Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Fair Play: Football makes some strides

FOR the second time in six months, the Philippines was mentioned prominently in an Associated Press dispatch about the Fifa world rankings.

Last June 2008, the Azkals, (that’s the nickname of the RP football team) were the highest climber of all the 200 plus members of Fifa, climbing from 189 to 170.

After hanging around at 165 to 170 until October, the AP report said this November, “highest-ever positions were achieved by the relatively new national team of Montenegro, now 115th, and 157th-ranked Philippines.”

Though it’s quite embarrassing for one of the co-founder of the Asian Football Confederation to be described as “relatively new,” getting mentioned in the same report along with No. 1 Spain and other top countries will be welcome news.

That AP report is sure to be carried prominently among the top football countries and Pinoys in those countries will get a surprise when they read that.

Among the 46 Asian countries, the Philippines is now 29th , again another stark improvement from being 44th of 46 just over a year ago, and among Southeast Asian countries we are now fourth of 11.

Thailand is still the best at 116 followed by Indonesia (132), Singapore (136) and then the Philippines.

And with basketball absent from next year’s SEA Games again (yippee???) I hope the Azkals get another chance to make some more strides.

Why call the national team Azkals?  Well, like the street dogs, Philippine football barely gets any love and support, yet it survives.

ALASKA CUP. Also making strides in the local scene is the Cebu International School Boys 16 team of Eleazer Toledo.

The team recently bagged the title despite barely making it to the quarterfinals as one of the second-best teams.

For Elying, last Saturday was a case of mixed-emotions as after CIS’ win, he learned that his University of Southern Philippines Foundation team lost to the University of the Visayas in the Cesafi semifinals.

UV’s win was a whole lot sweeter since it was the lowest-ranked team in the semis—curiously, also the only undefeated squad in the final four—while USPF was No. 1.

“That’s football,” Elying said the other day, “Kung perde ka, perde jud.”

UV will next be facing the University of San Jose-Recoletos this Saturday in a rematch of the 2005 finals. USJ-R eliminated the University of San Carlos, 1-0, in the other semis.

Back in 2005, USJ-R was the four-time defending champion, while UV was the young upstart and the match ended 4-0 in UV’s favor.

Will UV get another chance to dislodge USJ-R again or will the champion get its revenge?

MIXED-MARTIAL ARTS. I thought the word “brawl” was an apt description for toe-to-toe boxing fights but after seeing my first mixed-martial arts event last Saturday night, I won’t go near “brawl,” if ever I get to write a boxing story again.

Count me in as one of the mixed-martial arts convert.

In most of the undercards of boxing events that I get to see, I’d often end up thinking of the next day’s itinerary, or whether the round girl would trip, just to make my evening interesting.

But last Saturday, my mind was glued to the action.

Take the case of the Leo “Golden Boy” Gaerlan’s win against Jan Selaryo in the undercard. Gaerlan missed his right jab but in one fluid motion, connected with a turning backhand punch (if that is the correct word) that caught Selaryo in the face and down he went.

One thing that was also glaringly different from boxing fights (aside from the absence of kristos, who shout dyes siete), was the level of respect fighters show each other. Perhaps this is due to the fact that most martial arts discipline drill the word respect early on every practitioner’s mind.

Oh well, they say there will be another MMA card this March and I can’t wait for it.

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