When the reigning UAAP men’s football Most Valuable Player went down in their 3-1 loss against University of the Philippines (UP), there was a collective sigh of anxiety on what the future may hold. Paolo Bugas tried as he may to finish the game, but really felt the discomfort. Minutes after the final whistle, the Azkal-capped Far Eastern University (FEU) junior, then, announced of his injury. Most thought it would be the last time they will see Paolo on the pitch this season. Bugas, himself, thought the same.
“When I got the injury, I thought I was out of the season already.” In spite of this, a glimmer of hope was given to him after his platelet-rich plasma (PRP) therapy. Paolo shared, “But after the PRP therapy, the pain was less, and I got to think that I can be back soon so I just followed the doctor’s advice.”
However, it was still heart-breaking for one of the league’s best playmakers to watch from the sidelines for the entire second round. He even went to social media to let out his despair of not being able to help the team. After their second round match against UP, the midfielder posted on his Twitter account:
His frustrations would soon die down, and he slowly saw the light in the tunnel when he started recovering from this injury. Adding to that, his motivation to get back on the field to help the team is on a high, which is why “sa recovery ginagawa ko ng proper yung mga exercise.” The star player also said that he always prayed so that he would recover soon. He continued fervently to get back to work because he really wanted to get the twin title this season. “Kahit iniisip ko na may mas magandang opportunity next year, pero mas gusto kong mag-back-to-back kami ngayon eh. Gusto kong makatulong sa kanila.”
The risk was well worth it as the midfielder, who showed signs of fast recovery, was fielded in their second round against the University of the East. Even though Bugas played for just five minutes in that match, it was such a pleasant sight to see him back on field. That inspired the team to go on.
On the final game of the season, he showed the heart that won him the MVP award last year. Tied at two goals apiece against the De La Salle University (DLSU) Green Booters, the FEU coaches told Bugas before the extra time to just attack to get the goal, and, hopefully, the win for the defending champions. “Ang advice kasi ng mga coaches ko shoot lang ako ng shoot, kahit hindi na ako mag-cross basta magshoot lang ako ng magshoot, atake lang ng atake.” It was quite a struggle though as the veteran midfield felt his injury was bothering him. However, that did not hinder him to push for the golden goal. “Kahit nagkacramps na ko, hindi pa rin ako sumusuko. Kahit sumasakit yung knee ko, feeling ko bumabalik, gusto kong tapusin yung laro.
This determination paid dividends, that in the 94th minute of the Final against DLSU last Sunday, the defending king of UAAP football found the back of the net to finally get a go-ahead for the Tamaraws. That turned out to be the goal that gave FEU their back-to-back championship. He, otherwise, gave the credit to all of the members of the team. The former MVP exclaimed, “I was very happy because everyone worked hard, everyone did their job. We felt that we really need to win this game and I’m very happy with my teammates.”
In closing, the small but terrible junior shared his happiness that he pulled through the injury, and carried his team into raising that trophy again. “[The feeling was] same as last year, kung paano magchampion, ganun yung pakiramdam.” He is also all praises for the team he worked hard to play with again. “Proud naman ako sa team ko ngayon eh.”
With two years left for the Babyface Assassin to show his mettle in the UAAP, we still have something more to witness from him and the Tamaraws on the pitch. When asked if they will be champions again next year, “Hopefully,” was all he said. With his leadership and presence on the pitch, it is far from being just a wish.