How to Appreciate Football for Basketball Fans

Photo courtesy of the Clipartbest website.

Photo courtesy of the Clipartbest website.

So, if you are a Basketball fan, a game where scores comes in droves, how do you appreciate Football, which is the exact opposite of Basketball where the scores rarely reaches double figures for both squads?

Well, it’s a matter of perspective. First of all, it helps if you are rooting for a team because then you will be more invested in how they will do. That investment in turn will make the game feel more exciting to watch.
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Azkals vs. Malay Tigers, March 1, 2014

March 1, 2014 at the MPS Stadium in Selayang, Malaysia for the Azkals’ first International Friendly and first game for 2014, and also its first game under new Head Coach Thomas Dooley: The Azkals Draw with Malay Tigers, 0-0.

‘Active Azkals Players’
(Goalkeeper) – Patrick Deyto
(Defenders) – Rob Gier, Jeffrey Christiaens, Juani Guirado, Simone Rota
(Midfielders) – Chris Greatwich, Andrew Liauw, Mark Hartmann, Misagh Bahadoran
(Forwards) – Phil Younghusband, Ruben Doctora
(Substitutes) – Jason De Jong, Patrick Reichelt, Marwin Angeles, Anton Del Rosario, OJ Porteria

‘Game Summary’
We just can’t seem to beat this team as we now have three straight Draws with them, but then maybe it’s not really that bad considering how big Football is in Malaysia, like this match for example filling the 11k capacity stadium. Despite the nil-nil scoreline, this was a pretty exciting game because a lot of good chances, good saves, near misses and nifty-passing on both sides.
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Watching Football at the Emperador Stadium, January 16, 2014

After almost a year, I was able to watch another United Football League (UFL) game live at the Emperador Stadium on Thursday, January 16, 2014. The games on hand were between Philippine Army – General Trias FC and Team Socceroo FC, and then between Green Archers United FC and PSG FC. Here are my experience and observations on how it was like.

‘Getting There’
The first pleasant surprise I got when I reached McKinley Hill was the number of signs pointing to the Emperador Stadium. As soon as you start going down the Upper McKinley Road (the main road in the area), you immediately see a series of signs pointing to where the Emperador Stadium is. This is a sharp contrast to my previous experience last year wherein there were NO signs at all indicating the location of the stadium. So now even if it is your first time to go there, it is as easy as pie, just use your eyes to look for the signs, they are there, and follow the directions.

If I remember it right there are probably at least eight signs from the main road all the way to the stadium. I think if it were possible to lay bread crumbs along the road they probably would have, but these signs nevertheless do a FANTASTIC job of leading first timers to where the stadium us. Here is a sample of one of those signs:
Sign to Emperador
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Azkals vs. United Arab Emirates, November 9, 2013

November 9, 2013 at the Zayed Sports City Stadium in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates for an Azkals’ International Friendly game: The Azkals lose to the United Arab Emirates, 4-0.

‘Active Azkals Players’
(Goalkeeper) – Ed Sacapano
(Defenders) – Rob Gier, Jeffrey Christiaens, Juani Guirado, Ray Jonsson
(Midfielders) – Chris Greatwich, Jerry Lucena, Anghel Guirado, James Younghusband
(Forwards) – Phil Younghusband, Patrick Reichelt
(Substitutes) – Marwin Angeles, OJ Porteria, Mark Hartmann, Chieffy Caligdong

‘Game Summary’
It was obvious from the first few minutes of the game that there is a large difference in the skill level of the the two teams. UAE played like your typical Middle East team in that they play an up tempo type of game with very sharp technical skills. It was one touch passing all around, like the ball was connected to the players with a string and they just keep bouncing it around off each other. They took a total of 13 shots on goal in the first half, scoring twice in the first 30 minutes of the game.
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Azkals vs. Pakistan Shaheens, October 15, 2013

October 15, 2013 at the Panaad Stadium in Bacolod, Philippines for the Azkals’ final game in the 2013 Peace Cup, this one against Pakistan: The Azkals win over the Shaheens, 3-1, thereby winning the Peace Cup for the 2nd year in a row.

‘Active Azkals Players’
(Goalkeeper) – Neil Etheridge
(Defenders) – Rob Gier, Jeffrey Christiaens, Juani Guirado, Jerry Barbaso
(Midfielders) – Chris Greatwich, Jerry Lucena, Misagh Bahadoran, James Younghusband
(Forwards) – Stephan Schrock, Patrick Reichelt
(Substitutes) – Anghel Guirado, OJ Porteria, Mark Hartmann, Phil Younghusband

‘Game Summary’
Pakistan showed some nifty passing plays, with one eventually resulting in the opening goal. Somebody from the right flicks a pass to the middle, who after 1 or 2 touches then makes a thru ball thru several defenders leaving the receiving player only to deal with Jerry Barbaso and Neil Etheridge. A fake to the left, switched to right and a volley resulting in the goal.
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Azkals vs. Taiwan, October 11, 2013

October 11, 2013 at the Panaad Stadium in Bacolod, Philippines for the Azkals’ first game in the 2013 Peace Cup, this one against Taiwan: The Azkals lose to Taiwan, 2-1.

‘Active Azkals Players’
(Goalkeeper) – Neil Etheridge
(Defenders) – Rob Gier, Jeffrey Christiaens, Jason De Jong, Jerry Barbaso
(Midfielders) – Chris Greatwich, Jerry Lucena, Stephan Schrock, James Younghusband
(Forwards) – Anghel Guirado, OJ Porteria
(Substitutes) – Patrick Reichelt, Chieffy Caligdong, Misagh Bahadoran, Mark Hartmann

‘Game Summary’
The first half ended with a score tied at 1-all, but it did not really reflect the actual performance of the teams on the Pitch. The Azkals vastly dominated the game in terms of possession and crosses into the box resulting in shots that forced the Taiwanese goalkeeper to save/deflect them at the last moment 4-5 times. The opening goal scored by Taiwan looked very much like it was OFFSIDE, and the Linesman who refused to call it should be kicked in the balls for allowing such travesty to happen right on the Azkals’ home turf.
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Azkals vs. Hong Kong, June 4, 2013

June 4, 2013 at the Mong Kok Stadium in Hong Kong, China for the Azkals’ lone International Friendly Match in June: The Azkals win over Hong Kong, 1-0.

Active Azkals Players:
(Goalkeeper) – Neil Etheridge
(Defenders) – Rob Gier, Jeffrey Christiaens, Juani Guirado, Carli De Murga
(Midfielders) – Chris Greatwich, Chieffy Caligdong, James Younghusband, Paul Mulders
(Forwards) – Stephan Schrock, Phil Younghusband
(Substitutes) – Misagh Bahadoran, OJ Porteria, Marwin Angeles, Lexton Moy

‘Game Summary and Overview’
Not a lot of ground game from both teams, both sides basically relied on long balls all throughout the game. Part of this is mainly due to the high press both teams were employing which they could not overcome and thus lost much of their ground passing game. It was part luck, and part skill that we managed to score a goal in the first half: The “Luck” part was when the Cross by Stephan Schrock was deflected by a Hong Kong Defender straight into the direction of James Younghusband; The “Skill” part was how JYH got to the ball ahead of the defender in front of him, and how he was able to place the shot into the far right post when he himself was just beyond the left post. It was an almost unstoppable shot in terms of placement.

In the second half, though, Hong Kong clearly was the better side despite making more substitutions than us. They had a couple of great shots, including a Penalty Kick, and it was just Neil Etheridge’s brilliance that kept the clean sheet for the Azkals. The Azkals did end up with a decent ground game in the 2nd half in some spots, but these were not enough to penetrate through the final third. Most of the Azkals’ chances still relied on hustle by stealing the ball away, or by making individual runs during counterattacks.

‘Hong Kong Team’
Hong Kong showed in this game that they indeed live up to FIFA’s ranking of them as a “Developed Football Country”. FIFA uses that term to describe countries which has lucrative local Football Club Tournaments, good patronage from the local populace and good achievements in international competitions. Part of this was in effect during the game which was very well attended by the home crowd, it was a sea of Red out there in support of their team. They also were chanting non-stop all throughout the game, an indication of true Football fans.
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