but I honestly couldn’t tell because I was so nervous the whole time. I was so starstruck! My palms were cold, sweaty, and shaking. My heart nearly jumped out of my chest! Interviewing Paul Scholes is obviously the highlight of my year—or my life! He is my hero and will always be. What a legend! He was radiating with calmness and valor at the same time. Even while sipping tea, he seemed so badass and sharp.

Paul Scholes, Andy Cole, and Younghusband brothers

Anyway, below is the extended version of my article on Paul Scholes and Andy Cole. You may also read the actual article that Supreme published HERE.

A week before the 2014 FIFA World Cup kicked off in Brazil, the Philippines got a visit from Paul Scholes and Andy Cole, two former professional English footballers who both played for the England national football team and, of course, Manchester United. Together with Phil Younghusband, James Younghusband, and the country’s top footballers, the Manchester United legends were part of the third and final installment of the Clear Dream Match at the University of Makati on June 7.

Last year, Italian World Cup winner Fabio Cannavaro and former Chelsea player Dennis Wise were the stars of the Clear Dream Match. This year, two legendary Red Devils were here to give the fans a footballgasm!

Paul Scholes, fondly called Scholesy or the Ginger Prince by the fans, is a straight-up Manchester United legend! Born and bred in Manchester, Scholesy is part of the Class of ’92, the golden generation of Old Trafford talents that also spawned football icon David Beckham, who visited us back in 2011. Beloved by Manchester United fans and idolized by some football players, the ginger-headed midfield dynamo, known for his sublime passes and scything challenges, made over 700 appearances for the Red Devils and won 66 caps for England. It’s no surprise that French legend Zinedine Zidane called him “the greatest midfielder of his generation.”

Andy Cole, the Nottingham-born striker, had an illustrious career in the Premier League, but despite playing for other teams, he was able to establish himself as a bona fide Manchester United player. Known for his legendary partnership and telepathic link with Dwight Yorke, he helped Manchester United win numerous trophies, from winning five Premier League trophies to lifting the UEFA Champions League trophy in 1999. Even today, he is still the second highest goal scorer in Premier League history.

To end the battle for Clear Supremacy, Paul Scholes reinforced Team Phil while Andy Cole joined Team James. Team James emerged victorious from the Clear Dream Match trilogy with a 1–0 victory against Team Phil in a match that gave the fans unparalleled excitement with every minute.

Supreme sat down with the two United legends and asked them some questions about everything football.


ANDY COLE: Errrrmmmmm . . . [Zinedine] Zidane is the best player for me. Great player, graceful, a gentleman as well. So I’d go with Zidane.

PAUL SCHOLES: Same for me as well. Zidane as always.


PAUL SCHOLES: If he did, yeah, that’s nice of him. (Laughs.) It would have been nice to play with him, I suppose.


ANDY COLE: My starting XI? I’m very biased, so I would go with what we achieved with the treble. I’d have to go with the 1999 team.

PAUL SCHOLES: My two center forwards, definitely, that has to be Cole and Yorke. Apart from that, I don’t think it really matters who you have in your team ’cause with forwards like that, you’re always going to score goals. I said before I think the best teams always had the best center forwards, and at that time, we had four top center forwards. I think that’s the big difference between the teams at the top of the league and the teams near the bottom of the league—it’s the goals you’re able to score. With forwards like we had, we always knew we could score goals in the team.


ANDY COLE: The biggest hurdle? Oh dear. There are always hurdles. You’ve got to overcome your self-doubt. You get to a stage where you doubt yourself a little bit. There’s always going to be hurdles in front of you [that] you’ve got to overcome. Me, personally, was questioning myself. That’s the toughest.

PAUL SCHOLES: Yeah, you do question yourself. I think the biggest obstacles for me are your teammates, really, the competition that you had to get in the team. It always strives you to do better when you know that there’s quality players like the level we played at with England and with United. There are always top players who are ready to come on and take your place, so you always need to be on your game.


ANDY COLE: Yeah, be respectful to people. I mean, you know, we can’t all be fortunate enough to be professional footballers or whatever we want to be. But to be respectful to people who have less than you or more than you. That’s a great strength, and I learnt a hell of a lot from going to Manchester United and working under the manager I worked under. You know, you got to be respectful of people, and that’s a massive, massive thing that.

PAUL SCHOLES: Yeah, the same—be respectful to people. It’s something that the manager was big on. As Cole said, when he came, he realized that, and that wasn’t just from the start. It was right to the end. He always made sure you were signing autographs for fans and you’re always nice to people and always nice to staff around the place, around the training ground, that you always respected people, and you know, I think that transfers into our life as well. We always tried to be nice people and be nice to anyone, whoever it is.


ANDY COLE: Grassroots. I think if you can get more of your kids into football. Basketball’s the biggest sport here. If you can, try nick a few of them from basketball and work hard at grassroots level. You can give the kids an opportunity to have a dream that they can be a professional [footballer]. Not just in Europe, but I mean throughout the world. I think it all starts from the bottom. England are going through the same thing. Grassroots level’s not good enough, and I think we’re not bringing through enough kids. So if it starts there, you work at that and get better.

PAUL SCHOLES: Yeah, Clear and Man United are over here now, and hopefully that can raise the profile a little bit and can get kids really interested in the game. You know, it’s not something that’s going to happen overnight. But hopefully [in] five, ten, fifteen years, you’ll start seeing the benefit of that. (Hits teacup loudly; Cole says cheers.) Grassroots, the coaching from Man United football schools, can really get kids interested, and like I say, five, ten, fifteen years, you may be in a different position.


ANDY COLE: Yeah, come to the game tomorrow. Watch it on TV if you can’t come to the game tomorrow.

SCHOLES INTERRUPTS: Don’t expect too much

COLE: Yeah exactly, don’t expect too much from me or Paul Scholes. *EVERYONE LAUGHS* Have a good giggle up if you like.

No it’s just a joke (referring to not expecting too much), it’s a great honor for us to be here. We’ve been received so well since we’ve come out here. The people of the Philippines have been fantastic, very warm, very welcome, and so to say thank you for that.

PAUL SCHOLES: Yeah exactly the same. Hopefully we can provide a bit of entertainment for them. I’m sure it’ll be entertainment whether it’s good or bad I’m not too sure, no like Chloe said just hope the fans and the kids especially can enjoy the game.

All photos courtesy of Ceres Lina of FTW Sports. Thank you to Roy Moore of Payatas FC for helping me transcribe the interview. Be sure to check out his blog!

Life at Kaya So Far

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

Farewell, Paalam, Adieu, Adios, Sayonara!

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.

Tribute to Brian Reid

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. 

In Between Two Football Legends: Fabio Cannavaro and Dennis Wise

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

“The Turf”: A Song Dedicated to the Azkals

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 Under-23 Play

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.