Thursday, September 10, 2015

Fair Play: A perfect finale to a great Cesafi rivalry.

(This is my Fair Play column for Sun.Star Cebu's Sept. 10 edition)
IT was far from over yet fans of Don Bosco Technological Center were already anticipating the final whistle and started massing up at the track oval.

They knew it was coming. They were waiting.

But, on the pitch, the young Ateneo de Cebu squad was giving it all for a final push. And if not for an error in judgment by keeper Ralph Macam, who pulled a couple of brilliant saves, the Magis Eagles could have made the outcome in doubt right before the final whistle.

Two minutes before the final whistle, Glenn Thomas Ramos broke away. Macam beat him to the ball but mistimed his kick—intentionally?—and hit Ramos instead. Before going down, Ramos said “thank you” to Macam with his forearm.

Cooler heads prevailed and while Ateneo’s defense was still reeling at the actions of their keeper, Jon Joseph Rena put the outcome beyond doubt, saying hello from almost 30 yards with a shot that would have rivaled any of the five goals Uzbekistan scored.

Just like that, the final was over.

And it was a great one from two top rivals with coaches quick to adjust. Don Bosco was making a killing at right flank so coach Hayato Ayabe changed his left flank mid-way to the match. Joshua Shields, too, was tearing his defenders at right flank to shreds with impressive dribbling skills, but the Don Bosco defense was first to collect the crosses.

It was great, too, that while the rivalry was intense, the match wasn’t physical and there was barely any taunting---both from the players or from the fans. Well, of course, you have to exclude the naughty Don Bosco drum and bugle corps who played taps whenever an Ateneo player was down.

They may have lost, but Ateneo was surely in it and the players keep their poise despite getting a goal down. Most of the players were in tears during the awarding ceremony but memories like that only deepen their resolve when the two teams meet again in the Cesafi finals next year or even just a few days from now in the Milo Little Olympics.

As for Don Bosco, it’s the Cebu City Olympics next, where they will meet another rival who’s not a Cesafi member, Paref Springdale and if the early scouting reports hold true, Don Bosco may be in for a surprise.

One coach told me that the Springdale team this year is a whole-lot tougher than any of the two Cesafi finalists.

And that’s a match I surely can’t wait to see.

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