UFL: Season premier of best new soap in town

By Rick Olivares

Posted at Feb 08 2013 02:23 PM | Updated as of Feb 09 2013 01:42 AM

What makes a good teleserye?

The family.The lies.The drama.The fights.The love. Siblings switched at birth. Long-lost heirs to riches. New characters. When someone comes back from the "dead" and seeing everyone's faces. Coma storylines,
especially if the person laying in the bed is someone you like so you're hoping he/she makes it. Best friends becoming lovers. Evil twins.Being caught in the act. Dark pasts with the promise of happy-ever-afters. Cliffhangers.

Well, I’d like to let you in on a secret on the best new teleserye in town that doesn’t include Marian Rivera.

Welcome to the 2013 UFL League Season Two (referring to the television coverage).

It’s got all the qualities and traits of a good soap and maybe you should be following it. And if the season debut is any proof (Loyola smashed Army 4-1 while Global blanked PSG 2-0) then we’ve got a winner
in our hands.

The comeback kid

The one-named Brazilian wunderkind finally made a splash with the Loyola Meralco Sparks. Okay, so I was fibbing there. The only Brazilian thing about the man known as “Fred” is the Havainas on his feet when he isn’t wearing his football boots.

Freddy Gonzalez scored an astounding 34 goals in the 2012 UFL season while leading Pachanga to the Division Two title. Some claim he was a Division One bust as he failed to put the ball in the back of the net
during the  2012 Cup for Pachanga-Diliman. But that was because of Gonzalez coming in lacking fitness and conditioning and having sold Pachanga to the owners of Diliman. All the off-season controversy
surrounding the sale took a lot of Gonzalez.

In a surprise move, Gonzalez left Pachanga (well, it’s not the Red Phoenix team anyhow as they should really be called Diliman to begin with) for Loyola. That move reunites the last three strikers of the Philippine Men’s Football National Team in one team.

Against Army in Loyola’s UFL league debut, Gonzalez finally scored his first goal for the Sparks. Gonzalez treated the Rizal Memorial Football Stadium crowd to his trademark cartwheel.

Opponents beware. Freddy Gonzalez is now untracked.

Prodigal son seeks redemption

The best player for the Loyola Meralco Sparks for the past year has been Mark Hartmann. Dropped from the national team after a forgettable/unforgettable 2011 SEA Games, Hartmann has come alive with his goal scoring, assists, Beckham-esque free kicks, and superb play.
He scored on a penalty shot, assisted on a goal by Chad Gould.

Hartmann led the Younghusband-brothers-less (and Ref Cuaresma-less) Sparks to a 4-1 thrashing of Army that should have been properly 7-1 had their finishing been much better.

Time to bring Hartmann back to the national team, you blind and deaf.

There is no one better at the free kick (save perhaps for Boyet Cañedo). If Hartmann works on his explosiveness then watch out, goalkeepers.

The Walking Dead

Let’s look at this very coldly. If there are any candidates for relegation, one of them has got to be Army. It’s only been one game and one loss, but Army will have to play above themselves if they want to avoid relegation. Because of the military teams’ system where they
cannot recruit or pay players, Army returns with virtually the same cast that they have fielded in the past few seasons.

When their national players in Eduard Sacapaño, Roel Gener, and Boogie Margarse return, they’ll need to give this team a massive lift. If not, then… let’s just wait for the next few episodes. You’ll never know what might happen.

Presenting the new 'kontrabida' (we mean this is a good sense so don’t fall of your rocker)

Reza Ataei, goalkeeper of Pasargad, is perhaps the most entertaining footballer in the UFL. He’s an outstanding goalie and perhaps an even more outstanding – let me borrow Global head coach Brian Reid’s term here – “actor.” To the fans, he is the heir apparent to Kaya’s Saba Garmaroudi and Global’s Roland Sadia – a true showman.

When an opponent fires above the crossbar, Ataei jumps up and hangs with both hands from the crossbar. He is fiercely protective of his teammates and will not hesitate to get in the face of an opponent who
has thrown an elbow or recklessly tackled any PSG player. He drops to the pitch at the slightest contact as if shot by some sniper with a Dragunov rifle.

In last night’s match, he dropped to the pitch at least four times causing the fans and opposing teams to holler, jeer, and applaud.

When he collided with Global’s Izzo El Habbib and the latter fell to the ground, he looked to help the Sudanese player before jerking his legs towards the goal line prompting the former to angrily shove him.

He is fiery, funny, and even fantastic. Reza Ataei is the Calvin Abueva of the UFL.

New characters in the casting

Global scored two goals against Pasargad and both goals came from their newbie’s – Niño Ochotorena and Ben Starosta.

Niño I first met two years ago during the Suzuki Under-23 National Championships where he played for Dipolog alongside Jerry Barbaso and Laos’ forward/midfielder Reginald Jukes Jr. He was outstanding then
and more so now. As a surprise starter for Global, he did pretty well and it’s good to see Reg Jukes’ lads get some love.

Ben Starosta, on the other hand, is from Poland but was born in England. According to Global team owner Dan Palami, Starosta was referred to him by a friend. And Ben played for Polish sides Lechia Gdansk and Miedz Legnica where he played just about every position save for goalkeeper. His header in the 75th minute was off a superb head flick off a free kick.

On this night, a star, er, Starosta, was born.

Battling adversity

Sometime last year, Loyola back-up keeper Mark Sorongon (then playing for the original Pachanga) lost his brother in a violent death in his hometown in the Visayas. Sorongon had filled in admirably for starter
Kenneth Dolloso at the start of the season as the latter suffered a hand injury. Sorongon took his brother’s passing hard but he worked hard to overcome the tragedy and stay in top-flight football.

As the original Pachanga broke up and was scattered across the Philippine football landscape, only Sorongon (aside from Yves Ashime, Ousseynou Diop and Boyet Cañedo) found a measure of stability when he
joined the Sparks during their Singapore Cup run. And now he is joined in Loyola by former Red Phoenix teammates Fred (let’s let this Brazilian thing last a little longer) and Jalsor Soriano.

Even better, he was taken in by head coach Vince Santos to work with him in the FEU football program. Good things happen to good people.

Fight night!

Okay. Let’s be clear. There wasn’t anything remotely similar to the Malice at the Palace. If you don’t know what that was then Google it, you lazy good-for-nothing.

Global’s Brian Reid called a PSG player “an asshole”. In response to that, PSG manager Javy Mantecon told Reid to “go back to England” and that was just it in a nutshell. Loyola’s Freddy Gonzalez and Army’s Relan Bretaña got into some serious trash talking and shooting looks-for-daggers. For their trouble they both got carded. Izzo El
Habbib and Hamed Hajimehdi traded sweet nothings nine days before Valentine’s Day. The coaching staff of Loyola ranted and railed at the referees.

It was unsightly and unsavory but it made for tense games and great theater. That’s how important every game in the 2013 UFL season is.

Any loss can be fatal to one’s campaign.

Whew! And that was just the premier night of the 2013 UFL league season.

I wonder what awaits us on Thursday when Green Archers United takes on Stallion and Pachanga tangles with Kaya.

Only when the best new teleserye in town continues…


Disclaimer: The views in this blog are those of the blogger and do not necessarily reflect the views of ABS-CBN Corp.