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The Bittersweet Final NCAA Match Versus Mapua


The season came down to the crucial final elimination round game against Mapua at the Rizal Memorial Stadium. The Cardinals, as players of Mapua continue to be called even in the present day, had won the first round. Heading into this crunch final game, Mapua was ahead of us by a point. To make a long story short, we needed to beat them to force a playoff.

We were by no means scared of Mapua, notwithstanding the fact that they were the defending champions. Personally, I felt that ours was the better team, even if their defense, anchored by their superb Thai sweeper, was difficult to breach.

Midway through the first half, I scored the opening goal to give us hope that we could reclaim the championship for DLSU. I was not a prolific goalscorer and was more the creator of chances for my teammates to score. However, Mapua’s goalkeeper laid a goal at my feet, and I took the chance without hesitation whatsoever, thank you very much.

I actually thought that the preceding attack was fizzling out because the Thai sweeper had intercepted the ball and passed back to the goalkeeper. But I did not stop my run and sprinted to press the latter, who turned out to be a nervous wreck. First, he dropped the ball when he saw me arriving. Then, he panicked and dove to catch it. Instead of catching it, he only succeeded in pushing it away. I was after the ball in a flash and quickly swiveled to shoot at an untended goal. The angle was narrow, but I wasn’t going to miss when the goal was unprotected.

That was probably the happiest moment of my entire three years as a DLSU varsity football player. The match was not a final but it was as close as one could get. I felt that I couldn’t have chosen a better time to score than this match. Unfortunately, Mapua equalized before the end of the first half, and no further goals were scored in the second.

Thus, at the end of the game, the entire Mapua team celebrated retaining the championship. Our runners-up finish was so much better than the previous season, when we could not even reach the semi-finals. But I was still distraught. I honestly thought that we would win this game and force a play-off. That day, I guess I discovered how football could be a cruel, cruel game.

My final year at DLSU in school year 1980-1981was strange to say the least. It was my fifth year at the university, but I was actually overstaying a four-year course. I was a senior the previous year, so was I then “terminal,” the term reserved for students at the fifth year of their 5-year engineering courses? I never found out.

I think I had less than 30 units left that final year, and all of these were general education subjects since I had completed my major ones the year before. I needed to spread these out so that I could play my third year of NCAA football. So thus, I became a habitué of movie houses in Santa Cruz and Makati. There were days when I would stay inside a moviehouse for several showings just so I could rest in airconditioned comfort.

The most annoying thing about this final year, in an academic sense, was that I felt like the senior citizen of all the classes that I attended. My classmates were either sophomores or juniors, and I never really got to know anybody all that well since I had a different set of classmates for each subject. I missed my East Asian Studies group, most members of which had already graduated.

For instance, we had this field trip to the export processing zone in Mariveles for one of my subjects, and my classmates were all sophomores. They all knew each other so the trip was a nice outing for them. In contrast, I had to make small talk with the guy who sat next to me in the bus for the four hours going there and another four hours to get back to Manila. I’m sure he was as bored with me as I was with him.

This trip to Mariveles did have its merits. I was able to visit the factory of Puma and was able to observe at close quarters how football boots were manufactured. I was particularly fascinated by the press used to mold the cleats under the sole. Too bad, or at least we were told, that the football shoes were not for sale locally. I found this particularly appalling considering the travails I had to go through shopping for football shoes before I could try out for the varsity team two years earlier. I didn’t even know before this field trip that football shoes were, in fact, being mass-produced in my own country.

Some, I believe, got through to the local market, albeit I wasn’t sure how. This I knew was because locally made Puma football shoes were supplied to us before the start of the NCAA season. It was hit or miss, really. The pair I received was alright and I was able to use it throughout the season. However, one teammate took one hard kick with it and the sole immediately broke from the rest of one shoe. My teammates and I wondered if we were being supplied the factory rejects.


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