Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Homecoming for SportyDad

SportyDad went on a weekend break to attend the UP HS Iloilo homecoming where our class was one of the honored jubilarians. T'was so good to be home. Home is UP Iloilo (now UP Visayas) where we spent the best years of our student days. The campus looked the same, the old buildings still standing and defying time, serving as mute witnesses to our growing up years. The playground now looked small; it looked big then when it was the main venue for our Sportsfest, student teach-ins, bonfires, etc. The reunion in sum was best described by Sen.Franklin Drilon, a member of the Golden Jubilarian class 1961  and adjudged as the Most Distinguished Alumnus. Indeed, he said, "this reunion uplifted our collective spirit and renewed our bond." And when Push on UP and UP Naming Mahal hyms were played, it was the older batches who seemingly sang the loudest.

Here's our batch with the Oblation. On my left, in blue shirt, is Nonong Araneta.

After the Saturday (July 22) dinner ball (which was the highlight of the affair), we proceeded to watch the Kuwait leg of the Azkals-Kuwait FIFA qualifier. We settled at the lobby of Smallville 21 hotel, located at Smallville, Iloilo's version of Eastwood. With us was our classmate, Mariano "Nonong" Araneta, Jr., the president of the Philippine Football Federation (PFF). His phones were busy, messages from Kuwait,  from local news reporters, and from many others. In between, we talked about the game, our prospects, strategy, personalities, skills and background of the players, news coverage, etc. Excitement, anxiety, rolled into one. 15 minutes from kick-off, he received a text message of the starting line-up. Definitely, the absence of Borromeo and Schrock necessitates some adjustments. He already sensed the weakness of the line-up; the left field to be manned by Jason Sabio. True enough, this is the left wing where the Kuwaitis made a killing on their attacks.

We jumped in excitement when Phil Younghusband had a clear opportunity to score the first blood as he left all defenders and faced one on one with the Kuwaiti goalie. Alas, to me he misfired that premature kick which was deflected by the goalie. Had he dribbled and side stepped one more, no way the goalie could have reached it. And Guirado's header which hit the bar was also very unlucky. We could have scored first and this could have definitely altered the complexion of the game. In the next ensuing play, the Kuwaitis, fast and superior in ball handling and movement counter atttacked. When near the corner area the Kuwaiti attacker was free, I could almost anticipate the next move. Kick to the center for a header cross. I've seen this over and over in European leagues, and indeed that was precisely done. The area was  quite covered but as luck would have it, Kuwait scored the first goal on a header. Still, there was hope. The 1-0 halftime score was acceptable.We went out of the hotel lobby and had ice cream at past 1 in the morning across the street. Somehow it cooled off the heat and tension. Our Azkals, we hoped, should concentrate more on defense in the 2nd half. But it turned out not to be. They lost focus, they found it hard to regroup and no substitute was called in for fresher legs. The Kuwaitis in turn displayed why they are one of the top teams in Asia.

We expect a closer game come Thursday at Rizal Memorial Stadium. Borromeo and Schrock will be back, perhaps the fancied Jerry Lucena and Mulders can play. Put in the hometown crowd. It will be an exciting game. A close game and a close Azkals victory is possible but a 4-3 aggregate which could make us advance to the next round is a tall, tall order.


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