Scary Jakarta expedition for an Azkal fan

Miguel Larrauri is a football devotee. He’s more than a follower—he’s a zealot, fanatic, activist. He worships the football on an altar. Last December 15, Miguel flew to Jakarta. He watched the PHL Azkals play the Indonesian team in Game One of the AFF Suzuki Finals. From Cebu, he was, quite possibly, the only person to witness the game first-hand.

“I have experienced many football games in my life including a championship between bitter rivals Real Madrid and Barca in the Camp Nou,” said Miguel, “but it could not compare to the atmosphere inside the Stadium Utama Gelora Bung Karno.”

When I asked Miguel how much he adores the game of Pele and Maradona, his email reply summed it all: “I LOVE FOOTBALL!!!! I have loved it ever since I first played football. You see, I come from a family of football players. I don’t mean just my immediate family members, but even my cousins and close family friends. We would play in the beach or any park we could play in.”

The excursion to Jakarta? “I got myself to Indonesia to watch our boys play because I really felt they could beat them. I wanted to watch the eliminations in Vietnam but could not go due to work. My brother and I helped arrange the team meeting with President Noynoy Aquino on Monday, Dec. 13, in Malacañang Palace.

“Then, we had dinner with the team that evening in The Fort. I stayed with the team in the Sultan Hotel in Jakarta and watched them train. I could only watch the first game but that was good enough for me. The team was very positive and truly believed they could beat the Indonesians. Sadly, the Indonesian team had twelve players on the field versus our 11. By that, I mean the crowd in that stadium. They truly love their team and they will boo you to death.

“I came out of the dugout with the Philippine flag over my shoulders before the game and the crowd booed me as if I was giving them the finger. I literally had to wear a jacket to cover my Philippine jersey to get to my seat or else the crowd might just throw something at you. Luckily I was staying in the VIP section and the president of Indonesia was five rows behind me. Getting out of the stadium was another story. If we won, it would have been very dangerous but ‘El Loco’ Gonzales made sure it did not end that way.”

In our talk yesterday while he was vacationing in Boracay, Miguel described the Jakarta experience as frightening. The trip from the hotel to the football stadium, he said, was only a five-minute walk. But the players took the bus, complete with police escort, and it took them 30 minutes.

“All the streets, all around, everywhere,” Miguel said, “it was filled with Indonesians. And, believe me, I never saw ‘the finger’ so much in my life! These Indonesians fans were rowdy. It was scary.”

That Game One morning, the Azkals assistant coach Aris visited the stadium. “He made a mistake by wearing the Philippine jersey,” said Miguel. “He was chased by about 10 to 15 Indonesians straight to the hotel!”

Miguel, who played football varsity for Ateneo de Manila University for 12 years (“from Grade 4 until I graduated in college,” he said), wanted to celebrate his team by painting the PHL flag on his cheeks. Absolutely not! he was warned.

Even the Filipinos in Jakarta, knowing the craze and fanaticism of football in Indonesia, were cautious with their cheering for the Azkals. “After that first game, as expected, our players were kinda down. Etheridge felt guilty; there was a miscommunication between him and the defense that resulted in Gonzales’ goal. It was so loud inside the stadium,” said Miguel. “After the game, I arranged for a team dinner with the expat community. We ate at a German restaurant called Die Stube. There was a big community of Filipinos there. But, here’s the funny part. Many of the Filipinos did not watch the game live. They were scared. Many were told not to go. Instead, they gathered in a coffee shop to watch. Everybody was praning.”


“I love football!!!! I have loved it ever since I first played football. You see, I come from a family of football players. I don’t mean just my immediate family members, but even my cousins and close family friends. We would play in the beach or any park we could play in. luckily I went to school in ATENEO DE MANILA and we had BROTHER OZCARIS there. He formed Lightning Football and this is what made ATENEO produce a lot of good players. It was called lightning football cause it was fast and short football. It was played during lunch time in the Ateneo grade school field. We only had 15 minutes to play. It was classroom vs. classroom and I was the top scorer almost every year. Brother Ozcaris noticed me right away and asked me to join the RIFA MIDGETS C TEAM when I was grade 4. Well, from that year until the year I graduated from college, I played every year in the varsity team of ATENEO. That was for 12 great years!

“When I went to high school, my mentor became Cris Monfort and this guy believed in me. He took time off to train me just by himself and this really boosted my self confidence. On my second year in high school, he accelerated me from Aspirant B (taking me away from my batch mates who I had been playing with since grade school) to the Candidates team which was usually all seniors. To make things even more difficult for me, he made me first eleven and put me as the winger or right forward position. I was not really a skilled dribbler or had fancy footwork. What I had was pure speed and a killer’s instinct to score a goal.  During the COKE GO FOR GOAL tournament in Barotac, I played for the NCR team and I scored my 2 most memorable goals of my life in one game there. Playing in Barotac is one hell of an experience for a young boy. First of all, unlike in manila where maybe 20 people will watch a game, in Barotac 2000 people will watch a game and even the lolas will know what an offside trap is. Over there, if you were good, the kids will ask for your autograph, just in case you get famous in the future.

“In college, my mentor was not only Cris Monfort, but also Bert Honasan. I played for the Ateneo UAAP team for 4 great years. I never won a UAAP medal for football but I actually won 2 UAAP medals for track and field, both in the 4×100 meter relay. GO FIGURE.  After college, I joined first division and kept playing competitively till I got married. I even formed a couple of first division teams like LE COQ SPORTIF, MEGAWORLD, EMPIRE EAST, and ICTSI. I played one year in the Philippine Youth team and 2 years in the men’s team. My football days kinda ended when I broke my back and my L4 vertebrae started to subloxate or move interiorly. But my passion for football never ended.

“I always supported the Philippine team and actually would hire some of them to play in the first division teams I formed. During the 2006 SEAG games, I went to Bacolod to support the azkals. During that tournament, we already had the so called FIL-AMS (I don’t understand why they were referred to as that when they were mostly from England) like the Younghusband brothers. Aly Borromeo was already in the team then and he was actually my teammate a few years earlier when he joined our team during the MINI WORLD CUP in Nomads.”


“The result was huge, huge. I’ve never seen this kind of attention on Phil. football. The games were shown on TV. During the Suzuki Cup, the bars and restaurants were full—everyone was watching. It was like a Manny Pacquiao fight. In fact, the ratings during those games were higher than the PBA games. Plus, the Mizuno shirts were all sold out. This is nice to see. What’s important is this: we should not let go of the momentum.”

Categorized as Football

11 points on the ’11 Cebu City Marathon

Next Sunday, it’s one of Cebu’s most-awaited of events. If Al Mendoza calls the Azkals the “Achievers of the Year,” then Running is the “Sport of the Year.” For no other endeavor has convinced more Cebuanos to move and exercise and sway those arms and legs than this sport.

The Cebu City Marathon happens in 12 days. This January 9, 2011 event is the only 42-km. race in this island. Here are 11 items to remember…

1.) The Tunnel. For the first time, runners joining the 42K and 21K will trot below sea level. Almost a kilometer in length, running the tunnel was the same experience we had in Hong Kong. During that HK Marathon, runners jogged beneath the waters. It was a unique, cherished moment. Cebuanos will experience the same next Sunday.

2.) Fort San Pedro. Another feature in 2011 is running inside Plaza Independencia. Imagine gazing at the beauty of the Malacañang sa Sugbo and Fort San Pedro? This is new. Prepare your eyes.

3.) Sights and Sounds of Cebu. Held during the Sinulog week, this is what distinguishes the CCM from other marathons: the timing. For, with the Sinulog, there’s no bigger festival in our 7,107 islands. And what better time for tourists to visit? Plus, if you’re a runner… perfect. You see — literally, on foot — the sights of Cebu; you hear the sounds of the Sinulog drumbeats.

4.) Tommy O and Mike R. Last January during the “01-10-10,” then-Mayor Tommy Osmeña attended the twin Cebu City Marathon events. During the carbo-loading party, Mayor Tom spoke. He welcomed the visitors. Same during race morning: TRO shook hands, awarded medals, greeted the Kenyans. This year, Mayor Michael Lopez Rama — a runner — will join the 5K alongside 6,000 of his constituents.

5.) Cebu City. The role of government is crucial. Apart from giving the prize money amounting to P389,500 (with P60,000 going to the 42K men’s and women’s winners), it’s the support that’s essential. Every major marathon on earth has the backing of their city. Boston. Berlin. London. New York. Chicago. All these world’s best bring tens of thousands of tourist-runners – sports tourism, it’s called — because of the assistance of their mayor and city officials. Thanks to the City Government of Cebu, we have one of the most celebrated of races in the Philippines.

6.) CITOM and Jack Jakosalem. The roads will be closed from 4 to 9:30 on the morning on Jan. 9. If you run inside the SRP, the South Road Properties will be closed. Same with, of course, the tunnel (absolutely no fumes!). Osmeña Blvd. will be half-closed–one side of our island’s most important thoroughfare will be off-limits to vehicles.

7.) CERC. Called the Cebu Executive Runners Club, this is the group of nearly 50 doctors, lawyers, businessmen and executives. Each year, CERC focuses on organizing only one race: the CCM. This is a non-money-making event that consumes our time, effort and resources. What for? CERC does this because we love running and we want to share our incredible marathon experiences with our fellow Cebuanos. You need not fly to Hong Kong or Singapore. Run in your very own Cebu. (Notice: Get ready to be leg-massaged by some of Cebu’s top doctors!)

8.) Numbers. There will be more than 1,100 runners joining the 42K race. With the 21K, nearly 1,500. With the 5K, 3,000-plus.

9.) Carbo-loading Party. You must attend this! Scheduled on Jan. 7, it’s an evening of relaxation, pasta-eating, and mingling with fellow marathoners. You’ll hear inspiring stories, watch marathon films, chat with others who offer tips.

10.) Race Expo. This is from Jan. 5 to 7. It is during this time that you can get your race packs: your New Balance shirts, race bibs, route maps, etc. Discounts will also be offered by Ayala Center tenants.

11.) Most painful/fulfilling moment. That’s what the 42K is about. It’s several hours of huffing, puffing, walking, running, drinking 100Plus, cramping, frowning, smiling–a range of experiences that you’ll never experience anywhere else but the marathon. These few hours will remain with you forever.

Pacman in Cebu?

CITOM chief (and former Cebu City Councilor) Jack Jakosalem with Manny and Gerry Peñalosa

Dong Secuya is the founder of, one of the sport’s top websites in the world. Last Sunday, Dong wrote a piece that had my eyes enlarged: for Manny Pacquiao’s encounter on May 7, 2011 with Sugar Shane Mosley, he wants to prepare… here.

“Pacquiao, who normally trains eight full weeks for his fights, has been quoted as saying that he wanted the first half of his next training to be held in Cebu but Roach was reluctant to the idea,” wrote Dong Secuya.

“‘Baguio is better, Manila is worst but Cebu has a lot of distractions also,’ Roach said who was to the point of walking out when Pacquiao trained in Cebu during the second Pacquiao-Barrera fight in October, 2007.

“‘I’ll take care and control everything,’ Pacquiao adviser and close friend Wakee Salud, who owns the gym where Pacquiao would be training in Cebu, told Roach over a cup of coffee. ‘Oh yeah? I’ll talk to Manny about it,’ Roach answered back.”

Imagine MP in Cebu? This is outstanding for you and me, Cebuanos. But, as Freddie is rarely wrong, he’s once more correct on this one: Cebu offers plenty of distractions. Think Waterfront Casino on late nights. Think Cebu Coliseum basketball on Sundays. Think of the easy, 60-minute plane ride to either GenSan or Manila. Coach Roach knows best: No better cage to confine the wild Manny than the Wild Card Gym.

Jingo Quijano and John P. with Goody Peñalosa and Jinkee Pacquiao

Indonesia wins; the Philippines doesn’t lose

Jourdan Polotan lived in Indonesia from 1993 to 2001. What did he see? He witnessed a nation – much like our devotion to Manny Pacquiao or basketball – that was fanatical about one sport.

“Football in Indonesia is very big,” Jourdan said. “Whenever my wife Jingle and I drove through the Kampungs (towns), there are two things you will always notice aside from the lush greenery – a high-walled covered structure (badminton court) and football fields. The Persetakan Sepak Bolah Seluruh Indonesia (literally, All Indonesia Football Association) has five levels in their national league. We lived in Surabaya, East Java, home of the Persebayas. Whenever there was a match in the city, we’d pay close attention on the radio. If the home team lost, their fans, known as the Boneks, had a tendency to act like the football hooligans in Europe. They’d ‘riot.’ But, good thing, the police were in control. All it meant was traffic jams – they would run around the streets, bang on car roofs, blow whistles and air horns.”

That’s why Indonesia beat the Azkals. They are rabid devotees; we’ve been stray dogs. The semi-final loss? It was sad for two reasons. One, had we beaten the hapless Myanmar in our final elimination game, we’d have faced Malaysia and, I believe, beaten them. We’d be in The Finals. Two, the home court “disadvantage” of not playing in Bacolod or Manila. That was painful; a Pinoy sure-boost that turned into 88,000 Indonesian boos.

Still, it is senseless to complain. In fact, it is outrageous to say we’re “losers.” In spirit, we won. Our twin 0-1 defeats in Jakarta were moments of pride. Those weren’t debacles. The returning PHL team is now a band of superstars.

Who’d have expected — just two weeks ago — that millions of Filipinos would watch the AFF Suzuki Cup on Star Sports? That, during a dinner party, Oscar Tuason and I would talk about the Azkals? That we’d all recognize Younghusband and Etheridge and Greatwich as Pinoys? That we’d be Facebook fans (30,000+ and counting) of the PHL squad? The past 16 days since we defeated the defending Suzuki Cup champions, Vietnam, have been like a Diego Maradona-like spiral on the green grass.

Where to, now? This is the question. This momentum has to be seized and sustained. My suggestion? These football heroes should tour our 7,107 islands, distribute Mizuno balls, organize free clinics on basketball courts and barangay lots, sign autographs at SM City malls, conduct Y101 and Bombo Radyo interviews, be featured on ANC and Sports Unlimited. This unexpected success story must not be wasted. The sport of kicking is now kicking and alive.

Categorized as Football

Money vs. Manny

Kung Binisaya-pa, si Manny Pacquiao ni lapas na ug kalendaryo. He’s now 32. Last Friday at Gen. Santos City, Manny celebrated his birthday beside Bob Arum and the barong tagalog-wearing Freddie Roach. The Congressman serenaded the crowd with his MP Band then raffled off P1,000,000 in cash and a brand-new Toyota Vios. Wow. How we wished we were there to see Santa.

In contrast, Floyd Mayweather, Jr. was in prison. It was his second arrest in three months. This time, he reportedly poked a security guard in the cheek after an argument over parking tickets. (Didn’t he earn $20 million against Mosley?) He now faces a barrage of court cases ranging from misdemeanor battery and assault to coercion, grand larceny and robbery. While Rep. Manny will become a Philippine senator or Vice-President, Floyd can end up in jail for the next 34 years. Thanks to his cowardly avoidance of our Pinoy boxing azkal, may his zero-loss record rot in prison with him.

Graeme Mackinnon on tonight’s PHL vs IND Part 2

Australian-born with blue Aussie blood running in his veins, he is Filipino by heart. Graeme Mackinnon, who coached football in Cebu for 14 years before jumping back to Kangaroo Country, was my former co-columnist at The Freeman. Both an expert at soccer and writing, I yield this space to Graeme…

“FIRE THE BARK UP, AZKAL FANS! Tonight, the AZKALS will attempt to go where Philippine football has never gone before. A 1 nil loss against Indonesia means that the AZKALS need to win to make the final of the Suzuki Cup. They don’t need to win during regulation time they just need to be tied. After extension if it’s still a tie then a penalty shoot-out will determine the winner. I thought the boys played well. After conceding the only goal of the game in the 34th minute they made sure not concede any late goals.

“Most sports are a game of inches. Neil Etheridge has been a revelation between the sticks. He has been the rock foundation on which the AZKALS confidence and belief have grown. The game against Indonesia was no different. He had stood tall behind an overworked AZKAL’s defense that was beginning to frustrate the Indonesians and quiet the crowd. But in the 34th minute it all changed as an innocuous curving center from the left eluded the outstretched hands of Etheridge by a matter of inches. Indonesia’s Christian Gonzalez headed the goal. In the dying stages of the game, an overhead shot from James Younghusband was cleared inches from the line by a desperate Indon defender; a matter of inches causing heartbreak twice for the AZKALS.

“AZKALS coach Simon McMenemy is correct. It’s not time to panic. The result is based over two games so it’s only half time. The AZKALS have to concentrate. First, is to get back on level terms with Indonesia by scoring first. It won’t matter at what time in the game. There are 90 minutes to do it. An early AZKAL goal would be ideal. The Indonesian’s will want a goal to calm their own nerves. The crowd will get frustrated the longer the AZKALS can hold the Indons out. A hostile home crowd can be an advantage for the AZKALS.

“I thought the AZKALS finished stronger than Indonesia with many of their players going down with cramps. There is only a three day turnaround so the Indons may have some aching muscles. One of the problems with the offense, especially as we were getting closer to full time, was the lack of peripheral vision of some players who tried to do it all. There were times when a switch of play, to stretch the Indon defense, or a through ball could have been a better option. But as they say the game is easy when you are in the sala watching it on TV. Tonight, we witness Philippine football history. Tune in to Start Sports at 7:55 p.m.

Categorized as Football