When one thinks about the Ateneo de Manila University Blue Eagles, they immediately think of certain players such as Jeremiah Rocha, Julian Roxas, Jae Arcilla, and Jarvey Gayoso.
In the UAAP Season 81 Men’s Football Tournament, though, one player has risen to become one of the Blue Eagles’ key cogs in their campaign, which looked to be in disarray after their dismal start of two losses and one draw.
That player is fifth-year forward Rupert Bana, who has become Ateneo’s most potent forward so far this season with four goals in six games. Bana scored one goal in the Katipunan-based school’s matches against the University of the Philippines and University of Santo Tomas, and twice versus National University.
“Well, super sarap sa feeling since before in my first three years, I was always off the bench and being in the Starting Eleven is always like a barrier.
“I couldn’t break through. But now, I’m a regular starter and I just want to help my teammates,” said the De La Salle Canlubang alumnus.
While Ateneo’s number 23 does not look like the most imposing forward in the UAAP, he more than makes up for it with a good sense of time and space. Bana looks to pressure the opposition backline every game and go for the kill and the opportunity arises.
“Si Rupert, ‘pag binigyan mo ng chance in front of goal, talagang may ability siya to score. Sobrang laki ng importansya ng ginawa niya sa three straight wins namin, kasi nag-create siya ng (chances) in front of the goal. Lahat ng distributions sa kanya talagang na-finish niya,” said Ateneo coach Jay Pee Merida.
“Sobrang importante na talaga ni Bana.”
However, the 22-year-old opts to take his recent exploits with humility.
“Me scoring, it’s all because of (my teammates) also.
“If you see all my goals, they’re all in front of the goal. They’re all tap-ins lang. It’s because of the chances they created. They help me and I’m here because of them also,” explained the Management of Information Systems graduate.
Bana’s upturn in goal scoring form epitomizes Ateneo’s resurgence in the league. After a barren start to their campaign, the Blue Eagles raked up routs at the expense of UST, Adamson, and NU. It’s as if Merida’s men released all their frustrations against those three Manila schools.
“The first three games, I guess we were panicking in front of the goal. We weren’t composed, and then after that, we noticed that we get inside the box, we get our chance but we couldn’t finish it. What we did talaga in training is puro finishing. Until now, we do finishing two to three times before the games,” shared Bana.
In order to play his final year as a Blue Eagle, Bana is now taking up a Master’s degree in Information Technology. Truth be told, that decision is easily paying him dividends right now.
“I feel fantastic. I feel good. I’m really happy about it. The sad thing about it is that I’m on my last year. Siyempre, I wish I could be in this form earlier in my career but yeah I’m just making the most out of it I guess.”
At the end of the day, it is not how you start, but how you finish. Bana looks to end his stint for the Blue & White in impressive fashion.