Saturday, April 09, 2011

Fair Play: Araneta on the Azkals: one fun barkada

SO,” I asked Ian Araneta. “What are the Azkals like off the field?”

Ganito lang,” he said. “Parang barkada.”

Ganyan lang?” I asked, while looking at the beer he had in his hand.

Hinde. Ngayon lang to,” he said. “Simple lang kami, parang barkada lang.”

I met Ian for the first time when he dropped by Cebu together with Paolo Pascual, the PFF’s Ace Bright and one of the team coaches. I, together with MCB and CDG, was invited by Paolo’s dad, Joel, for a get-together at the Pascuals’ farmhouse up in Balamban.

Also present were Paolo’s sisters Carmel and Nina and the Pascuals’ family friend Albert Flores and son Miguel.

That two-day sojourn was Araneta’s first real vacation since the team started training for the second leg of the AFC Challenge Cup match in Mongolia more than a month ago.

And on the day he returned to Manila, he went straight to work, scoring for the Air Force Riders in their 3-0 win against Kaya FC in the United Football League.

Enlisted personnel like Ian, Emilio Caligdong and Yanti Barsales are rarely free since aside from national team duties, they have other responsibilities. Caligdong and the durable Barsales also scored in that 3-0 win over Kaya FC, Ali Borromeo’s club.

Araneta said when they don’t have matches or are not training, they try to spend as much time with their families or they try to post updates through Twitter and Facebook for the fans, but when I told him one of the criticisms hurled against the Azkals was that they spend too much time on the Internet, his reply was a classic.

Ayaw kong patulan yan, pero ibig sabihin, binabasa din nila ang aming tweets at Facebook updates. So, nagpapasalamat na din kami,” he said.

On his goal against Bangladesh that ended a seven-match drought, Ian said that it wouldn’t have happened if not for his teammates’ efforts. Though he was thankful for the goal, he said he went on that match not aiming to end the drought, but aiming for the win.

Ian also said one of the toughest guys on the team is 37-year-old Barsales, his uncle.

Pag-maglaro yan, parang 21-year-old. Matibay talaga,” he said. Ian said his uncle looked like the Terminator with all the bandages after that vicious tackle he got from the Myanmar keeper in the Challenge Cup.

“The next day, parang wala lang.”

When he was asked if fans have given him proposals or have done crazy things, Ian said, “Wala naman. Baka si Paolo, marami yan.”

Paolo quickly clammed up tighter than a miser’s hand and just laughed, his silence perhaps encouraged by the inquisitive looks of his sisters whom his fans are turning to, to get any Paolo-related info.

For the young keeper, the experience with the Azkals was worth all the sacrifice.

As a 15-year-old kid, he once asked for Ian’s autograph during the SEA Games—something that surprised the striker.

“Before, I was just one of the audience, now I’m training with the them. And training with them is quite an experience already,” said Paolo, who dropped out of school last January to try out with the Azkals.

Araneta said that sometimes he can’t believe the changes in Philippine football since that fateful day in Hanoi but is very thankful for it.

Yun lang naman talaga ang goal namin. I-angat ang Philippine football.”

Ian also didn’t comment on which coach—Simon Mcmenemy or Hans Michael Weiss—is better, instead saying each has his own style.

However, he credited one oft-ignored individual for the Azkals’ rise—Des Bulpin.
“Coach Des was really a big influence for me and for the team. Malaki talaga ang naitulong niya.”

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