Meet the mastermind of the LA Galaxy vs Azkals Dream Cup game

Natashya Gutierrez

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Jinx Macabenta, the mastermind of the Dream Cup

MANILA, Philippines — He apologizes profusely for looking like he hasn’t slept for days – and quite frankly,  he hasn’t.

He says sorry for being unshaven and for looking tired as he sucks on his lollipop – his lunch for the day – the only thing he has had time to pick up.

Jinx Macabanta has been working nonstop for weeks to bring football fans a dream come true.

Meet Macabenta – the executive producer of the Dream Cup game, the mastermind behind the historic friendly match between the LA Galaxy and the Philippine Football National Team widely known as the Azkals.

On the day of the interview, the game is three days away.

Here are five things we learned from the man who thought of it all.

1) The idea to bring the LA Galaxy to the Philippines came out of a drinking session

It was an idea born from alcohol. About five months ago, Macabenta was drinking brandy and hard liquor with some friends when they started talking about the possibility of bringing in a well-known, top-notch club to play the Azkals, who were hot at that time. The rest was history.

“I  called up LA Galaxy and said, ‘Hey. I’d love to bring you to the Philippines.’ Fast-forward to today, and you know, its going to be happening.”

2) The PFF did not know about the possible friendly until after the LA Galaxy

Macabenta pursued his idea independently without telling the PFF. He contacted LA Galaxy by himself and only then did he call the PFF and the Azkals to tell them about the probable match.

The PFF was more than receptive. “They were thrilled!,” shares Macabenta. “In fact, they were like, ‘Are you sure?'”

He is quick to note however, that the PFF has been “extremely” cooperative since day one, saying nothing would have been possible without the PFF and the leadership of PFF President Nonong Araneta, Azkals Team Manager Dan Palami, and many other hard-working individuals in the federation.

3) LA Galaxy was hesitant at first

Tom Payne, the President of Business Operations of the LA Galaxy was not as excited as the PFF when they were first broached with the idea.

“He said, ‘Let me see some references.’ He didn’t even know much about the football market in the Philippines,” says Macabenta.

LA Galaxy needed more convincing. Macabenta showed Payne some clips of the Azkals from YouTube and told him about the growing football market in the country until Payne was finally persuaded to fly to the Philippines and approve the pitch, the hotel where the team would be staying, and all other logistics.

4) At the time the news of LA Galaxy coming leaked on Twitter, the match was only 70% sure

On the evening of October 22nd, Twitter exploded with rumors of the friendly, after Azkals team coordinator Ace Bright tweeted, “LA Galaxy and Azkals, dec 4 rizal stadium :)”

The news spread like wildfire. Squealing ladies and excited men scrambled to confirm the news. Over the next few hours, the public was warned that it was not yet 100% certain but at that point, most Filipinos already believed the match would happen. This, despite Payne’s visit and approval of the facilities and logistics.

Macabenta estimates that the match was only 70% sure it would happen at that time. In fact, It was not until the press conference that Payne officially committed.

“Right when we did the press conference, he (Payne)said, ‘We’re going to do this.’ It was official,” says Macabenta.

The press conference on October 27 with Payne, Araneta, Palami and Macabenta himself confirmed the news of the Dream Cup. The date since Bright’s original tweet has since changed to December 3rd, at 7pm.

Move.PH was there for the announcement. Watch it here:

5) “This is only the beginning”

The friendly match is predicted to do much for Philippine football. Macabenta views it as a way to raise awareness of the sport to a newer level especially with the football clinic and the open practice that will also take place.

The LA Galaxy will be hosting a football clinic for children aged 8-15 years old for 14,000 pesos per child on Friday, December 2, from 2-4pm. Kids from the Futkaleros and Bantay Bata have also been invited to play with the LA Galaxy players. The clinic will be followed by an open practice from 4-6pm, for which tickets are also on sale.

Macabenta assures football fans of two things.

Firstly, he promises that the football game will meet, if not exceed expectations.

“Going to this game will be well worth it,” says Macabenta. “To see (David) Beckham, the best player of England; (Robbie) Keane, the best player of Ireland; (Landon) Donovan, the U.S…. it’s going to be well worth seeing these guys play against our own national team.”

And more importantly, Macabenta tells fans, that much more is in store for the future.

“This is just the beginning. We’re really planning to bring in other top-notch clubs to the Philippines,” he says with a tired, but fulfilled smile.

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Natashya Gutierrez

Natashya is President of Rappler. Among the pioneers of Rappler, she is an award-winning multimedia journalist and was also former editor-in-chief of Vice News Asia-Pacific. Gutierrez was named one of the World Economic Forum’s Young Global Leaders for 2023.