Miyerkules, Disyembre 7, 2011

LA Galaxy came to Town

I guess I'm starting a blog, never too late i hope as I am convinced I will try to write as often as I can.

Let me start by going back a year ago when I missed the chance to go to Vietnam to watch the group stage of the Suzuki Cup. I was so frustrated I should have been there for all 4 matches, it wouldnt matter if we qualify to the next stage or not as long as I can be there to show my support. And then we did! Unfortunately both semifinals were set in Jakarta. I needed to book that ticket soon, and so just in time for the 2nd leg I was there among thirty or so other Filipino fans cheering our National Team! The rest, as they say was history. We ended the campaign loosing twice to powerhouse Indonesia in both legs. One of which we could have hosted in our very own turf. It was the end of Philippine Football politics and the rise of a new era in the sport of football in the country.

Filipinos at the Gelora Bung Karno Stadium, Jakarta
One year later, David Beckham, Landon Donovan, Robbie Keane and the rest of the LA Galaxy and the newly crowned MLS Cup Champions comes to town and is all set to play an exhibition match with our very own NT. What a year it has been and what miracle to see David Beckham for the second time. Yes, second time. We were in Bangkok in 2005 to watch the then Galacticos of Real madrid which includes Zinedine Zidane, Luis Figo, Raul, Ronaldo, Roberto Carlos, Michael Owen. Very much highly considered the best collection of the best footballing icons of that time. Even more lucrative line up as compared to the now MLS Cup Champs in town.

The Dream Cup
However, what bothers most Filipinos and myself included was the very high price of match tickets. We paid 2,000 Baht (approx. 3,000 pesos) for a ticket in 2005 and we got the best seat behind Real Madrid's bench in the 90-thousand seater Rajamanggala Stadium. My 2,000 pesos though could only afford me a corner-side bleachers seat in the 77 years old Rizal Memorial Stadium here in Manila.

PFF Prseident Nonong Araneta, Galaxy President Tom Payne and Dan Palami
We needed to purchase another 1,500 pesos worth of ticket just to witness the visiting champs' training session. Recently, last July this year when we watched Liverpool play in Kuala Lumpur, training session comes free for any purchase of the approx. 2,000 pesos worth of match tickets!

Okay so I thought there's should be an explaination for all these and it all comes down to the 15,000 capacity Rizal Memorial Stadium. The oldest and probably the only standard football pitch we have available can only rack up 1/6 of the Bukit Jalil National Stadium of Malaysia. Thus, giving the organizers no other way to get the money they need to pay the visiting Galaxy (or any other visiting team maybe) but from the football fans ourselves! Never mind if I don't get to seat in the grandstand (1 seat = 15,000), like we usually do on all Azkals' previous World Cup Qualifying match and Friendlies as long as the corner bleachers will guarantee that any corner kick will be taken by Becks himself.. giving us closer view of him compared to those in the VIP seats.

Aly, Landon, Becks, Chieffy, James and Phil
And so the team arrived on December 1st, We all trooped to Shangrila Hotel to see Becks and the rest of the Galaxy during their cocktail party. On the same night we found out it'll be hard to get near Golden Balls himself as he is escorted and being kept away from fans for any photo and/or any oppurtunity for a chit chat and all. The rest of the team though is up for grabs for any fans in the building. Landon Donovan himself was the most accommodating of all. The younger and less popular squad members can all by themselves walk around the hotel's lobby undisturbed by any casual football fans. We all came for Becks, Keane and Donovan of course.

Day two, during lunchtime before the said paid training session, we dropped by the hotel again. It was the luckiest day to meet the former Liverpool man and Irish ace himself, Robbie Keane. He and a team mate just came back to the hotel and we approched them right away. Although Robbo appeared conceited and without a single sign of a smile on his face while I took out my Liverpool jersey with his name and number '7" on it, I was just happy he signed it and even posed for a photo.
We missed the training afterwards, eventhough Ticketworld announced it was moved from 9AM to 3:30PM. The team went to training around after 2PM and left a little after 3:30PM. We just gave away our 1,500 pesos in the air! Azkals training followed and it was then we realized that the current squad available won't be able to match up with the visitors. Anyhow, we again head back to Shangrila and again saw Becks and company but with the same fate, we were not able to get near them.

my Robbie Keane Liverpool signed Jersey
with Robbie Keane
Fast forward to gameday. Five hours of waiting and then the team left the hotel around 5PM. We were doing our best behaving by the lobby just before the team enters their bus. The security was too much and so ended seeing the team left without getting any chance with Becks.

Becks vs Chieffy
The rest of the night was pure awesomeness. The Galaxy performed really well against a less experienced NT but I did not expect the Azkals would do so well in the first half. It was probably the best performance they've had compared to all other matches they have played the whole year. But that was just it, they all eventually got tired and more so starstrucked with every long ball and excellent passing of the Los Angeles-based club. The match end 1-6 in favor of Bruce Arena's men. The fans were happy, the organizers were somehow relieved they were able to make Rizal Memorial look like packed (I heard they were selling tickets at a buy 1, take 2 deal before kick off), the National Team is flattered about the whole experience and I just hoped the Galaxy werent too disappointed with the opposition they just faced. Post match interviews says they were overwhelmed and that they had a hard time too despite winning 5 more goals than us.

What an experience for all Filipino football fans and would be fans of the sports. Imagine what a year could make and how much more are we to expect with another year looming out to be as successful as this has been. It was a treat to see big clubs play here although I wouldnt mind spending if they go to neighboring nations to play too.