There will be football in Emperador stadium in Taguig this Saturday, but not with a spherical ball.
The Philippine Aguilas, your national American Football team, is taking on the Western Australia Raiders in a friendly match. Kickoff is at 1:00 pm and admission is P100.
The Aguilas is a team formed by the American Tackle Football Association of the Philippines, or ATFAP. It is the National Sports Authority for the game in the Philippines recognized by the Philippine Olympic Committee and Philippine Sports Commission.
It’s the first game for the side since April 26 when they lost to Japan 84-0 in a qualifying match for the International Federation of American Football World Cup in Sweden next year. Japan is the number three-ranked team in the world. Canada is number two. No prizes for guessing who is number one. (Yes, the USA actually joins this competition, for reasons that are beyond me.)
But that doesn’t deter head coach Ivan Klaric who says “we pay to win and we have a good-to-average chance of coming up with a “w.”
Klaric is a Croatian-Serb who also played soccer for Union FC in the UFL recently. He learned his gridiron in Belgrade.
Oh, and Klaric will also play on Saturday since it is a friendly. So will another non-Filipino coach, Will Yeh.
The Aguilas are culled from teams in Arena Ball Philippines, a local tackle football league with teams named the Bandits, Wolves, Juggernauts, Rebels, and Knights. Yeh is hoping one day another team can join.
“We’d love to have the Punishers play in the league” says Yeh, who once played with the other American Football team in Metro Manila.
The Punishers, who have also played abroad and recently lost to a visiting team from Saipan 72-0 in the UP Oval field, were founded by American Timothy Beasley. The relationship between the two camps is best described as frosty.
ATFAP strikes a conciliatory tone, however. “These guys are our brothers and friends” said Apollo Angco from the ATFAP in Wednesday’s press conference in Skippy’s bar and grill in BGC. The sports bar is sponsoring the team, as is Aguila Auto Glass, Remington Hotel, Outback Steakhouse, Resorts World, Puma, Emperador Light, and Amazing Playground.
The Philippines is a new frontier for the sport, but one of the players, Nico Sy, insists that it can catch on.
“Filipinos naturally love violent stuff. But American Football is safer because we have gear (padding).”