On Friday morning the UP Fighting Maroons captured the first piece of football silverware of the collegiate school year by beating the UE Red Warriors in the Ang Liga Cup final in the San Beda football pitch.
Ivan Oberiano’s sixth-minute header goal was the only score of the game. It came off Rogie Maglinas’ inch-perfect cross from the left flank. Oberiano, from Santa Barbara, Iloilo, expertly angled the header to beat UE goalie Lendon Clores.
Oberiano is part of a bumper crop of rookies for coach Anto Gonzales in UP. Also featuring in the game were incoming rookies Nocnoc Cruz, who started at left back, and Daniel Abraham at centerback beside Ian Clarino. Also in the starting eleven was the very skilled midfielder Diego Pinga, the brother of Team Socceroo defender Enzo Pinga. Arvin Resuma, another rookie, started at center forward. They are all newbies in the UP team, with Resuma completing his residency last year, which makes him good for Season 78.
The Maroons dominated the game, with Clarino, Daniel Gadia, and others also threatening to score but unable to get the second goal. UP possessed the ball about 75% of the time.
Gonzales made nine changes throughout the game, the maximum allowable under Ang Liga rules. Other young bloods like Ronald Saavedra, Sean Patangan, John Abraham (Daniel’s brother,) JB Borlongan, Darwin Basconcillo, and Kyle Magdado all saw action. Only keeper Ace Villanueva and Clarino played all ninety minutes.
UE had only a handful of chances, the best from Regil Galaura late from a lovely dish from Jo Mallen. But the veteran shot wide.
The Maroons won this competition, which is organized by the PFF under the auspices of Technical Director Aris Caslib, by rolling undefeated through the single elimination bracket. Gonzales’ charges bagged wins over Emilio Aguinaldo College, National University-B, then topped College of Saint Benilde 1-0 in the semis to reach the final.
UE squandered a rare chance at silverware after stunning San Beda in the semis via a penalty shootout after 120 minutes of goalless football. Clores saved twice in the shootout.
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This is the twelfth year of the Ang Liga, a college preseason tournament for football that is roughly equivalent to the Filoil tournament in hoops. (The Unigames is the other major preseason tournament in tertiary-level football.)
The Cup is actually a curtain-raiser for the Ang Liga League which kicks off on Saturday. There will be two divisions in that competition which will be group-stage followed by a single elimination playoff stage. Most of the top UAAP and NCAA sides will play in the top tier while the B teams of UP, San Beda, and NU are slated to do battle in the second tier, alongside Malayan College of Laguna, who are hosting games in their Cabuyao campus.
Many schools have B teams, with UP having as many as fifty players to choose from for their varsity squad.
Why does the Ang Liga matter? Because it gives everybody, players, coaches, and referees, valuable experience. There is a dearth of competitive play at the youth level in the Philippines. To put it bluntly, one of the main reasons why we aren’t better at football is that we just don’t play enough. Match experience at a competitive level is crucial to a young players’ development. The Ang Liga helps remedy that.
The tournament needs sponsorship, but Puma Philippines seems poised to lend a hand in that department with PR help and in other ways. Joemar Moscaya of Puma is spearheading this.
I hope to catch some Ang Liga League games going forward. Should be fun, as Philippine youth football continues to march forward.