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Category Archives: SPORTS

Manny Pacquiao is our World Cup

“The only thing I focus on is just winning. Once we win, everyone remembers a winner. That’s what I’m focused on.” –Kristaps Porzingis

By Alex P. Vidal 29572442_10211417967587760_356020253209754251_n

ARLINGTON, Virginia — The only source of our pride in sports has been Manny Pacquiao.
The 39-year-old senator and part-time pugilist is our own version of World Cup.
Everywhere he fights, Pacquiao brings with him our dignity and pride, just like the soccer players worshiped like demigods in FIFA football fields from Milan to Guadalajara and Moscow.
During his prime, Pacquiao disposed of rivals from Mexico, Colombia, Japan, Thailand, Korea, Russia, Australia, England, Hawaii, Dominican Republic, and Africa with supreme dominance.
If he topples Lucas Martin Matthysse, 35, on Saturday in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, Pacquiao will add Argentina on the list of those countries.
Filipinos pin their hopes on Pacquiao as a one-man wrecking crew against any boxer from superpower countries.
Only in boxing can we have an opportunity to gain the respect and attention from countries that have qualified and even won the FIFA World Cup since the pre-war era.

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Pacquiao is so immensely popular that his former promoter Bob Arum considered him as “the next president of the Philippines” just like how Brazil immortalized Pele and Argentina hailed Diego Maradona.
We cheer for either France or Croatia, finalists in the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia, but whoever wins on Sunday in Moscow will not have a direct impact on our pride and glory as a nation.
Both Croatia and France have big followers in every Filipino community worldwide.
On the other hand, if Matthysse (39-4, 36 KOs) will hurt and out-duke Pacquiao (59-7-2, 38 KOs) for the 12-round WBA welterweight title, it’s like losing a World Cup final anew.
Pacquiao also blew away another “World Cup final” when he bowed to Jeff Horn via 12-round unanimous decision for WBO 147-lb title in Sydney, Australia on July 2, 2017.
Once is enough. Twice is a humiliation.

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We won’t get tired though of reminding boxing fans in the Philippines that Pacquiao has not won a knockout since 2009.
Some Pacquiao fans think the boxer is a Superman.
They complained and cried “we wuz robbed” each time someone who is younger defeated him.
Pacquiao weighed 144 lbs when he scored a technical knockout (TKO) against Miguel Angel Cotto, 145 lbs, at 0:55 in the final stanza of the 12-round WBO welterweight war at he MGM Grand in Las Vegas, Nevada on November 14, 2009.
Since beating Cotto, Pinoy boxing fans were hoping that Pacquiao would again pulverize his opponents.
There was a stoppage in his sixth fight since blasting to bits Cotto, but it was Pacquiao who got knocked out cold at 2:59 in the sixth round by Juan Manuel Marquez.
In Pacquiao’s last seven fights after the Marquez debacle, he won five and lost two times (to Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Horn).
Pacquiao won all his five bouts on points. He struggled against a patsy Horn.
What are his chances against Matthysse who arguably is better than Horn?

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Posted by on July 12, 2018 in SPORTS

 

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What does FIFA World Cup mean to us Filipinos?

“Knowing what to say, in the right way – at the perfect moment – can mean the difference between a world-class life and an average one.”
–Robin S. Sharma

By Alex P. Vidal

ARLINGTON, Virginia — Filipinos are not part of the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia in terms of actual participation, but we are very much involved in many practical and historical reasons and circumstances.
By virtue of our being part of the global sports fraternity; in terms of the spirit of Olympism; and because we have been inflicted, in one way or the other, with a soccer mania since time immemorial, we are within the parameters of the World Cup village.
What does it mean to be part of the World Cup?

It means we need to further improve our sports program, not just in soccer but also in other events with global impact–Olympic events that will bring us in the threshold of world class competition.

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We must show that we belong not only in words but also in drawing inspiration from extra-ordinary performances of these incredible players and their teams and use this inspiration to improve our own standards even in regional competitions like the Southeast (SEA) Games and Asian Games.
We breath, cheer, discuss, argue, monitor, broadcast and write about World Cup but we don’t and can’t have a team in the elite competition.
We root for certain teams like Spain, Brazil, Argentina, Portugal, final qualifier France, but we aren’t there physically to savor the prestige and actual excitement felt by competitors watched and cheered by billions of fans all over the planet.
We need to review and upgrade our sports facilities, as well, and send our athletes in tough competitions abroad.
We can’t afford to be obscured in the doldrums or be lagged behind and remain as kibitzers for life just because we are a Third World country.
Supremacy in sports translates into supremacy in economy, but we can always pull the rug from under and walk extra mile to show the world that the Filipinos can also become world class athletes even if we are a struggling economy.

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France has booked the first slot in the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia finals by virture of its 1-0 conquest of stubborn Belgium in one of the all-European semifinals.
The descendants of Voltaire, King Louis, Marat and other precursors of the French Revolution will wait for the result of the other semifinal shootout between Croatia and England.
England is near the hearts of many Filipino soccer fans but we love to see Croatia reaching in the championship level for the very first time and win this year’s World Cup.
The world has always been crazy if it’s a World Cup and is getting crazier as the showdown for the finals approaches this Sunday.

 
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Posted by on July 11, 2018 in SPORTS

 

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‘Do we have a Pinoy team in the World Cup?’

“The World Cup experience is more than just the game of soccer. It’s an event. And it will fly by faster than you think. It will end and you’ll be saying, ‘Wow, it’s over already?’ You have to remember to take it all in and enjoy it.”
–Cobi Jones

By Alex P. Vidal

NEW YORK CITY –– A lot of Filipinos not necessarily soccer fans have been asking me in person and through the Facebook messenger these past two weeks: “Do we have a team in the World Cup?”
We all know, of course, that we don’t have.
We never had a chance.
We have the Azkals (Street Dogs), our national football team that regularly competes in international football, but it did not–and could not–play in the World Cup.
Not even in 2022 Qatar, with due respect to our national players and the coaching staff.

The reason is because the Philippines has never qualified for the World Cup.
The farthest that the RP national football team has achieved, so far, was having been qualified in the AFC Asian Cup in 2019.
Its best trophy in a major tournament was second place to Palestine at the 2014 AFC Challenge Cup.
The Filipinos can’t even dominate its rivals in the Southeast Asian (SEA Games) and Asian Games.
There’s a drought of gold medal for the Philippine football team even in the regional invitational games.

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Without the Filipino-European and Filipino-American booters in Azkals, we can hardly beat Myanmar, Singapore, Vietnam, Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia.
It was not too long ago when we were once the veritable “whipping boy” in the region.
Not anymore when the Azkals, now coached by Terry Butcher, was formed.
Even if we don’t play in the World Cup, our football has developed by leaps and bounds and our team is no longer a pushover.
Even before Uruguay became the first country in history to win the FIFA World Cup in 1930, the Philippines was already playing at the international level in 1913.
After 78 years, only seven countries, the so-called “Elite Seven”, have won the World Cup in 18 stagings: Brazil (five times); Italy (four times); Germany (three times); Uruguay (two times); Argentina (two times); England (once); and France (once).

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In the ongoing 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia, two of the four semifinalists (France, England, Croatia, Belgium) could join the Elite Seven.
If Belgium will beat France on July 10 and Croatia will defeat England on July 11, it will be a Belgium versus Croatia match in the championship.
Either Belgium or Croatia could become the eight country in history to bring home the World Cup.
But first they must hurdle their semifinal assignments.
If France and England will clash in the finals, one of them could win the World Cup only for the second time in history.
As we have been saying in the past weeks, the world is going crazy now that the final two teams are about to be unveiled this week.

 
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Posted by on July 11, 2018 in SPORTS

 

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2018 FIFA World Cup: Goodbye, Brazil!

By Alex P. Vidal
Belgium bombed out Brazil in the quaterfinals, 2-1, at Kazan Arena in Kazan, Russia Friday to barge into the seminfinals versus France, which ousted Uruguay, 2-0, in the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia.

“There were incredible hearts out there. Sometimes you have to accept that Brazil have so much finesse and quality that they’re going to break you down. But we didn’t accept it. Not for one minute did they give up,”
Belgium coach Roberto Martinez said.
“This was something special. These boys deserve to be very special people back in Belgium. I hope everybody back in Belgium is very proud. The execution of the tactics was magnificent.”
Martinez added: “In two days they changed their tactical disposition, I couldn’t be prouder. We cannot let people down. We need to enjoy beating Brazil in the knockout phase, treasure it, and pass it down the generations. But we need more energy for the next game. We will be as good as we can be in the semi-final.”
Brazil advanced to the quarterfinals after beating Mexico in the Round of 16, while Belgium advanced to the quarterfinals after ousting Japan in an exciting Round of 16 game.
The highest scoring side at the 2018 World Cup, Belgium seemed to come out of the blocks slower than Brazil who created a flurry of chances but failed to convert any of them early on.
Soon enough Belgium grew into the game with power, pace and exquisite passing which caught Brazil napping. The Belgians went onto register an emphatic 2-1 win to set-up a semi-final clash against France.
 
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Posted by on July 11, 2018 in SPORTS

 

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Imagine if Filipinos were the ones who upset Germany

“The first World Cup I remember was in the 1950 when I was 9 or 10 years old. My father was a soccer player, and there was a big party, and when Brazil lost to Uruguay, I saw my father crying.”
–PELE
By Alex P. Vidal

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NEW YORK CITY — Imagine if it were the Filipino soccer players who pulled the rug from under the 2018 FIFA World Cup defending champion Germany in the group stage opener on Saturday morning (June 17) in Moscow, Russia.
“Dutertards” and “Yellowtards” would have instantly halted their mudslinging activity; Filipino Facebook, Twitter and Instagram pages would have been inundated with soccer melodrama; and delirious Filipino fans would have caused not only a minor but major “earthquake” simultaneously in Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao like what happened in Mexico when the underdog Mexicans upset the mighty Germans, 1-0, courtesy of Hirving Lozano.
Some of the heroic Pinoy soccer players would easily be clinching elective positions in the next elections.
A soccer player would likely be the next Senate President or House Speaker. Only in the Philippines.
Any win registered by any country in a World Cup match actually becomes a national festival even if it isn’t a championship; the booters are considered as real celebrities and heroes.
Soccer itself is a mystical sport. FIFA World Cup is the biggest and most popular outdoor sporting event known in the universe.

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If the Philippines did it, offices and classes would be suspended; traffic would be halted; politics would be thrown in the backseat; stock exchange trading would be held in abeyance, crimes would deteriorate; malls would be abandoned as the entire nation celebrated the World Cup stunner.
The Filipinos would have rejoiced like they won their first Olympic gold.
But I’m sorry to cut short this fantasy and vainglory.
Winning against a powerhouse team like Germany is like bordering on megalomania.
In the first place, the Philippines can’t play against any soccer superpower in America and Europe in a World Cup match for the simple reason that the national team has never been qualified for FIFA World Cup despite its reputation as one of the oldest national teams in Asia.
The Philippines has been playing at the international level since 1913, but the farthest that it has achieved, so far, was having been qualified in the AFC Asian Cup in 2019.

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The Filipinos’ best finish in a major tournament was second place to Palestine at the 2014 AFC Challenge Cup.
We can only share the great moments with the Mexicans who resemble like Filipinos in height, talent and other physical features.
It was only Mexico’s second win against Germany in 12 World Cup matches since 1968.
The Germans bundled them out six times and drawn their matches four times.
It’s a long way to go and Germany can either bounce back and win its second title or Mexico will continue its giant killing spree or even pocket its first World Cup crown.
Or both of them will be eliminated.
Let’s continue to enjoy watching more explosive World Cup matches.

 
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Posted by on June 19, 2018 in SPORTS

 

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How I pick ‘Dr. Hannibal Lecter’

“You will not persuade me with appeals to my intellectual vanity.”

— Hannibal Lecter

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 By Alex P. Vidal

NEW YORK CITY –– I must have picked the wrong guy when I pointed to a tattooed middle-aged hustler in Manhattan’s Union Square for my opponent recently in a “bullet chess” or blitz chess match.

The guy was a look-alike of Anthony Hopkins when he played Dr. Hannibal Lecter, a character in a series of suspense novels by Thomas Harris and introduced in a 1981 thriller novel Red Dragon as a forensic psychiatrist and cannibalistic serial killer.

“Dr. Hannibal Lecter” or DHL was only one of the four Union Square mainstays who challenged me for a chess match “for five bucks.”

I would be a hypocrite to deny I chose DHL over the three others after thinking he was a pushover or easy to beat.

 ROUND-TRIP

Jiggz, who invited me earlier to invade Union Square with a promise to pay my round-trip ticket in the subway from Queens, made everyone’s head turn when she stoutly dangled a $20 bill and ribbed DHL: “Twinti bakzs!”

Without hesitation, “Dr. Hannibal Lecter” quickly retorted: “olrayt!”

I chided Jiggz reminding her the hustlers were only chanting “fayb bakzs”. She insisted for “twinti bakzs”, her voice was irritating and intimidating.

When DHL and I were about to begin the hypnotic three-minute Ruy Lopez Exchange Variation blitz, the crowd intensified, cajoled by Jiggz’s wager braggadocio.

Handling the white pieces, I marshaled 1. e4; DHL replied with e5; 2. Nf3-Nc6; 3. Bb5 a6; 4. Bxc6 and so on and so forth.

If the match didn’t get as far as the middlegame, I wouldn’t notice I was heading for the catastrophe.

DHL, who didn’t nix pieces exchanges before five moves, parried my attacks with a masterful display of grit and proficiency as the partisan crowd egged and cheered him.

STRUCTURE

Several moves later, DHL’s deadly knight and bishop ripped apart my weakened pawn structure; security in the king side had been badly shattered.

As defeat became imminent, I raised the white flag and shook DHL’s hand.

Instead of planting his teeth hard on my neck as what Anthony Hopkins did to his victims in the “Silence of the Lambs”, Union Square’s DHL gave me a wink and collected Jiggz’s “twinti bakzs”.

DHL and his fellow chess hustlers had moved from the Washington Square Park–Bobby Fischer’s former territory–to the Union Square in 2013.

Jiggz coaxed DHL to play “wan mor game”. DHL said “yes”, I called it a day while the three other hustlers, DHL’s cheering squad, were waving and pleading for me to also play against them “but only for fayb bakzs.

I said “no mas.”

Twinti bakzs were enough. Twinti fayb bakzs will be too much.

 
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Posted by on April 8, 2018 in PSYCHOLOGY, SPORTS

 

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In bocca al lupo, Fabiano

“Chess is ruthless: you’ve got to be prepared to kill people.” –Nigel Short

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By Alex P. Vidal

NEW YORK CITY — If Bobby Fischer were alive today, he would spearhead the applause on 25-year-old compatriot Fabiano Caruana.

The reclusive genius died at 64 in Reykjavik, Iceland in 2008 without seeing his dream to see another American-born chess grand master competing for the world chess championship.

When another American, Gata Kamsky (2677), battled and lost to Russia’s Anatoli Karpov (2623) for world championship in 1996, Fischer wasn’t impressed that another American after him was able to take a stab at the world chess crown.

Unlike Caruana (2784), who was born in Miami, Kamsky, 43, was born in Novokuznetsk, Russian and moved only to the United States in 1989.

Fischer, born in Chicago in 1943, was very particular about US-born chess world title candidates and challengers.

He also didn’t believe that that the world chess crown should remain in the hands of the Russians.

Although Caruana is Italian-American, he was born and raised in the US territory.

THIRD

By winning the FIDE Candidates Tournament 2018 in Berlin March 27, Caruana became officially the third American to battle for the world championship after Fischer in 1972 and Kamsky in 1996.

If Caruana will dethrone 27-year-old defending champion Magnus Carlsen (2843) of Norway in their 12-game match in London in November, he will only be the second American to win the global chess tiara since 1975, the year Fischer relinquished the title, three years after his epic win over Soviet star Boris Spassky in Reykjavik.

In Berlin during the Candidates Tournament 2018 that started on March 10, Caruana sent a strong message when he blasted fellow US player, Filipino Wesley So (2799), in a Catalan match in the opening day.

So finished solo seventh with six points.

In the 14th and last round on March 27, Caruana booked a ticket to London to face Carlsen when he trounced Alexander Grischuk (2767) in Petroff’s Defence, the only victory of the day in the eight-man tournament.

He wound up with nine points, a point ahead of second placer, Shakhriyar Mamedyarov (2809) who had eight points.

“I am absolutely thrilled,” Caruana, the world No. 3, said afterward. “Coming into today, I wasn’t sure what would happen and things couldn’t have gone better. A few days ago, I thought the tournament was already out of my hands, but somehow things just came together perfectly at the end. I really couldn’t be happier.”

In bocca al lupo, Fabiano or good luck, Fabiano.

Final Standings: 1st Caruana 9 pts, 2nd Mamedyarov 8 pts, 3rd Karjakin 8 pts, 4th Ding Liren 7.5 pts, 5th Kramnik 6.5 pts, 6th Grischuk 6.5 pts, 7th Wesley So 6 pts, 8th Aronian 4.5 pts

 
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Posted by on March 27, 2018 in SPORTS

 

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