• Rota with Sister May and Chiara. Image copyright Bob Guerrero.

    One day a few months ago in Emperador, Azkals coach Thomas Dooley was taking in the UFL action action. On the pitch a tall, powerful defender caught his eye.

    The American coach circled the name “Simone Rota” on the start sheet and scribbled down “good back-up,” presumably to give cover to veteran centerbacks Rob Gier and Juani Guirado. But soon after, Dooley was using Rota more than just an insurance. The Filipino-Italian was starting at right back in full international matches for the Azkals against Malaysia and Azerbaijan, then recently, against Nepal as well.

    The caps were a culmination of a strange and wonderful story that began 29 years ago here in Metro Manila when a young Filipina, very much in distress, handed over her months-old baby to an Italian Franciscan nun doing charity work in the Philippines.

    “He was a well-nourished baby” recalls Sister May Memorial, who saw the little Simone back then when she was still a young nun. The baby was eventually shipped over to Italy to

    Read More »from Azkal Simone Rota enjoys his long journey back home
  • Doctora (center) scored off an assist from Simon Greatwich (left.) Image copyright Bob Guerrero.

    Postgame thoughts on the Philippines' terrific win in Doha.

    The new Azkals impressed. With Phil Younghusband and Jeff Christiaens unable to start due to injury, Curt Dizon and Daisuke Sato picked up the slack in a big way.

    Dizon showed some terrific composure on his opener, controlling Sato's gorgeous pass with with his left foot, and then, just like the coaches tell you to, speared home with an early finish. Perhaps we'd like to see a replay from the side to make absolutely sure it wasn't offside, but a goal is a goal.

    Sato showed he is more than capable of filling in for Christiaens. Not only was he involved in the first goal, but I loved what he did in the second half when Gier went in the middle of the pitch and Nepal evaded him and crossed into the box. Sato, all the way over from left back, slid over to the middle and dealt with the cross. This nineteen year-old's football IQ is very good indeed.

    Props to James Younghusband for supplying Martin Steuble with the second strike.

    Read More »from Azkals 3, Nepal 0: fresh faces make a splash
  • Curt Dizon. Image copyright Bob Guerrero.

    The Philippines' preparation for next month's AFC Challenge Cup campaign continues with a pair of friendlies in Doha, Qatar this weekend.

    On Friday night the national team squares off against Nepal in a FIFA “A” international friendly, then on Monday night the Azkals play Al Ahli Sporting Club, a team in the Qatari Stars League, that country's top tier. Live coverage for the Nepal game begins at 1:00 am on Saturday.

    The Philippines last played the Gorkhalis in 2011, with the Azkals prevailing 4-0 in Rizal Memorial. The Philippines also played Al Ahli in a friendly match in 2012, with the Philippines emerging 3-1 winners on the back of goals by Denis Wolf and Phil Younghusband.

    There are several notable omissions to the Azkals squad. Patrick Deyto has a wedding to attend to in the UK and thus cannot make the trip. Since this weekend is not part of FIFA's calendar of international dates, Neil Etheridge and Roland Muller are not coming. Ed Sacapano will likely be first-choice between the

    Read More »from Preview of Azkals’ Qatar friendlies, plus Porteria airs side on snub
  • Image courtesy Roy Moore. Pinga is behind the flag wearing white shirt on the left.

    For Enzo Pinga, there was one small detail that made him realize that the 2014 Street Child World Cup in Rio was no ordinary football tournament.

    “Only in this tournament do you see both teams celebrating one team's goal. It happened more than once, where one team scores and both teams celebrate together” said Pinga, one of the Philippine team's assistants. “You don't ever see that anywhere else.”

    “It might sound like a cliché, but in the end everyone was a winner. Even in the awarding, it didn't feel like Tanzania (the boys' champs) came out on top and the other teams came out empty-handed. ”

    Pinga, who also plays for Team Socceroo in the UFL, planed in from Rio on Tuesday and went straight to Emperador stadium to watch his club draw Pasargad 1-1. At halftime he was able to share tidbits from Philippine teams' fortnight in Brazil which saw the girls finish second to the hosts and the boys reach the quarterfinals.

    There were no shortage of heroes for both teams. Agot, the girls'

    Read More »from Inside the Philippines’ amazing Street Child World Cup run
  • Philippine girls' team. Image courtesy Roy Moore.

    Just like the runner-up finish of Gilas a year ago, this is one silver medal that shines like gold for the Philippines.

    A gallant and gritty Philippine girls team bowed to host Brazil 1-0 in the final of the Street Child World Cup on Sunday (early Monday Philippine time) in front of a large and noisy home crowd in Rio de Janeiro's Estadio das Laranjeiras stadium.

    The Brazilian ladies scored a first-half goal and held on to become the first-ever girls' Street Child World Cup Champion. In the inaugural SCWC, there was only one mixed event, and no separate ladies division.

    “Gutted. (disappointed) It was such a tight game that could have gone either way” wrote Philippine coach Roy Moore on Facebook.

    “A huge thanks to the Brazil team who came over to congratulate and celebrate with the Philippine team. The teams had become best friends during the tournament and it was a brilliant final. Brazil were a class act.”

    ALSO READ: David named MVP as Gilas tops PBA selection.

    The Philippines were

    Read More »from Filipinas win silver in football Street Child World Cup
  • Pre-game picture. Image courtesy FairPlay for All Foundation.

    The Philippine boys and girls teams are making waves in Rio, Brazil at the second Street Child World Cup of football.

    The girls are undefeated in their group games and must be considered one of the favorites to lift the trophy. The women's event features nine sides split into three groups of three.

    The Filipinas roared past South Africa 9-0 in their first assignment on the 30th of March then defeated El Salvador 3-1 on Wednesday to win their group . Ronalyn, Agot, and Angelica scored for the Pinays. Agot had scored four goals in the rout of South Africa.

    (The Fairplay For All Foundation, which is managing the team, prefers not to give the last names of the players for privacy purposes. )

    The Philippines qualify as the second seed in the girl's quarters and will meet England next. The home side are the top seed.

    The Philippine boys began their campaign on a winning note, with a solid 1-0 victory over Nicaragua on April 1 in their group. Later on in the day the Pinoys stumbled to an

    Read More »from Football: PH girls and boys storm into Street Child World Cup quarters
  • Folayang and Nagaowa. Image copyright Bob Guerrero.

    A month away from another hellacious ONE FC fight night and Eduard Folayang and debutante Jujeath Nagaowa are already girding for their upcoming fights.

    Team Lakay's Folayang, a lightweight, will stake his 13-4 slate against Japanese striker Kotetsu “No Face” Boku, while Nagaowa matches up against India's Jeet Toshi in an atomweight (48 kg) bout. The event is called ONE FC Rise of Heroes and will take place in the Mall of Asia Arena.

    During the open workout at Ultimate Fitness gym in Ortigas Center on Wednesday, Folayang, who you can learn more about here, looked relaxed and confident as he fielded questions about his upcoming fight. He also tackled the widely-held belief that Filipino mixed-martial artists are all about striking and kicking, and are inferior when it comes to grappling.

    For Folayang, he believes it's all in the Pinoy fighter's heads.

    “Naniniwala ako na and disadvantage natin sa ground ay dahil kulang ang self-confidence natin.” (I believe we have a disadvantage on the

    Read More »from ONE FC MMA: Philippines’ Folayang and Nagaowa gird for battle
  • Rodriguez Aracil (left) celebrates his first goal. Image copyright Bob Guerrero.

    Last year during the UFL Cup I gave Kaya coach David Perkovic a lift back to his apartment in BGC after we watched some games in Emperador. I recall telling him that I thought it would be very difficult for Kaya to match up with Global and Meralco in the league.

    “Well, I'm quietly confident of Kaya's chances” was the young Aussie's simple reply.

    Months later, his words seem prescient, as his side throttled Loyola 3-1 on Tuesday night to move into a tie for second in the Division One table with Loyola, just four points off league-leading Global. (Global does have a game in hand.)

    Kaya got a massive boost from Pablo Rodriguez Aracil, their new Spanish striker, who scored a pair of fabulous goals.

    Rodriguez Aracil is 28 years old, and has four goals for Kaya in as many games since he joined them in the transfer window. The well-traveled forward is a product of the youth system of La Liga side Valencia, and has played in Ireland, Cyprus, India, Honduras, Spain, Romania, and now the

    Read More »from UFL: Spanish striker helps Kaya dump Sparks, Dooley explains Porteria snub
  • Reyes and Alcano. UNAUTHORIZED COMMERCIAL USE OF THIS IMAGE PROHIBITED BY LAW. Image copyright Bob Guerrero.

    Pool is dying in the Philippines.

    Not so long ago, the sport was buzzing here. We produced world champions like Efren Reyes (1999) and Ronnie Alcano (2006.) Alcano triumphed in a world 9 Ball final against Ralf Souquet in front of a massive hometown crowd at the PICC.

    You used to have to wait in line on a Friday night for a chance to play pool at the many poolrooms all over the metropolis. Now many of those poolrooms have shut down.

    2013 was the very first year since my commentary career started in 2003 that I did not cover a single mens pool tournament either here or abroad.

    The Philippine sports landscape is fickle. Since the early millennium pool has come under attack from other pursuits like running, badminton, poker, football, and volleyball. Poker has especially hurt pool. Every pool shooter from the weekend banger to top pros like Dennis Orcollo have fallen under its spell.

    This is sad, because pool is the Philippines' best sport. Period. There is no real argument in my view.

    Read More »from Five ideas to revive pocket billiards in the Philippines
  • Angel Guirado and David Cortina. Image copyright Bob Guerrero.

    Global disposed of Pachanga PLDT Home Fibr last Thursday night 3-0 in Emperador. It should've been a joyous occasion for the club, since they now leapfrog Loyola for top spot in the UFL. But you couldn't tell from coach Leigh Manson's demeanor in the press conference after.

    “If you go into the locker room you probably can't tell we won” said the Scot. “I'm disappointed, I don't think we worked hard enough” he added later.

    Global may have taken the game with three goals in the first half, but as so often happens in football, the score simply refuses to tell the entire story of the game.

    The first goal was a header by Jeff Christiaens aided by hesitant keeping from Pachanga's Steve Yambou. The second was off another PLDT Home Fibr mistake, a giveaway in front of goal by center back Reza Amirkhizan that was converted by Izo Elhabbib. The third was a magnificent chest-trap and volley from Elhabbib.

    But Global did allow Pachanga to threaten with a few daring counterattacks in the first

    Read More »from Global overtakes Loyola atop UFL, and why kids should watch Kaya


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