When Global and Air Force lock horns on Saturday, it will be the continuation of a fascinating rivalry that has involved some epic clashes.
The first UFL game I ever watched was Global- Air Force. It was the final of the 2010-2011 UFL Cup in UMak, January 2011. I had been asked to photograph it for the league. Aly Borromeo was still playing for Global then, because Kaya was still suspended.
Global looked the better side that day and an Izo Elhabbib strike made it 1-0 at the half. They would double that advantage early in the second period.
But the legendary Air Force fighting spirit shone through. The Airmen were given a second half penalty and Ian Araneta converted. Minutes later Chieffy Caligdong made one of his trademark crosses from the left wing, which found Araneta again. His first shot was spilled by keeper Ken Dolloso but he picked up the scraps for the equalizer.
But it was Global's day. Minutes before the final whistle, Elhabbib heads in the winner, and Global lifted their first piece of silverware.
Check out my photo album of that game here:
Flash forward to June later that year. It's the final game of the UFL league. Air Force are in pole position, only needing a draw to garner their second straight league crown. Global need any win to triumph via goal difference. They looked out of the running the weekend before until a huge win against Navy gave them a shot.
There's an electric atmosphere in Umak, with the stands overflowing. Global strikes first, but Araneta levels in the first half. The second half was as good as Football gets without goals. There were chances aplenty, with Air Force goalkeeper Tats Mercado coming up with several key saves.
Then with stoppage time looming, still scoreless, Global is given a free kick just outside the Air Force box by referee Emil Balidio. Air Force manager Diding Cabalida is beside himself at the call and Balidio has to come to the sidelines and placate him. Taking the free kick is Global's Ghanaian substitute, Ayi Nii Aryi.
Ayi coaxes the ball over the wall and on target, but as he has done so many times, Mercado reads the play and makes the flying save. Minutes later Balidio blows his whistle, the game ends 1-1 and Air Force are champs again.
Shift to December 2011. The UFL Cup semifinals. Global wants revenge badly. It's an attritional match with a few chances here and there. Late in the second half Yanti Barsales pounces on an error by the Global defense and breaks the ice. 1-0. Deep into stoppage time Jalor Soriano makes it 2-0 to seal the win. Check out Mark Cristino's terrific photo of that moment here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/streetunka/6462768513/in/set-72157628297865945/
Air Force would go on to capture the league and cup double by downing Meralco in the final.
Last March was the most recent meeting between these two squads, and by then the tide had turned. Global jumped to an early 2-0 lead thanks to goals from Juani Guirado and Misagh Bahadoran. Ian Araneta slipped the ball past Global's Paolo Pascual just before the half to keep the Airmen in the game.
But Global went on to win 5-3. Now they are atop the table while Air Force languishes in sixth. Global is a huge favorite on Saturday.
But don't expect Air Force to lie down, even though it's a no-bearing game. The Airmen have been bouyed by last Wednesday's shocking 2-1 win over Meralco and will have plenty of confidence. It may also be the second-to-the-last Air Force game for Caligdong before he migrates to Texas.
Rivalries make sports fascinating. This has been a good one. Expect fireworks this Saturday.
Editor's note: The blogger's views do not represent Yahoo! Southeast Asia's position on the topic or issue being discussed in this post.