Monthly Archives: June 2014

14 fun facts about the ‘14 FIFA World Cup

Brazil

I did a little research and unearthed these tidbits about this June 12 to July 13 event…

1) This WC is the most expensive in history, costing the Brazilians over $14 billion dollars. This amount is about the same cost as the last three World Cups. Of this colossal figure, about $4 billion went to building seven new or fully-refurbished stadiums and $900 million on security.

2) FIFA, the organizers, will spend a whopping $2 billion to run the event. But, no worries because they’re expected to gross $4 billion from ticket sales, sponsorships and other means of revenue.

3) A total of 12 cities around Brazil will host the games — the most number of venues in WC history. The Finals will be in Rio de Janeiro, a vast city of 6.3 million people.

4) Brazil is a massive country, almost as big as the U.S. Thus, teams have to travel far distances between venues. Consider the U.S. team. Their first match was in Natal and, for their second game in Manaus, they’ll have to fly 1,700 miles (as comparison, Cebu to Manila is only 355 miles).

5) The World Cup has existed for 84 years but only eight nations have ever hoisted the cup: Spain, France, Germany, Uruguay, Italy, Brazil, Argentina and England.

6) Teams demand special requests pertaining to their hotel accommodations. Here are a few: Japan (jacuzzi in every room), France (liquid soap not bar soap), Uruguay (silent air-conditioning) and Algeria (a copy of the Quran in each room).

7) Gisele Bunchen, the most famous Brazilian model, is expected to present the Cup when the event concludes in Maracana Staidum on July 13. She’s a huge football fan, although her husband (quarterback Tom Brady) is involved in another type of football: American football.

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8) The WC champion team wins $35 million while the runner-up, $25 million. Those eliminated in the group stage still take home $8 million. The total purse is $576 million.

9) Jennifer Lopez and Pitbull are singing the games’ official song: “We Are One (Ole Ole).”

10) Out of 209 national teams that vied to participate in the WC , only 32 are entered. They’re divided into eight groups of four teams each with the top two from each bracket advancing to the (Round of 16) knockout stages.

11) Finally! Yes, given the technological advances today, for the first time Goal-Line Technology will be used. Remember the 2010 World Cup when England was denied a goal against Germany after the shot hit the bar and bounced in but the officials failed to call it a score? Now, that won’t happen again. The new system includes 14 cameras that will be positioned around the goal, all connected to a computer in the data room. Once a goal is confirmed, the referee will feel a vibration in a specially-made watch that he’ll use and it will display a simple word: Goal.

12) The referee will be carrying a spray paint. No, he won’t use it against a red card-issued player. It’s a vanishing spray paint that he’ll use to mark the spot for a free kick. Great idea. The paint will last about 60 seconds.

13) This, coming from the Vox.com article “10 things non-soccer fans need to know about the World Cup,” is interesting: “Among the stranger things to know about the event: some coaches restrict their players’ sex lives during the month of play due to the belief that excessive sex will impede their performance on the field. Players on Spain, Germany, Chile’s teams aren’t allowed to have sex at all, while Brazil’s players are permitted to have ‘normal sex’ as long as it’s not ‘acrobatic,’ and France’s are also allowed to have sex as long as it doesn’t last all night.”

14) Brazil is not only a shoo-in to win because they own the most number of WC trophies (five) but also because of “home-court advantage.” In the last 19 World Cups, six hosts have gone on to win the cup. That’s the good news for Brazil. The bad one: the last time they hosted, they reached the finals but lost to Uruguay. That was in 1950.

Harvey Sytiongsa: Q & A with the champ

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In the annual Club Championship of the Cebu Country Club (CCC) last May 10, among the Class A golfers who competed, one young man stood tallest. He was only 18 then (he turned a year older last June 1). It was the first CCC “Green Jacket” victory for Harvey Sytiongsa. Here’s our interview:

START. I started playing golf at the age of seven, but the game caught my attention at the age of four when my dad (Edgardo) used to do practice putting in Del Monte Golf Club. My first coach was Bob Pestaño and the one who further developed my game is Coach Joe Bernaldez.

MILESTONES. During my Junior golf years, I won a Championship in one of the VisMin legs (Mactan).. With my amateur years at CCC, I was champion in some Monthly Medals and won a Lowest gross tournament in one monthly medal… In 2013, I placed runner-up in the Philippine Junior Masters. In 2014, I played for my school (Univ. of San Carlos) and placed runner-up in the individual competition. We won runner-up in the inter-school event at the Orchard Golf & CC. Lastly, I’m a member of the CCC that played in the 2014 PAL Interclub in Bacolod.

CLUB CHAMPIONSHIP. It was a great experience for me; a chance to play with the best players of the club. I played my best and shot in the qualifying days 79 and 74 with a total score of 153. I won my first match vs Joseph Stevens, 4 & 3. With the second match, I beat Kiyofumi Takahashi, 4 & 3. The third match was very tough, against Carl Almario, a former pro-golfer; I won 2 & 1.

During the 36-holes final match, I was nervous playing Marko Sarmiento, a former club champion, because he is the strongest hitter in the club. He plays great golf and is an experienced player. I just tried to calm my nerves by playing the way I played that week and not changing the routine I had for the whole week. The first nine was close since we gave and took strokes per hole. The second nine was more challenging since Marko was driving good, hitting the irons solid and making putts. But I finally had the upper hand on the third nine since I just needed to make par and he needed to make birdies. I won the Championship on hole no. 11 with a score of 8 & 7.

GAME. I can’t say that I have a specialty in the sport since I am an all-around person. I treat all shots with equal importance but place more emphasis in the short game.

I usually play with golfers who are better than me so that I can elevate my game. I also play with players who are interested in bringing up their game to the level I am in now. I play as often as possible when I have time. I prepared for the tournament by having my swing and my game checked by my coach.

My idol? Tiger Woods. He plays a solid game and he blocks off any distractions. He has a great mental side and also keeps fighting to win all games. Among the locals, I like Frankie Miñoza. I watched his game against Miguel Tabuena in “The Duel” last May 23 and he played like there was no pressure. I also idolize our own CCC pro Chuck Hong. I was able to play with him during the Pro-Am in “The Duel” and he hits accurately and has a great short game. He is friendly, approachable and is fun to get along with. I really enjoyed playing with him.

WHY GOLF? It’s interesting and challenging. I chose golf above other sports since it is a game where I challenge myself physically and mentally. It is also a game wherein I only blame myself for the mistakes I make. It can be played by anyone of any age; it can be for business and everyone is treated as equals on the course.

My next challenge is to play in the Philippine Amateur Golf and Asian Amateur Golf and hopefully win both the stroke and match play. Another challenge is to qualify and represent the Philippines in the Putra Cup. Tips for the Jungolfers? Just keep practicing, have patience, always keep a positive mindset and never give up!

Danao City hosts the ASEAN Mountain-Biking Cup

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Exciting times! The NBA Finals are underway, the French Open concludes today, the World Cup commences on Thursday, and this weekend, it’s a mountain-biking holiday. It’s the ASEAN MTB Cup from June 13 to 15, this Friday to Sunday.

“There are already 73 foreign riders coming from Malaysia, Indonesia, Singapore, Australia, Germany, and the USA,” said Boying Durano Rodriguez, the lead organizer. “More than a hundred local riders coming from Manila, Butuan, Davao and Cebu have registered as well as national team riders who have garnered medals in the PNG cycling competition in Tagaytay.”

Danao City is often labeled as “the Mountain Bike capital of the Philippines.” Rightfully so. I think it was Rep. Ace Durano, decades back, who first brought a mountain-bike to our country after his studies in the U.S. Then, in 1997, Danao hosted the 3rd Asian Mountainbike Championships and, in 2005, it was the SEA Games MTB competition.

This weekend in Brgy. Manlayag, Danao will be the first of two legs of the ASEAN MTB Cup. The second stop will be held in Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia next month. The categories are… Cross Country: Men’s Elite, Junior and Master; Women’s Elite and Junior for the UCI categories while for the non-UCI there are the Men’s Open (19 & older), Master A (30-39) and Master B (40 & older). Downhill: UCI categories are Men’s Elite and Women’s Elite while non-UCI categories are Men’s and Women’s Junior; Men’s Open and the Men’s Master A and B.

Mars G. Alison, writing for Full Point Cebu (Cebu Sports News), wrote this piece: “A point system will be used in the non-UCI categories to help the local racing scene of each host nation in implementing the UCI rules in future local races that will be run under the UCI regulations. The top 3 will be named in each category and the top 5 will be chosen overall. In the final circuit, an ASEAN Cup jersey will be given to the point leaders while the leaders in the ASEAN sub-categories will get a Cup jersey.”

I checked out the routes in the Facebook page and the X-Country track is four kms. in distance (per loop) with these descriptions along the way, “Entry to snail hill,” “Steep descent,” “Entry to jungle,” and “Mango Tree area.” Exciting. The FB page contains complete details, including the 284-meter high elevation start for the Downhill race.

Prize money? More than P260,000 is being offered and a  Cube 27.5 Mountain Bike will be offered as a raffle prize to the early registrants.

Who are coming to supervise the event? There’s UCI International Commissaires Max Mager (Singapore) and Beatrice Lajawa and Geoffrey Kronenberg from Malaysia. UCI International Commissaire Boying Rodriguez is the Race Director.

This event is supported by the Province of Cebu, headed by Gov. Hilario Davide III, Vice Gov. Agnes Magpale, Provincial Board Members Jude Sybico, Miguel Magpale, and Ivy Durano-Meca. Shimano, Cube Cycles, Smart, Rudy Project, Endurace, Air 21, ASAP Advertising, Ayala Center Cebu, YKK Trading, Bikeology, Prince Warehouse, The Brick, CycleLogic. Rep. Ace Durano, Danao City Mayor Ramonito D. Durano III, and Vice Mayor Red Durano.

“The course is not difficult and all mountain-bikers are encouraged to join,” said Boying, in our phone conversation last Thursday. “It’s not as extreme as the Xterra course. The area is like a plateau that’s on top of a mountain. It’s like on a golf course where you see most of the terrain and course. It’s very rideable.”

This should be good news to the thousands of mountain-bikers in Cebu. Let’s join! An event this huge does not happen often. “For the Masters category, there will be a couple of loops with each one measuring about 4.2 kms.,” Boying added. “We will have the Masters and other events on Saturday while the Elite competition (finals) will be on Sunday.”

The best news? Late registration is still open; just visit their Facebook page. Apil ta!

In ‘The Rematch,’ can the Heat three-peat?

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Greg Slaughter is the Tim Duncan of the PBA. No wonder, when I texted him yesterday asking for his prediction, this was his reply: “Hey John! I think the spurs will win because they want it more this year.”

Makes sense. After that unbelievably painful experience 12 months ago when, in Game 6 of The Finals against Miami, the Spurs led by five points with 28 seconds left and, soon after, were 10 seconds from winning the NBA title before Chris Bosh rebounded a LeBron James miss then tossed the ball to Ray Allen for a three-pointer to force the overtime … which led to Miami not only winning Game 6 but also snatching Game 7 when Tim Duncan missed a layup in the final minute — ouch, that’s hurtful.

But, like any champion, defeat makes one better, not bitter. “Our guys, they actually grew from the loss last year. They showed an unbelievable amount of fortitude,” said Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich. “If I can compliment my own team humbly, to have that tough loss — especially the Game 6 — and not have a pity party, and come back this year and get back to the same position. That’s fortitude.”

That’s scary — for Miami. Given that nightmare, the Spurs want it more. They’re hungrier. Plus, who knows if this will be the final year for the 38-year-old Duncan whom Greg Slaughter, in his message yesterday, calls “the ultimate efficient winning machine.”

Said Duncan in a prelude to Game 1: “We’re happy it’s the Heat again. We’ve got that bad taste in our mouths still.”

Game on! So, who’s your pick? When I meet friends and ask, the answers are varied. Some prefer the Spurs because “we want to see another team win.” Those who choose SAS agree with this analysis from NBA great Jerry West: “The Spurs are the prettiest team in basketball to watch because of their ability to pass the ball, the way they play together and the efficiency of the way they run their offense.” True. But, when I query friends, more tilt towards Miami Heat. That’s understandable; they’re more flamboyant and they possess the one-man-MJ/Magic Johnson of today. And, of course, there’s a Pinoy in the mix, Erik Spoelstra.

You know why this series is so compelling? Let’s start with Duncan. A 17-year NBA veteran, although he still has one more year to go in his $10 million contract, if he wins this month he might opt to retire.

The Big 3. There are two sets: Wade-James-Bosh and Parker-Duncan-Ginobili. Our hope is that all of them will be injury-free during the contest, especially Parker and Wade.

If Miami wins, the “Heat Three-Peat” will elevate their status as among the league’s best squads. Remember that this three-straight-wins feat has not been achieved since 2002 (by the L.A. Lakers). Plus, only two franchises have reached four straight NBA Finals, the Lakers and Celtics. “We don’t take this for granted,” said Wade, “and hopefully our fans in Miami, our supporters don’t take this for granted, neither. This is not something that happens every day.”

With LeBron, here’s an interesting fact: He can win Trophy No. 3 before he’s 30. (He turns that age this Dec. 30.) As comparison, MJ was a few months older when he did the Bulls 3-peat.

Michael Wallace of the Heat Index Blog added: “While it’s pretty much established that LeBron, at age 29, is already one of the top five talents to ever play the game, this series can fortify his legacy more than any he’s played to this stage. A win, and LeBron has done something his idol, Michael Jordan, and his biggest contemporary co-superstar, Kobe Bryant, have achieved with a three-peat. A loss drops LeBron-led teams to a 2-3 record in the Finals.”

In every one of the five Game 1s (NBA Finals) that San Antonio has played, they’ve won. On the flip side, every single Game 1 that LeBron has played on the road — he’s lost. He’s 0-7. Which means that the Spurs are sure to win tomorrow, right? Right. But if they don’t.. that’ll be a huge first punch to San Antonio. It’s a must-win for the team from the Wild, Wild West.

Gone too soon

Fritz Ponce Satera was at the prime of his life. He was tall, athletic and possessed a handsome smile. He was a friend to dozens of classmates, cousins, and tennis players. And how he loved the game.

“Fritz started at the age of nine,” said his father, Tito, during our conversation two days ago. “The date was April 7, 2005. I’ll never forget that. That’s when he first played tennis in Sibonga.”

Everyday, the young boy would sprint to the hard-court. “I got a coach for Fritz and agreed to pay him P1,000 a month but, weeks later, he had to leave because he had work elsewhere,” said Tito. “Nobody was left to teach Fritz but me.”

Father and son would hit hundreds of balls each day; dad tossing the yellow ball in various corners of the court while his son would swing and strike. Months passed. By October that year (2005), Fritz was ready for his big test: the provincial meet. He reached the quarterfinals. Not bad! said the dad but promised his son that, by 2007, he’d win the gold.

He did. Fritz swung forehands relentlessly and improved with each backhand. He’d go on to become a multiple Palarong Pambansa medalist and won dozens of trophies. Just last April, he represented Region 7 in the Prisaa Games in Tagum. Always the winner, he partnered with Mac-Mac Enriquez and won gold.

Sadly, and here’s the most shocking news, Fritz Satera is no longer with us. Last Friday night, he passed away.

Fritz was 18. He was to turn a year older this August 1.

Nobody knows exactly what happened. “He had no signs of sickness,” said his mom, Flor, during our lengthy talk at St. Peter Chapel when we visited two days ago. “The only time Fritz got hospitalized was a few years back when, together with his USC teammates, he had dengue. Other than that, he was perfectly healthy.”

It happened too quickly. Sometime Monday last week, Fritz was coughing hard and feeling tired climbing the stairs to his 3rd floor apartment unit. His parents had him checked and admitted him to the hospital. That was a Monday. By Friday, he passed away.

We don’t know the exact cause of his death. (Upon my speaking with a few doctors, because Fritz’s heart was enlarged, could it have been a rare case of HOCM –Hypertrophic Obstructive Cardiomyopathy — a disease that can strike anyone, including a topnotch athlete like Fritz?) Nothing is conclusive. What we know is that, after being admitted in the hospital, his condition worsened very quickly. This we also know: everyone’s in shock and hurting, especially his parents, seeing their only child leave this world so unexpectedly.

“Fritz was the perfect child,” said Flor. “He was respectful and was a very good son.” He was so humble, said his mom, that when she visited USC to check on his grades, she was surprised to know that he was in the Dean’s List. “He didn’t even mind telling me. He was that humble.”

I’ve known Fritz myself for a long time. In many of our local tournaments, including those I’ve organized, Fritz has often emerged the champion. There’d be many finals when he and his fellow age-grouper Jacob Lagman, older by just a few months, would contest a match.

When I scanned through my photos yesterday, I found myself standing beside a tall and handsome young man — Fritz was wearing baggy Nike shorts, orange Adidas footwear and our white Thirsty Cup shirt — as the event was sponsored by Thirsty three years ago.

Screen Shot 2014-06-01 at 7.00.55 PMFritz Satera with (from left) Fritz Tabura, his mom Flor and JP

Jasmin, Jana and I are still in disbelief at his passing. So are many of his friends, including Em Em Siso, who said, “He was like a brother to me. He and Kokong (Nino Siso) are like brothers. After we both did the Kool Adventure Camp, Fritz once told me, ‘I wish I had a sister like you.’”

Dr. Rhoel Dejano remembers his doubles partner well. A couple of years back, Cebuana Lhuillier had a Pro-Am event. Dr. Rhoel and Fritz were partners. “We played one tight match that we lost 8-6 after a 6-all tie. I’ll never forget that match.”

Neither will we forget Fritz: a good son, friend, classmate, cousin, tennis player. He’ll be missed.

Cold-blooded Heat

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Unstoppable. Remorseless. A wipeout. Mortifying. How do you describe yesterday’s performance by Miami versus Indiana? How about “No match.” Yes, it was a mismatch. Leading 9-2 in the first minutes of Game 6, I thought the Pacers had a chance. They didn’t. It turns out, they were just given a few moments of bliss followed by endless minutes of agony. Have we seen a more dominant LeBron & Co.? Blowing away their tormentors by a whopping 37 points in the 3rd quarter? How’s that for a statement.

After scoring a measly seven points in Game 5, LeBron was MIA. Yes, “MIA” means Miami but it’s also “Missing In Action.” In Game 5, LeBron was embarrassed. Well, he embarrassed the Pacers the next game. How many times have we watched a completely boring 2nd half — when the outcome was so obvious … in the final game prior to the NBA Finals! Very few. That’s because very few teams in the history of this 68-year-old league are like Miami.

“Not satisfied with our performance… we can still play better,” said LeBron James. We’d understand if he uttered those 10 words after Game 5. But he said that right after the first half, when the score was 60-34. Leading by 26 points, he wasn’t happy. He wasn’t satisfied. And that’s the hallmark of all champions, from Jon Jones to Ronaldo to Usain: they’re relentless, forever looking to improve, always asking how they can do better. “Just what you expect from greatness,” said the NBA commentator (and former coach) Mark Jackson.

Attack, attack, attack. That’s what champions do. That’s how they respond. That’s the LeBron James mantra. It worked yesterday and the previous two years when they won the NBA rings; it will work for No. 6 as he aims not just for a three-peat but for that Ring No. 6 in a few years‘ time. He’s only 29 — at his prime. And “he’s not Michael” said the commentator, referring to His Airness, MJ. “He’s Michael and Magic.” I agree. This is the great thing about the greatness that we observe in LeBron. He’s unselfish. While he can penetrate and shoot every time he’s handed that ball, he always looks for the best way to score — an open teammate, a drive that draws the defendants like a magnet then he dishes out a zip of a pass. He’s got Magic’s height and passing talent coupled with Michael’s drive and jump-shooting and air-defying prowess.

As to Lance Stephenson? Ha-ha. Guess who has the last laugh? He tried to bully his way into a mind-games battle against LBJ. It failed. Sure, this soon-to-be-a-free-agent has the guts to shoot faraway three-pointers and is unafraid … but his antics against the Heat (including that painful slap on Norris Cole’s face) backfired.

LET’S GO HEAT! This was the constant chant that reverberated inside the Florida stadium. They’ll need it. Whoever Miami faces in the finals will have home-court advantage. If the Spurs win today (that’s no guarantee given the tremendous lift that tilts towards the home team), it will be a rematch of 2013. If OKC wins, it’s Game 7. Either way, we know who the favorites are. When you’ve arrived at The Finals for four straight years, experience is guiding your brain. It’s called, in lay man’s terms, confidence. You don’t panic when you’re in trouble. You stay calm. You attack.

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What’s dangerous about MIA is that they’ve got so many weapons, from Dwayne Wade’s playing Robin to the Batman that is LeBron, to Chris Bosh’s stellar offensive play of late, to Birdman’s return from his nest to grab rebounds and scare the opponents with his tattoos, to Ray Allen’s beyond-the-arc loopers — these are pellets of ammunition that Erik Spoelstra, our proud fellow Pinoy, can utilize to dismantle the opposing squad. Just ask Frank Vogel or Larry Bird.

I admit bias. After the era of the Los Angeles Lakers when I rooted for them against Kevin McHale and Robert Parish of the Boston Celtics … after the Chicago Bulls domination over the Pistons and human race’s reverence for Jordan … I’ve been cheering for the planet’s hottest five.