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The Low Down On The PFF Suzuki U-23 Championships

May 19, 2011

After a month of intense football action, the PFF Suzuki Under-23 National Cup is down to two teams – Bacolod and Iloilo.

To the country at large, it might seem a battle between two nearby cities. In truth, think Ateneo-La Salle (college basketball rivalry) or Crispa-Toyota (pro basketball rivalry of 70s). That’s how intense it can really get even if some of the protagonists on the sidelines tried to downplay it by using “safe” words.

“Mainit (heated),” described Iloilo head coach Marjo Allado with a sly smile. Eventually he conceded: “It can get rough at meron din trash talking. Bragging rights talaga yan pagdating sa football (There are loads of bragging rights involved when it comes to football).”

“Matagal nang rivalry yan (The rivalry has been going on for a long time),” added Iloilo assistant coach Jessie Sazon. “Dati rati pa yan and from every age level yan (It’s in every age level).”

“Intense,” chimed in Aly Go, assistant coach for Bacolod. “Walang magpapatalo diyan (No one’s going to settle for defeat).”

Bacolod (6-1-0) is coached by Norman Fegidero Jr. A fearsome striker for the national team and air force in his day. That attacking philosophy and strict adherence to discipline has been imbued to his team as they have lead the tournament in goals. In seven matches, Team Bacolod has scored 31 goals and given up only five.

Their best defense is a strong offense despite goalkeeper John Robert Mendoza who has made a strong case for best keeper of the tournament. Their troika of strikers is non-pareil in Joshua Beloya who is leading the tournament with 13 goals, Jovin Bedic and Aldrin Dolino who each have five goals to their name.

Although they boast of a deep bench, Bacolod has shown an alarming trend of fading in the second half. Their saving grace has been pulverizing foes in the first 45 minutes. They have scored 19 goals in the first half and 12 in the second. But in their last three matches (if you take away the rout against overmatched Dipolog) they have scored no goals and given up three against NCR, Masbate, and Davao. Their defense, the crossbar and posts, Mendoza’s goaltending, and luck have only prevented opposing teams from racking up more goals. If you consider the final 35 minutes of their match against Dipolog, they gave up a goal and the lads of coach Reginald Jukes found their attack despite missing four key players who were unavailable for the game.

“Maybe it’s overconfidence. Maybe it’s other teams adjusting to us,” postulated Fegidero. “We have to find a way to correct this.”

Bacolod will catch a break against Iloilo (5-1-1) which will be without two key players in midfielder Francis Gustilo and defender Neckson Leonora. Both will miss their home match on account of two yellow cards. Like Bacolod, Iloilo is an offensive juggernaut. They have scored 26 goals and surrendered only four. They also have two top-rated defenders in Ronald Batisla-Ong and Leonora. And that is where Allado has to be concerned. Leonora is out and Jenver Vergara was injured during the semifinals clash with NCR.

Iloilo has also been inconsistent. After blowing out NCR Team A in the Laguna group stages they struggled against Masbate before dispatching Davao. Against NCR Team B in their semis clash in Barotac Nuevo, it was the visiting team that played more attacking and creative football. The home side pulled through with a goal from a pair of defensive mistakes. “A win is a win,” said Allado. “But we have to really prepare kasi kulang kami (there was also some concern about midfielder Shirmar Felongco’s injury). Sigurado we will do our best (We’re sure to give our best). Rivalry yan.”

But Allado couldn’t resist one last dig at their rivals. “Kami Iloilo pride. Puro taga-Iloilo. Walang taga-labas (We represent Iloilo pride. Everyone on the team is Iloilo-bred).”

Allado, who coaches UST (while Fegidero coaches West Negros University), was referring to the no Bacolodnon players such as Jake Morallo who is from Dumaguete, Jovin Bedic who is from Barotac Nuevo, and Beloya who was born in Olongapo but recently moved to his mother’s hometown of Bacolod.

“Big game talaga (It’s definitely a big game),” he concluded as he turned and walked away.

The first game of the home-and-away series will be at the Central Philippine University football field in Jaro, Iloilo at 2:30pm on May 19 while the second match will be played at Panaad Stadium on May 22 at 6:00pm. The games will later be televised on ABS CBN.

One Comment leave one →
  1. May 31, 2011 8:07 am

    Sana marefine maigi ang futbol natin dito Pinas. Mas may tsans tayo dito comparing sa basketbol para lumban sa mga banyaga.

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