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Mabanag upbeat about futsal after national team stint



Apart from the Azkals’ FIFA World Cup Qualifiers that took place from last week, there was another national team competing outside the country. The Philippine Men’s National Futsal Team flew to Bangkok as they joined the 2015 ASEAN Football Federation (AFF) Futsal Championship. Among them is Ateneo Men’s Football Team Captain and JP Voltes FC midfielder Michael Jeremy “Mikko” Mabanag.

Mabanag was joined by a talented pool of professional football players, including Green Archers United’s Floriano “Tating” Pasilan Jr., who represented the Philippines in the indoor, five-a-side tournament. He scored one of the Filipinos’ four goals in the tournament where they unfortunately finished at the bottom of Group B. He claimed his first international goal against Laos.

Not a stranger to the outdoor version, Mabanag helped the Ateneo Men’s Football Team clinch the UAAP Season 75 Football Tournament title. On the way, he also scooped the UAAP Best Midfielder award. He has had extensive exposure to football, having played the sport since grade school. So it not surprising that the Ateneo captain has admitted the indoor version, which is played with a smaller, more compact ball, in an environment resembling that of basketball, is something he hasn’t been very familiar with. The 10-nation tournament in Bangkok, which is scheduled to end today, was the first time Mabanag played a competitive futsal game. Prior to that, Mabanag confessed, “I’ve only played it during times when training is indoors.”

Asked about how he was able to join the squad, the crafty midfielder said he owes it to a coach he is acquainted with. He was called up for trials where he excelled and earned a spot in the team. “I think it’s every athlete’s dream to represent his country. Of course, it’s something special because I’ve made that dream somehow come true,” he went on to say about the most recent adventure.

Mabanag in action

More experienced in football than futsal, Mabanag acknowledged the difference of the beautiful game’s two variants. Apart from the difference in size and surface, the game also requires different skill sets to succeed. Possession and power are usually more important in football, while futsal often requires players to be more agile and accurate than they are on the football field.

Another thing that separates futsal from football is the difference in rules. Futsal is seen as the more fluid of the two, as it usually sharpens player’s ball touches and tight space management with the shortened amount of time and area. For example, there is no offside rule in futsal that inhibits attacking players from staying in the opponent’s half, although defense is a responsibility shared equally, just like in basketball. Hence, futsal produces an average score of around six goals per match, nearly triple that of in football.

In playing futsal, Mabanag used the sense of awareness he has developed from football to adapt quicker to futsal. “As a midfielder I gotta be fast with my decision-making. Since the game in futsal is fast, having that mentality of a midfielder helped,” he pointed out. Learning is, of course, a two way process and Mabanag believes futsal also plays a part in improving his football skills. “Close control touch will really excel because of futsal. That can also be very vital when you play on the pitch,” he attributed. Indeed, plenty of football’s greatest players, including superstars Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi, cite futsal as one of the major reasons they were able to showcase their refined display on the pitch.

The Filipinos may not have done well in the tournament, perhaps because of our neighbors’ advanced development in futsal. A testament to that are the Thais, whom according to Mabanag are full-time futsal players trained to play competitive futsal only. Meanwhile, the Filipino contingent was led by football players who are also able to play futsal. Looking at that scenario, players who are more accustomed to futsal are obviously more comfortable in the sport than those who aren’t as exposed as they are.

Mabanag Pilipinas Jersey

Despite futsal’s apparently low appeal in the Philippines, there is a growing number of people pushing for the sport’s development in the country. An increasing number of schools have futsal clubs and some even have it in their physical education curriculum. There are also several places across the country which cater to futsal enthusiasts. Perhaps the game is already been widely played. What may have been hindering the actual growth of futsal is the lack of organization amongst interested parties. As an individual, Mabanag plans to cultivate the sport’s growth by becoming an example of a passionately active advocate. “I guess I have to regularly start playing it first, I guess from there we can start a change by influencing people through the mere fact everyone is actually starting to play it,” he said.

Futsal is not yet as big as football in both the Philippines and the world, but perhaps it does not have to be, as it is a different game that many just happen to equate with football. Having played both, Mabanag reckons that it will only be some time before his countrymen embrace the indoor variant the way they did football. “It’s an exciting sport to play. It opened my eyes to new possibilities. I like the sport and I’m sure Filipinos will love it!,” he exclaimed.

** All photos provided by Mikko Mabanag

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Calvin Abueva rejuvenated with return of physical play: ‘Masarap maglaro’



Photo by PBA Images

For Calvin Abueva, it feels great to play in the PBA nowadays.

The Beast, who has always been known as one of the league’s most physical players ever since entering in 2012, was all praises with the way the officiating has become this 43rd season, which is just letting all the players play.

“Mas gumanda yung tawagan ngayon, naging physical nga. Naging exciting para sa mga tao, mas marami na nanonood ngayon eh,” said Abueva moments after their 97-83 victory over Barangay Ginebra, Sunday night.

Like what had been told many times, physicality was something that was controlled over the last two years. Abueva knows it too well, having been a casualty of such as he had paid a bevy of penalties during that time.

And now that it can already be called a thing of the past, the 6-foot-2 bruiser feels much better, knowing that he could display his brand of basketball once more.

“Masarap maglaro, talagang pisikalan,” said the 29-year-old forward from Angeles, Pampanga. “Siyempre makikita naman natin kung sinasadya o hindi, basta katawan lang.

“Pisikal. Yun yung magandang laro di ba?”

Aside from the comeback of physicality, what makes Abueva beam even more is the way the Aces have been playing in the 2018 Philippine Cup. After a 0-2 start in the tourney, they have now booked their third straight win.

“Nung 2017 parang nilubog na namin yung losing streak namin doon. Ito 2018 na at panibagong destination na naman yung ina-ano namin,” said Abueva, who had nine points, nine rebounds, and five assists against Ginebra.

“Sustain muna namin ‘to… Sana magtuloy-tuloy ‘tong winning streak namin.”

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Alaska takes advantage of Greg Slaughter’s absence



For the streaking Alaska Aces, their stunning 97-83 victory over the favored Barangay Ginebra San Miguel on Sunday night was partly made possible by the absence of one key player: seven-foot behemoth Greg Slaughter.

The 28-year-old center, who was averaging 20.67 points and 10.3 rebounds prior to Sunday, did not play against the Aces due to a hamstring injury. How he incurred the injury has yet to be determined.

“There’s a small person named Greg Slaughter who didn’t play; I think he has an impact on the game,” quipped coach Alex Compton after the match.

“[They missed] a guy who I think is gonna win an MVP soon in Greg Slaughter.

“Sometimes dito sa liga natin, you have to take advantage when opportunities come your way. You don’t want anybody to get hurt [though],” added Compton.

With Slaughter out of the way, the Aces’ big men feasted.

Vic Manuel top-billed with 18 points and five rebounds, and elder statesman Sonny Thoss turned back the clock with a 17-point, four-rebound outing.

“Malaking bonus na rin sa amin, kasi wala nga si Greg kaya nakuha namin yung panalo,” said Manuel.

“Yeah it definitely helped,” added the six-foot-seven Thoss, who shot 6-of-12 from the floor and made four of his freebies.

“He’s a big guy, he’s a big presence inside so it took one big guy off our shoulder.”

Slaughter was approached and asked by scribes regarding his injury, but he was not in the mood to comment. No one can blame him, though, since the Barangay have slipped to their second straight defeat after a 2-0 start.

“I’m always there in practice, going over our gameplans. But it’s better if you ask our PT,” he said.

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Alaska completes turnaround at Greg Slaughter-less Ginebra’s expense



Photo by PBA Images

A strong second half surge was all the Alaska Aces needed to turn back the heavily-favored Barangay Ginebra San Miguel, 97-83, and book their third straight victory, Sunday night at the Ynares Center in Antipolo City.

The Aces, who have yet to lose this 2018, have now improved to 3-2. Meanwhile, the Barangay absorbed their second straight loss and have dropped to 2-2.

“I was telling the guys na parang ang dami nating iniisip, hindi natin ginagawa yung ginagawa natin noong nakaraang dalawang linggo. Sabi ko relax lang tayo,” said coach Alex Compton, sharing what he told his wards that sparked the win.

Vic Manuel led the Milkmen with 18 points and five rebounds. Sonny Thoss turned back the clock as he made 17 markers on 6-of-12 shooting, while Chris Banchero supplied 14 points, six assists, and five rebounds.

The Aces were trailing by eight, 36-44 at the half, but it became a different ball game come the third chapter as they outscored the Gin Kings, 37 to 19, to erect a favorable 73-63 cushion heading into the game’s final 12 minutes.

From there, Alaska kept their foot on the gas to sustain their lead, which grew to as much as 18, 85-67, after their 6-0 spree — punctuated by Banchero’s lay-up plus a foul — with 6:14 remaining in the final frame.

Ginebra still tried to make one last push as they inched within 10, 75-85, but baskets by Thoss and Kevin Racal propelled Alaska to an 89-75 lead with 3:42 left to play — more than enough to knock out their counterparts.

“I was glad to come away with the win,” added Compton. “Sometimes, we have to take advantage of opportunities coming your way. You don’t want anybody to get hurt but when two number one picks on the other team aren’t playing… There.”

Jvee Casio had 13 markers for Alaska, while Calvin Abueva nearly had a double-double of nine points and nine boards along with five assists in 20 minutes.

Aljon Mariano had 15 points, nine rebounds, and three dimes for Ginebra, who — despite having Sol Mercado back in the fold after ankle issues — missed the services of Joe Devance and Greg Slaughter due to injuries.

Japeth Aguilar, Scottie Thompson, and Kevin Ferrer each scored 12 for the Barangay, with Thompson adding five assists. The trio combined for 15 of Ginebra’s 43 rebounds.

Alaska will aim to extend their streak versus the Blackwater Elite on Saturday, January 27 at 4:30 PM, while Ginebra will look to end their slump against the Phoenix Fuel Masters on Friday, January 26 at 7:00 PM. Both games are at SMART Araneta Coliseum.

The Scores:

Alaska 97 — Manuel 18, Thoss 17, Banchero 14, Casio 13, Abueva 9, Teng 9, Cruz 5, Enciso 3, Potts 3, Exciminiano 2, Magat 2, Racal 2, J. Pascual 0.

Ginebra 83 — Mariano 15, J. Aguilar 12, Ferrer 12, Thompson 12, Caguioa 8, Cruz 8, R. Aguilar 5, Tenorio 5, Mercado 2, Taha 2, Wilson 2, Jamito 0.

Quarterscores: 26-23, 36-44, 73-63, 97-83.

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Frustrated Jared Dillinger admits ‘he’s getting sick’ of Meralco’s bad PH Cup runs



It’s no secret that the Meralco Bolts have always struggled in the Philippine Cup for the last three years. During the last two seasons, the eight-year-old franchise’s win-loss tally is four wins and 18 losses.

And in the 2018 edition, the narrative has been the same, with little to no hope of it turning the other way around.

The Bolts bowed to the TNT Katropa, 99-81, Sunday night — their third straight defeat after winning over Blackwater Elite in their opener last December. If things continue to stay as they are, it looks like it will be another poor all-Filipino tilt run is looming.

“We’re 1-3 and there’s nothing to be happy about,” said Jared Dillinger, who had 14 points and five caroms in the match at Ynares Center in Antipolo. “It’s a long season though… We [shouldn’t] panic but it’s not fun right now.

“The Philippine Cup has been our Achilles heel and every damn Philippine Cup we get our ass kicked. I’m getting sick of it.”

In this game, Meralco missed the services of top forwards Ranidel De Ocampo and Cliff Hodge due to injuries. But for Dillinger, those issues shouldn’t be an excuse.

“When you get two guys like Ranidel and Cliff out, as a team, that’s the opportunity for the guys below them to step up,” expressed Dillinger, who has been with the franchise since 2013.

“It doesn’t have to mean scoring, getting the assists or rebound, it’s just making the right play, being smart.”

Asked what went wrong in this particular loss versus their sister team, where they shot just 39.2 percent from the floor and had committed 17 turnovers, the 10-year veteran lamented the poor effort the Bolts put up.

“TNT didn’t do anything much, given that they played well. But they didn’t have any secret schemes against us. They just passed the ball around, and they got open shots,” added the 10-year pro, as TNT made 23 assists and shot 18 triples.

“Our effort wasn’t there. We got to put up the intensity cause it sucks right now.”

Meralco though has a chance to end their slump against Kia this Wednesday. Dillinger sees it as a do-or-die affair, warning that it will be a grind-out affair knowing that the Picanto is coming off a skid-ending win over Rain or Shine.

Do-or-die ’cause that’s gonna be a playoff game. Thank God they beat Rain or Shine ’cause you don’t want to be that one team that gives the win to a 0-16 [team]. You don’t want to play teams like that,” stressed the all-around forward.

“Nothing to take away from Kia though. It’s gonna be tough.”

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