Azkals vs. UFL All Stars, June 5, 2011

I decided to go over to the University of Makati as I thought it would be one of the few times I will get to see the Azkals play live. In terms of scheduling and ticketing issues, it will be almost impossible for me to see them live during the July 3, 2011 game against Sri Lanka at the Rizal Memorial Coliseum.

Ticket was sold at the Gate 6 for P100, and I got to sit at the UFL side since all of the other areas in the stadium seemed full already. Attendance was fantastic, the stadium definitely was full for the game.

‘Oppressive Heat and Watching Outdoor Games’
I got to my seat around quarter to four in the afternoon, and the first thing I noticed when I sat down was the heat. The sun was beating down my back, and there was a good breeze. But whenever the breeze died down, you could feel it coming back. I was in T-Shirt and Jeans, but I immediately realized I should’ve dressed even more comfortably.

By quarter past four, though, the sun had gone down enough so the building behind me shielded me from it, and things started to cool down. So much so, that as the match progressed, it became cooler and cooler.

It all made me realize how different watching a Football game is from a Basketball game live. I’m used to watching local and international basketball games, and used to being cocooned in airconditioned goodness when watching games. So it sort of missed my mind that Football is an outdoor sport, while Basketball is an indoor sport.

So a tip for all of you out there when watching Football games live in a warm country like ours: Dress comfortably, as in a loose shirt, walking shorts and sandals. And bring drinks, fans, and umbrellas. Its either going to be hot during the summer, or rainy during the rainy season.

‘University of Makati Stadium’
The “UMAK”, as it is more popularly known, was quite better than I expected. I saw some pictures and videos on it, and it didn’t look impressive. In fact, it looked a bit dilapidated, at least that was impression. However, when I got there, I was surprised how clean, and modern looking it was. Perhaps the sponsors had cleaned and upgraded the venue up considerably recently, or I was simply just mistaken when I looked at the picture and videos.

A couple of complaints about the stadium, though: First, there was no electronic scoreboard, just banners showing the score, and only on one side. It was sort of pathetic. Second, there was no clock whatsoever, so you don’t know how much time is left on the clock.

Third, the sound system was not that great, it sorts of gets sort of drowned out during the game, so you can barely hear it.

Fourth was that the game announcer was not very active at all, so that you end up not knowing who did or got what at any given time of the game. For example, who got the Yellow Card? Who made a foul, causing a Penalty or Free Kick? Who was being substituted in and for whom? How much extra time was going to be given? These are small details that would be most helpful to the live audience if they were provided right there during the game.

‘Game Proper’
The Azkals were in all red uniform with the KIA logo in front, while the UFL All-Stars were in White Shirt and Blue shorts. The game promply started at 4:30 pm.

Who scored what was sort of hit or miss due to the issues enumerated above, so I got most of these information later when I read the blog of the match on the Azkals page. Caligdong scored the opening goal in the first half on the breakaway, but Dagroh equalized for the UFL All-Stars during the first half injury time. That guy looked unstoppable once he got the ball around the penalty area and slotted a shot in, despite having a defender bodying up on him.

In the second half, the UFL All-Stars scored again off a Free Kick from Mark Hartmann. Simon Greatwich managed to score off a cross to equalize the score again. The UFL All-Stars took the lead again when Dagroh scored again off a breakaway.

I left the game with only five minutes left in the second half, as I wanted to leave early so as not to get stuck with all those people coming out of the stadium. As I left the venue, I heard the people cheer off an Azkal goal, which turned out to be courtesy of Ian Araneta. I thought then that the game would end with a tie, but I learned later that Izzo Al-Habbib scored during the second half injury time enabling the UFL All-Stars to win the game.

‘Game Impressions’
I felt that the Azkals really played well in the game. Their individual defense was pretty good, they were breaking up possession of the UFL All-Stars consistently. Throughout the game, I think the stats will show that the Azkals dominated the game in terms of Shots on Target, Shots on Goal, Corner Kicks, Possession, etc. Their passing was also pretty good. Not South-Korea-Good yet, but pretty good on its own.

If the Azkals played so well, then how they lost the game, then? Well, I think its based on a couple of things. First is the individual brilliance of the UFL All-Star imports. Those guys are just so good, you give them an inch, they will take a foot, capitalizing on whatever limited and few openings they could get.

I also felt the Azkals were a bit overconfident since it seemed they could do whatever they wanted if they put their minds into it during the game. After all, it was just a friendly match.

And there is also the issue of the Azkals just not being able to finish well and score that goal. They had a couple of very good attempts at the goal, but they just didn’t have that extra little skill that enables them to score a goal despite limited opening in terms of space and time. A bit troubling, but it is still too early to be worried about. Besides, we’re getting reinforcements in Guirado and company soon.

‘Memorable Moments, and Final Impressions’
Some memorable moments of the game: First is I finally get to see live Anton Del Rosario’s long, throw ins. They look unbelievable, and they do end up as crosses, I saw it happen twice in the game; Second is Neil Etheridge’s goal to goal kicks. The UFL All-Star goalie could only kick half as far.

Third was seeing how small Caligdong is, when standing beside James Younghusband. He looks tiny, like a kid standing next to an adult. No offense to Caligdong, just making an honest observation.

Despite my misgivings above, I was so happy to see the game live. There’s nothing like watching a Football game live, when you don’t know who, when and how the goals will come, so that every cross, or breakaway becomes a moment of extreme excitement. Seeing the players bang bodies also during physical plays was also good to watch. It was really quality Football, and I’m glad to see it was so well attended.

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