Filipino love stories in general are designed to keep the audience happy. These love stories have three main characters: two guys and one woman. Between the two guys, one was destined to end up with the woman while the other only had her for a brief moment in time at best.
Throughout the story, the two who were always bound to end up together were put through so many trials but one way or the other, they always found each other.
In that sense, a Filipino love story isn’t really much dissimilar to a cup final in Football. Particularly last UAAP Season 77 Men’s Football Championship finals between the De La Salle Green Archers and the Far Eastern University Tamaraws. Both protagonists tried to court the bride, in this case the trophy, but there was only one of them who’d have the chance to marry her.
On one hand, FEU were the defending champions back then and only needed the Men’s title to complete back-to-back trebles in UAAP Football. At the opposite end was La Salle who returned to the promised land after a nine year wait in purgatory.
Alas, everyone knows the result by now. The Tamaraws clinched the championship, 3-2, at extra time after they needed to level the scores twice in regulation. It proved to be a painful finale for the Green Archers after they led twice in ninety minutes.
The Tamaraws celebrated their victory like how the film’s main couple celebrates their wedding, full of merriment and forgetful of all the problems in the world while the Green Archers were on opposite end of the spectrum, full of tears, despair and wondering what might have been.
That was supposed to be that for La Salle. They were bound to be the other guy in the story, the one who was left heartbroken by the bride.
However, what if the story did not end yet? What if this was the point in the Green Archers’ story where the bride had to momentarily separate from them? What if they were bound to be together at one point?
Just like in all heartbreaks and failures, one simply has to go again as hope springs eternal for those who persevere. La Salle center-back Noel Brago shared after his team’s win over archrivals Ateneo Blue Eagles, “‘yun nga after yung heartbreaking loss namin last year, gusto lang namin bumawi at sana tuloy-tuloy na ito pero mindset namin is one game at a time muna.”
And to secure what they feel should have been theirs has been the Green Archers’ mission this Season 78. They have showed no signs of post traumatic stress and started the season strongly. They have defeated fellow Season 77 Final Four members Ateneo and UP courtesy of late goals in their first two games of the season while they experienced a wake up call with a draw against a resurgent UST.
But it was the rematch against the Tamaraws which spoke volumes of the Green Archers’ desire to set things right. It was a tense match as both teams wanted to win for different reasons. The Tamaraws wanted to inflict a psychological blow which could prove handy in the post-season while the Green Archers needed to exorcise some demons.
In the end, the day belonged to La Salle. Greggy Yang scored his penalty in the first half and then Rico Andes equalized two minutes after the break. Eight minutes from time, Rigoberto Joseph’s looping header ended up at the back of FEU’s net with Tamaraws goalkeeper Ray Joyel in no man’s land.
The result was huge for the Green Archers and the significance wasn’t lost on them. La Salle’s defensive midfielder Jojo Borromeo said, “Masaya, masaya. Well earned talaga.” Borromeo added, “Nakaganti na tayo sa FEU. Yan yung main goal namin kanina: bawian ang FEU kasi yung nga upset yung Finals last year. Madami kami na-disappoint. So ngayon napatunayan namin sa mga na disappoint na kaya namin talunin ang FEU.”
Current La Salle captain Gelo Diamante spoke of the pride he had in his teammates after the match. Diamante, who took over from his older brother Gio as captain, explained that the Green Archers have prepared for the match in the longest time and felt that the current season was a continuation from the previous one. He expounded, “We played the same way. We had the same heart. This is for all the seniors who weren’t able to be here to play with us. This is for them and for the boys. They deserve the win. They played with heart.”
Defender Nicko Villacin agreed with his captain and added that their former seniors inspired them before the match. “We definitely played for them because before the game they gave us some words and inspiration so we dedicated this game to them. We played for them. But we have to continue throughout the whole season. There’s still a long way to go.”
If there’s one person who won’t allow the Green Archers to get ahead of themselves after their fine start, it is definitely veteran La Salle coach Hans-Peter Smit. After the match against the Tamaraws, Smit downplayed their win together with the results against Ateneo and UP. “Just like I said earlier it doesn’t really make any difference to me who’s the top four. It’s a new year, a new team. Everything’s new. It’s a new year, new season so let’s just wait and see.”
Smit added, “I’m looking at this year differently. The only motivation is what happened last year so that gives us a little push but we’re still not 100%. We still lack somethings.”
A one game at a time mentality has been espoused by the Green Archers this season. The players, coaching staff and fans know that the championship is the only goal. Borromeo insisted that they had to maintain their intensity and eagerness to win if they wanted to end the championship drought. “Kailangan namin i-maintain kasi nandito na sa amin eh. Binigay na sa amin ni coach Hans ang kailangan namin for the tactics. Kailangan lang namin yung composure at yung consistency. Sabi lang ni Coach Hans sa amin na malayo pa. Just keep it up and continue what we are doing.”
After the La Salle’s game against FEU, the players went home to recover and get ready for the next game while the coaches stayed behind to watch UST and NU play. All of them had a smile on their face but understood the task which was ahead of them. “A win is a win but we can’t take the games easily. We have to treat every game like it’s the last. What we did against UST, we were relaxed. It was a mistake so coming into the game against UE we have to mentally focus, prepare ourselves. It’s gonna be a hard game and we have to work hard to win”, noted Villacin.
Perhaps the story never ended for La Salle in last season’s finals. It may be that the heartbreak was nothing more but a momentary separation. And maybe, just maybe, a courtship worth eighteen years in the making will finish with a wedding at the end of Season 78.