In an event no one thought was possible, the Far Eastern University Tamaraws failed to enter the UAAP Season 78 Men’s Football Tournament Final Four.
All the Tamaraws needed was a draw against eventual champions University of the Philippines Fighting Maroons in their second round encounter to enter the post-season, but the latter were just too defensively strong to break down. Season 78 has been a surprisingly lackluster season for FEU and it must have been painful for the Tamaraws to watch the post-season from the sidelines.
Amongst the key players of the Tamaraws this season was midfielder Paolo Bugas. After the Tamaraws lost to the Fighting Maroons, Bugas was under no illusion as to what had cost his team this past season. “Nabawasan yung bond ng team and nagkaroon ng problema sa team. Itong season na ito parang malaki talaga ang kulang individually and as a team,” he said.
Bugas noted that the Tamaraws had a strong team bond in the previous season because the squad was together most of the time. This season, though, was different, as some players had needed to transfer between FEU’s campuses before the start of the current academic year due to their studies.
“Half of the team kasi yung mga course ng lumipat sa FERN mga education and yung mga natira sa Morayta ay business administration, HRM yung iba. Kasama ako sa Morayta. Present naman kami sa mga trainings namin. Yung problema talaga malaking bagay kasi na magkasama kayo lagi. Para sa akin yun yung main problem ng team ngayon. Tinatry naman namin i-overcome yung problem na yun pero parang lumalabas sa game na isa yun sa problema,” Bugas said.
That logistical nightmare resulted in a lack of team bonding for Bugas. He emphasized, “Kahit nagkulang kami sa training, basta’t sama-sama kami sa lahat ng bagay mas importante yun kasi mas marami kaming trainings, kung kulang bond ng team – walang unity eh. Yun yun sa Football eh. Kailangan yung team, hindi pwede individual yung laro eh. Yun yung problema.”
“Kailangan ibalik talaga kasi dati wala naman kaming problema nung nagkakasama kami, nung nagkahiwalay lang talaga kasi this season yung iba hindi nakakapagtraining kasi may class and yung iba naman may ibang activities sa school. Kasi before nasa isang dorm lang kami. Pag mag training ang isa, siyempre mahihiya yung may activity so sasama na lang. Kailangan talaga yung bond eh,” Bugas suggested.
Aside from solving the current issue of the players getting separated from one another, there was another problem Bugas identified. “Para sa akin kasi nakakadown kasi wala kaming masyadong support,” he felt. “Yung nagsusupport lang sa amin yung Women’s namin, friends namin, parents, yung girlfriends.”
“Yun lang talaga pumupunta so na-appreciate naman namin yung mga messages sa social media, text messages pero iba rin kasi yung presence.”
On a personal note, Bugas left his FEU stint up in the air. He still has one more playing in the UAAP, which he isn’t sure of fulfilling because of his longing to seek greener pastures. “This year may mga opportunities akong nawala dahil sa pag-risk ko dito sa UAAP like yung sa Azkals. Ni-risk ko yun para sa UAAP which is better opportunity kaysa dito kasi experience, exposure, kasama yung mga high-level na players. This year kailangan ko na maging open sa mga opportunities. Grab ko na. Hindi ko na sasayangin kasi nasa stage na ako kung saan papunta na sa pro.”
What a shame it would be if a talented player like Bugas was to end his UAAP run on such a low note. Come what may, though, he has nothing more to prove and no one can begrudge him for taking up other opportunities elsewhere.
Nevertheless, the rest of the Tamaraws will definitely learn from this season. Who knows? It’s not impossible to rebuild that team chemistry, and another title run beckons for FEU come Season 79.