Mr. Kaya is gone

By Rick Olivares

Posted at Sep 07 2014 12:49 PM | Updated as of Sep 07 2014 08:49 PM

Last September 6, Kaya Football Club came out with a statement on its Facebook and Twitter pages:

“Kaya Futbol Club would like to announce the departure of long-serving players Eddie Mallari and Anton del Rosario. Eddie joined Kaya in 2006 while Anton joined in 1999. They have played important roles for Kaya’s success through the years, especially in our winning the United Football League (UFL) in 2009. Anton was Kaya’s respected captain who led the team through the challenges and rigors of the league. After years of service, Eddie and Anton will forever be part of the club’s history.

Everyone at Kaya respects their decision and wishes Eddie and Anton the very best. They are leaving the club with our sincerest gratitude for their massive contributions, commitment, and dedication to Kaya during their time with us.”

I know that Del Rosario nearly played for the Loyola Meralco Sparks last season but contractual issues prevented him from suiting up. Nevertheless, it still comes as a surprise to me that the man who patrolled the backline -- and occasionally stayed upfield sometimes longer than his coaches wished him to do -- for close to two decades will no longer do so much more wear #4 for Kaya.

While I wish him the best with Loyola, his new and second club, I wonder what has happened to my old and favorite local football team.

Kaya was the first local football club that I followed and that was during the late-1990s when I saw them playing in the Ateneo College football field against Philippine Air Force.

Maybe it was because of those canary yellow jerseys that reminded me of Brazil. Maybe it was because they had some national players that I knew about and followed back then in Rudy Del Rosario, Alvin Ocampo, and Freddy Gonzalez. Maybe it was because of those Christmas-colored socks they wore to games that the late Philippine Football Federation general secretary Chris Monfort once formally told the club to ditch in favor of conventional ones (privately, Chris liked them).

Maybe it was a combination of all of that and more. But I became a fan who went as far as Nomads in Merville to watch them play.

That Kaya also had three of my absolute favorite footballers in Anton Del Rosario, Aly Borromeo and Eddie Mallari who were all on the national team made me a bigger fan. Then years later, they brought in Chris Greatwich who I have always admired.

When I think of Anton I refer to him as Mr. Kaya. I think that playing 15 years for that club entitles him to that title. Fifteen years, man! That's even longer than how long many marriages last these days! Even when there was a mass exodus of players to Pachanga, Del Rosario stayed with the team. That scored huge points in my book.

I could be wrong here but the only one who has played as many years or longer for this club is his older brother, Armand. And now, both are in Meralco along with Eddie, and Freddy (and they even had former Kaya defender Yves Ashime too at one point).

Unless Aly Borromeo makes a successful comeback, the last links to the club’s glory years are gone.

Even for Australian coach David Perkovic, who compiled a winning 19-11-5 record in his two years at the helm, is gone. Perkovic, with his high-pitched voice and demonstrative gestures, was an animated figure on the sidelines for Kaya during matches. But the man provided a measure of coaching stability to the club that had been plagued by a merry-go-round of gaffers (five in a two year span).

Players come and go. That’s the nature of sports and club life. I understand it but that doesn’t mean I accept it. Maybe I am too old school and think that players and clubs are forever. Of course, we know that not to be true.

As a long-time Kaya fan, it was a thrill to be able to conceptualize and organize the Kaya Reunion Matches. It was fun too sitting amongst the Ultras Kaya as they went about their non-stop cheering during matches at the Emperador Stadium. I mean, what fan gets to do that for a football club? And I’m forever thankful to Santi Araneta and Chris Hagedorn for that opportunity.

When the new UFL season kicks off, I will be watching once more after a year’s sabbatical. I am not sure what to think of Kaya now.

A friend of mine seeing as to how many different games and football jerseys I collected asked if I rooted for a club or a player. I said it’s the club. While I follow some players who move on to other clubs -- it’s going to be strange to see Anton Del Rosario and Eddie Mallari with Loyola -- I remain a fan of the original team that I first followed.

Having said that, I will support the club – hey, they still have Chris Greatwich don’t they -- and its new coach Adam Reekie.

Una Kaya!

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