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Random Thoughts on the Mongolia Game

There used to be this film starring Steve Martin that was entitled “Planes, Trains and Automobiles.” Basically, the film was all about all the trouble a man had to go through just to be home for Christmas. It is not unlike all the trouble the Philippine National Football Team had to go through just to get to Ulan Bator for a frigging football match.

First of all, for those who do not now where Ulan Bator is, hop over to your laptop and Google Earth it. You will find that it is way up north and damn near the top of the world. To play a football match there is something akin to playing inside a freezer – you know, where you stuff your chicken to keep it from tasting like the thing your dog vomited away when you cook it.

Before getting there, the team was in Japan to acclimatize somewhat before stepping onto the freezer; and while in Japan, the boys had to experience a) a 7.2 magnitude earthquake b) an 8.9 magnitude earthquake just two or three days later and c) the shock of being where a people were coming to terms with the death and destruction as only a tsunami can bring.

How the team managed to get out of Narita was a minor miracle in itself; and it involved getting up early, waiting long hours at the airport; and finally boarding a plane for a hop first to Beijing and eventually to Ulan Bator. Their luggage, it must be said, did not arrive until many more hours later.

Now of course at halftime, a couple of the panel of experts suspected that it must have been the cold that was taking its toll on the players. True. There were huge chunks of ice just outside the artificial turf. That said, I feel a need to point out that getting to Ulan Bator is not exactly the same as getting on a bus somewhere in Makati to go to Alabang.

Somebody please explain to me why the Mongolian national team is nicknamed the Blue Wolves? They were in all-red when they played against us at the Panaad in Bacolod. They were still in red shirts – albeit, with blue shorts – in the return leg at Ulan Bator.

Forgive me, but wouldn’t Mongolia Pencils be more appropriate? It is fortunate perhaps – for them – that Ulan Bator was way too far for Pinoy traveling supporters to attend the match. Else, every time the locals chanted “Mongol! Mongol!” – as they did in the second leg – I rather think Pinoy supporters would retort as they would be expected to in a proper football match, “Pencil! Pencil!”

I wonder if there was any wisdom in asking Briton Darren Hartmann to sit in the commentary box with Pinoy Butch Guerrero. To be perfectly honest, I am rather torn formulating my own opinion. I appreciate it that Hartmann was knowledgeable in the game and that what he said made sense – as opposed to you-know-who who covered the Suzuki Cup match against Myanmar – but then…

“Oi think both sets of playuhs ahh beginning to realize the impohtance of the toi.” My word! Kung ‘yung mga nasa-call center ngâ, nagrereklamo when they get Brits at the other end of the line! Much as I hate Taglish, but I think the way PBA commentators seamlessly blend Tagalog, English and Taglish is the way forward as far as educating the masses in the intricacies of the beautiful game is concerned. Not somebody who says defenduh instead of defender and cohnuh instead of corner.

I was particularly amused when Hartmann remarked that one of the Mongolian midfielders “made a meal” out of a foul – and the Pinoy commentator asked him what the idiom meant. Made a mountain out of a molehill, I believe, is the more familiar idiom. Or, in contemporary Pinoy lingo, exazh

I thought the Pinoy cameramen who covered the first leg at the Panaad were bad. In football, if the cameraman is trying to cover the play, he has to show were the ball is. In comparison, the Mongolian cameramen in Ulan Bator were blind.

The commentators could not be sure who scored the opening goal because even the slow motion replay was not focused on who took the shot. As it happened, it was James Younghusband who scored. For once, the older Younghusband was not overshadowed by his charming kid brother Phil.

There were, in the football boards immediately after the match, those who were already moaning that the Philippine team played really bad. I mean namannnnnn… Hellooooo….. Nothing about this game was normal! Who plays in -12º temperatures, pray tell? At 68º, my legs already feel like they’re frozen salami. -12º?

We were also missing Jason de Jong, Neil Etheridge and Rob Gier – all figured in the successful AFF Suzuki Cup run and were also present in the first leg at the Panaad. That’s a substantial amount of property missing, for crying out loud!

Besides, sabi nang panalo pa rin! Albeit, how do you explain to somebody brought up in the traditions of basketball that we won 3-2 on aggregate despite the 1-2 loss in Ulan Bator? Bakâ ngâ hindî alam kung ano ang ibig sabihin ng aggregate!

Oh well! I guess we have a long way to go before the newbie fans will begin to understand football jargon. The Pinoy commentator, it has to be said, felt it was almost his obligation to repeat over and over again that the two-legged tie was not a best-of-three series.

Put it this way: get score of first leg; add it to the score of second leg. Whoever has the higher score wins the tie. In case the score after both legs is tied, then goals scored by a team away from home are counted twice in what is called the away goals rule. And if people still cannot understand this, ay putak ng inang manok!