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F5WC meet showcases country’s top five-a-side squads

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Have you ever wanted to play football but can’t find enough people to form two teams of 11? Well don’t fret because there are a lot of ways to play football including five-a-side, which only requires 10 people in a smaller playing field. One of the world’s most celebrated tournaments in this type of football is the Football Fives World Championship (F5WC), which puts together a crop of talented individuals from all over the world to compete with each other.

Thirteen teams marched on to the final round of the F5WC Philippine leg held last Saturday night, March 28, at the Gatorade-Chelsea Blue Pitch in Makati City. With the goal of emerging the night’s big winners who will earn the privilege of going on a trip to Dubai and representing the country against fellow amateur five-a-side football enthusiasts around the world, the teams went all out in bagging the opportunity of a lifetime.

To narrow down the competition, a group stage format was in place in order to strain the competition from 13 to eight. Originally, there were 16 sides listed but three teams were not able to appear and vie for a place to Dubai. Three groups of three teams and a group of four then faced each other to determine the quarterfinalists. Clustered in Group A were Cebu’s Leylam FC A, Luntian United, and South Metro. MCFC, Manila Metros B, and Leylam FC B composed Group B while Group C composed Francois’ Team, Aspire, and Ultimate. Altogether they played nine matches in a single round robin format while Group D had four squads; Alumni United, Baguio United, Manila Tigers, and Samba. Six matches were played in that group to make it 15 overall heading into the quarterfinals.

After 15 gruelling group stage games, eight teams remained in the quest for the right to be the Philippine representative of the 2015 F5WC tournament in the United Arab Emirates. The two representatives of Cebu’s Leylam FC were joined by Luntian United, Aspire, Francois’ Team, MCFC, Manila Tigers, and Samba in the knockout phase of the qualifiers. Leylam A gunned down MCFC 3-2 in an exhilarating encounter while a cagey affair followed next as Aspire’s lone goal propelled them to the semis by silencing Samba, 1-0. Manila Tigers and Leylam B completed the semis cast after trampling opponents Francois’ Team and Luntian United 3-0 and 3-1 respectively.

As the stakes got higher, the players stepped it up a notch in order to claim victory. Leylam B was too much to handle for the Manila Tigers who were smashed 3-1 in the semis. It offered the possibility of an all-Leylam FC affair but the Manila-based Aspire made the finals a battle of Luzon and Visayas by winning over Leylam A through a 2-0 penalty shootout that followed a goalless affair. The final was firmly contested with no team wanting to lose grasp of the match. Virtually the home team in the final, Aspire controlled the early stages of the game. Yet despite their familiarity with the pitch, Aspire spent most of the game keeping Leylam B scoreless. The Cebuanos were relentless on the attack and forced the Aspire players to defend industriously. Their perseverance was rewarded midway in the second half as Michael Pacite tucked the ball into the net and gave his team a 1-0 lead. The players in red were not contented with a narrow lead as they looked for a backbreaking second goal. Although it did not arrive, they withstood Aspire’s late surge to become the 2015 F5WC Philippine representatives.

Leylam FC coach Oliver Colina was delightfully thankful that his team went on to earn the luxury of playing for the Philippines in the global edition of the tournament, to be held in Dubai later this year. “We can gain experience from this. It’s tiring but it’s fun because it’s football,” he added. As for the other participants, they found the tournament nice as well. “The tournament itself has a good set up. Siguro if you look at it at a startup kind of thing it’s pretty okay naman,” stated Manila Tigers’ goalkeeper Joshua Cruz. Even if his team came up short, Aspire FC’s Charlie Sutcliffe thought the whole thing was a good platform for football enthusiasts to partake at. “We never actually played football together before. The team is made because of this competition. We didn’t actually think we’d go so far,” he furthers, “It’s really good. I really enjoyed it the competitive spirit of everyone, the physicality is really good. Every team that we played has been fantastic.”

Moving on, the F5WC organizers are looking to take it to the next level. “No one’s actually been doing amateur-wise for five-a-side and I think this event shows you how passionate people are,” uttered chief organizer Oli Lewis of Football Manila. He also revealed that they are aiming for at least 200 teams to join from more regions in the country and it may come as soon as October of this year. Lewis sees a lot of potential in building a steady avenue for football aficionados to not only display their skills but play their favourite sport with fellow enthusiasts. “It’s not just half-Filipinos and foreigners who can play football, it is actually local talent and it does not have to come from Manila as they [Leylam FC] have shown. We’re just trying to promote the sport as well,” he ended. Perhaps the country’s fastest growing sport, football can become one of the most played in the archipelago with initiatives like this in place.

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Mixed Martial Arts

Rene Catalan continues rampage with TKO win

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Rene Catalan continues to turn critics into believers

Filipino fighter Rene Catalan made his sixth appearance inside the ONE Championship cage at ONE: Kings of Courage, held at the Jakarta Convention Center in Indonesia, Saturday evening. He faced 21-year-old Chinese athlete Peng Xue Wen in the opening main card bout, and leaned on his elite wushu skills to stop the young star at the 4:22 mark of the second round.

The victory improves Catalan’s record to 4-2 (1 NC), extends his winning streak to four, and gives him the first TKO stoppage of his martial arts career, as he bids to climb the strawweight ladder in search of the ONE Strawweight World Championship.

“The Challenger” came out in the southpaw stance to open the bout, throwing big hooks and a head kick that narrowly missed as he established the center of the cage from the start of the contest.

The Filipino landed a host of powerful strikes, including a perfectly-placed uppercut and a melee of punishing leg kicks, but Peng’s conditioning and composure kept him in the match as he looked to stand and trade with the man 18 years his elder.

Catalan picked up where he left off when the bout resumed in the second round, this time operating out of the orthodox stance, landing more leg kicks and continuing to deny Peng any space to work.

Despite his dominance on the feet, there was a brief moment of concern for the Filipino on the mat when he jumped into the Chinese wrestler’s guard mid-way through the second round, and immediately found himself in a triangle choke. But the Filipino kept his composure and managed to work himself free.

Once the fighters returned to their feet, Catalan poured on the pressure in search of a finish, and he got it with just 38 seconds remaining in the stanza.

“The Challenger” scored big with a liver shot, then unloaded a fierce flurry of punches that forced Peng onto his back foot. Another shot forced Peng to the mat, where a salvo of ground and pound from Catalan eventually forced the TKO stoppage as referee Olivier Coste stepped in to halt the contest.

Photo, story, and video from ONE Championship

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Basketball

Gelo Alolino regrets Phoenix’s failure to close out Hotshots

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Photo by PBA Images

Gelo Alolino had his best game for the Phoenix Fuel Masters on Saturday night at the Cuneta Astrodome with 19 points, eclipsing his previous career-high of 16 markers which he made last May 21, 2017 in a loss to the Mahindra Floodbuster.

But his achievement won’t be too memorable, as it went for naught following a 91-97 defeat at the hands of Paul Lee and the Magnolia Hotshots, who have now collected their third straight victory.

For the second overall pick in the regular 2016 Rookie Draft, it was all because of their failure to sustain momentum up until the game’s final buzzer.

“Sayang, nandun na. We felt na sa amin na nung dulo kaso lang ganun talaga,” rued the 24-year-old sophomore after the match, where he shot an excellent 7-of-10 from the floor.

“Breaks of the game napunta sa kabila.”

Phoenix were in contention all throughout the match. In fact, they were even ahead, 89-84, with just three minutes left to play. But the Hotshots’ comeback skills were unleashed, leading to the narrow win.

“Siyempre kami lahat nasayangan. Maganda naman yung team effort talaga namin,” admitted the 6-foot floor general of their end-game collapse, which wasted their efforts in assists (21) and on defense, where they forced Magnolia to 21 turnovers.

“Kami as players talagang gusto namin bumawi coming from a loss last game sa Rain or Shine.

The Fuel Masters have now lost their second straight outing and have dropped to 2-3. And for Alolino, all they have to do is learn as much as they can from this loss, especially now that they are about to face the Barangay Ginebra San Miguel next.

“Yun nga. Medyo masakit para sa’min ‘to,” admitted the National University product.

“All we have to do is magviview ulit kami ng tape para makita kung saan kami mas pwede mag-improve as a team and bawat isa — including me.”

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Basketball

Glenn Khobuntin repays Ricky Dandan’s trust with end-game heroics

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FILE Photo from PBA Images

Glenn Khobuntin can finally say that he had himself a moment in the pro ranks

The National University alumnus proved his worth for the Kia Picanto, scoring his team’s final six points to steer the often-ridiculed club to their first win after a historic 16-game skid, at the expense of the Rain or Shine Elasto Painters, 98-94.

“I knew he would. I knew he would,” lauded Kia head coach Ricky Dandan of the takeover by the six-foot-four forward.

“It was a blessing he didn’t play for the first two quarters because he [came in] fresh at gigil na gigil.”

Khobuntin finished with 11 markers on 5-of-7 shooting — the best game he’s had so far, not because of the numbers he posted but with the way he made them. But the three-year pro does not want to take the spotlight all onto himself.

“Hindi lang din naman ako e, kami ding lahat e,” the 26-year-old shared. “Siguro kumbaga nagka-opportunity lang, napunta sa akin yung bola kasi yun yung nasa scheme ng play so ayun.

“Thankful lang ako na-hit ko yung mga na-design na plays.”

However, the third-year pro admitted that he had been frightened during the game’s final stretch, as Rain or Shine managed to impose a serious threat by coming back from a seven-point deficit, 94-96, with just less than 22 ticks left to play.

“Kinakabahan ako kasi two minutes pa rin yun e tapos Rain or Shine yung kalaban namin,” the native of Cagayan de Oro said. “Nakita ko nakakabalik sila. Thankful lang naman ako na yung game napunta sa amin, at least natapos yung losing streak namin.”

But more than the end of their months-long slump, what Khobuntin is grateful for is the trust given to him by Dandan, who fielded him as a starter in the second half after sitting out the entirety of the first 24 minutes.

“Nag-decide siya na ako yung i-start niya so thankful ako kasi nagtiwala siya sa akin.”

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ABL

Justin Brownlee, Alab lock down Knights for fifth win

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Paying a visit to Indonesia for the first time this season, Tanduay Alab Pilipinas needed time to figure the CLS Knights out before stifling the hosts in the final frame to take a 92-87 road win, Saturday evening at the GOR CLS Kertajaya in Indonesia.

This is Alab’s second straight win after losing to the Singapore Slingers last January 10.

With the win, the Philippine-based club team lifts its slate to 5-4 for solo fourth. CLS, on the other hand, dropped to 1-7 — just half a game ahead of the cellar-dwelling Formosa Dreamers.

Justin Brownlee displayed his all-around brilliance in the game, leading Alab with 36 points on 15-for-24 shooting to go along with eight rebounds, seven assists, and three steals.

But Alab’s bench could not sustain the effort of the starters, which meant the team was clinging to a two-point lead with 7:06 remaining.

Needing a spark, 40-year-old sniper Dondon Hontiveros provided for Alab, knocking down a triple that proved to be the starting point 14-2 Alab run. A jumper by Bobby Ray Parks, Jr. with 2:57 left capped the rally and gave Alab an 87-73 lead.

Hontiveros scored five of the eight Alab bench points. Fortunately for Alab, Renaldo Balkman and Bobby Ray Parks, Jr. were on point. The former tallying a double-double with 17 points and 13 rebounds, while Alab’s skipper had 14 points, four assists, two rebounds, two steals, and two blocks.

Coach Jimmy Alapag fielded his bench afterwards, but they let the quintet of Brian Williams, Mario Wuysang, Arif Hidayat, Decorey Jones, and Sandy Kurniawan slice the lead to as low as four points. Then free throws by Oping Sumalinog with eight ticks left put CLS away for good.

Williams paced CLS with 22 points and 14 rebounds while Kurniawan added 19 markers. Indonesian legend Wuysang had 17 points and six rebounds in the loss.

Alab ends its road trip on Sunday, January 28, when it takes on the Saigon Heat at the CIS Arena in Ho Chi Minh City.

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