The 2017 Passionate Fan Pinoy Football Awards
Player Of The Year: Sara Castañeda. No, she is not the Women's POTY, she is the Philippine Player Of The Year, period. No player accomplished more than her, male or female, or was more valuable to their teams.
Castañeda helped DLSU's Lady Booters win the UAAP crown again in May, downing a stubborn UST team in the final 3-1. Naturally she scored the 88th minute go-ahead goal to ice the game. A late penalty added to the gloss.
Then the attacking mid suited up for the women's national team, and was a key cog in their progression to the final stage of the Women's AFC Asian Cup. Naturally she was clutch when it mattered again, knocking in the late equalizer against Bahrain that booked their tickets. The goal was a lovely composed volleyed finish off an Eva Madarang headed off-load, and should go down as the most important goal ever in Philippine women's football. See it at :29 here.
But there's more. Castañeda was also part of coach Hans Smit's side that completed the double in 2017, taking down all comers in lifting the winner's trophy in the first ever PFF Women's League.
“I saw her when she was just 7 years old and right away I saw the potential in the kid,” recounts Smit.
“She never complains in training or in matches. She's a very good student of the sport. I had to work my butt off to get her into the La Salle program. Even in her teens I knew she would be one of the best Filipina players. She still has a lot to offer in her game!”
Coach of the Year: Akbar Nawas. The Singaporean mentor of Global Cebu did not win a trophy this year, but he came so close twice despite injuries to key players on his squad, (Amani Aguinaldo and Misagh Bahadoran,) and that earns him this award. On just results, he gets the nod.
Cebu reached the final of the Singapore Cup and came back from a goal down twice to force extra time and penalties against Albirex Niigata Singapore. Alas, they ran out of luck in the shootout. No Filipino team had ever made it beyond the semis.
Their opponents in that final are an all-Japanese team that is the satellite club of a J-League outfit. That a Filipino team with six homegrown starters nearly beat them, should be a source of great pride for all Pinoy fans. Kudos to they players for their sensational effort. See the highlights here.
And then a week later Global went into the PFL semis as the fourth seed against top-seeded Meralco. They were unable to secure their home pitch so both legs needed to be played in Manila. Two late strikes in the first leg gave them a 2-1 advantage after leg one. In the second leg they fell behind early, but a late goal from Rufo Sanchez made it 3-2 on aggregate, granting them a finals berth.
They ran into the buzz saw that is Ceres Negros in the one-game final, falling 4-1 but that does not diminish what the team and coach accomplished.
“Very specific siya magbigay ng instructions, at okay siya mag motivate before the game” says Cebu striker Paolo Salenga, who scored the last equalizer in the Singapore Cup final. Salenga was also a late sub in the first leg against Meralco, and his cross was converted by Hikaru Minegishi.
Honorable Mentions: Buda Bautista, for steering the WNT to the Asian Cup. Marlon Maro, for leading the U22s to two victories in the SEA Games for the first time ever. JP Merida for helming Ateneo's men to a UAAP title. Nhiboy Pedimonte for coaching San Beda back to the NCAA title after losing it to Arellano the year before. Pedimonte deserves credit for besting a competition that is growing more and more competitive every year. In the final round robin stage, all the matches were close.
Fitch Peter Arboleda, head coach of the UE Red Warriors gets on this list too. I know, going from 8th place in 2016 to 7th place in the UAAP doesn't sound like much, but the Warriors finished on a high in this year's campaign. They won their last 3 matches including a win against Ateneo, the first time the Blue Eagles had lost all season long. That came after a win against FEU. They were the only team that beat both eventual finalists. When the next season begins February 3, they will be a dark horse to reach the final four.
Breakout Player Of The Year: Jhan Jhan Melliza: The Stallion Laguna striker ends the PFL with the most goals of any Filipino player, at 13. 'Nuff said. The La Paz, Iloilo native is destined for even greater things. Watch him score twice against JPV here.
Honorable Mention: Arjay Joyel and Jarvey Gayoso. Both performed brilliantly in the SEA Games. Joyel, the goalie from Floridablanca, Pampanga, will likely still play a year of UAAP while he sharpens his game with Kaya FC. Gayoso scored twice in the SEA Games and assisted in another, all while helping Ateneo win the title in the UAAP, scoring in the only goal in the final.
Wackiest Game of the Year: Tajikistan 3, Philippines 4. Nothing can ever top the sheer insanity of this unforgettable night in Dushanbe last June. The Azkals, fresh off an 8-1 hiding from China, found enough bullets in their armory to send the vocal Tajik crowd home disappointed after a memorable seven-goal thriller. They almost blew a three-goal lead, but at least they got the full points with goals by Phil Younghusband, Javi Patiño, (2), and Daisuke Sato. Younghusband's free kick is definitely part of my goals of the year list.
Save of the Year: Jun Badelic. Maybe I'm biased being the media officer of FC Meralco Manila, but I cannot recall a better save than this all season long in the PFL.
In a scoreless game between Davao and Manila, Matt Hartmann hits it clean in the second half with his world-class left foot from outside of the box. But Badelic makes the leaping parry to keep his clean sheet. Manila went on to win 2-0.
Poignant footnote: Badelic had just lost his grandfather the week before. What a way to honor his memory.
Goal of the Year: Iain Ramsay for Ceres Negros against Tampines Rovers. This is one strike that will live long in the memory of Busmen fans. A ludicrous outside-of-the-boot curving strike from the Fil-Aussie Azkal that keyed a 5-0 demolition of the Singaporean visitors. The succeeding goals from Manny Ott and Bienve Marañon aren't too shabby either.
Other top goals from the past year
Mark Hartmann's circus goal: The Pinoy has played brilliantly in Malaysia. Check out this ridiculous score from an acute angle for his former club, Sarawak.
Sam Lim's bicycle. The Atenean goes two-wheeled in this great strike against UE. The goal was scored on FEU's firm pitch too, perhaps the roughest landing in town for an overhead. It was definitely worth it.
Stephan Schröck being Stephan Schröck. Kaya Makati were looking to hold Ceres to a goalless draw in the first leg of their semifinal. But in stoppage time the former Azkal had other ideas, dancing around four Makati defenders to power home for a crucial away goal.
Kyla Inquig's free kick. The La Sallian showed that there is deadball quality in the women's game as well.
Inquig scores the 2nd goal for DLSU!!!! ANIMO LA SALLE pic.twitter.com/a8jGnFhjXW— Megan (@leganmiu) February 18, 2017
Eva Madarang, Irish Navaja, and Sara Castaneda strut their stuff against UAE. Any of these four goals make the grade, especially Navaja's cheeky lob.
Mike Ott saves the day. The Azkals were down 1-0 to Yemen in their AFC Asian Cup qualifier in Doha. Cue Mike Ott, who receives a gorgeous ball from Paul Mulders and blasts it home to rescue the point. Start watching at 1:20.
Kintaro Miyagi scores on debut. This is a fantastic trivia question: who scored a hat trick in a UAAP final AND scored on his full senior Azkals debut? Kintaro Miyagi. Watch this lovely strike with his weaker left foot to help beat Laos earlier this month.
If memory serves me correctly, he is the first homegrown Azkal goal scorer in an “A” international since Balot Doctora found the back of the next against Nepal in 2014.
Jarvey Gayoso gives the Blue Eagles the UAAP crown. The sophomore pounced on an error by FEU to blast past Joyel, in what turned out to be the only score of the final. This kid delivers when it matters.
Sara Castaneda's title-winner and Hazel Lustan's solo effort. The attacking midfield blasts past Nicole Reyes to seal the UAAP title for the Lady Archers against UST. But Hazel Lustan's equalizer for the Tigresses is also a thing of beauty.
Reymart Cubon and Kouichi Belgira make SEA Games history. The Philippines wins its first game in men's SEA Games football in 6 years. All thanks to a former Tam's glancing header off a great Gayoso corner, and a JPV Marikina player's prowess with free kicks. Start watching at :24.
Boyet Cañedo sneaks it in. Watch how the San Carlos native curls this free kick into the top corner for JPV against Davao at 2:06 of this clip. World-class technique!
Jinggoy Valmayor completes the UP connection to beat Kaya. It was a throwback to their UAAP days when Daniel Gadia crossed to fellow Maroon Valmayor for the stoppage-time winner against archrival Kaya in the only score of the game. Their coach in UP, Anto Gonzales, was also on the park and couldn't have been prouder.
Miguel Tanton's instant offense. You're out for a long spell because of injury. You come in as a late sub. You take 15 seconds to score a goal from the center circle. Your name is Miguel Tanton, and you have scored a goal that Kaya fans will never forget.
Have we missed any great goals from 2017? Feel free to post them on the comments of tweet me vids at @PassionateFanPH. I will RT for sure.
Special Award For Service To The Pinoy Football Fan: Garlic Sports YouTube. Whoever you are, wherever you are, thanks for putting so many highlights on the world's most popular video format. Relive the best moments of Philippine football here. – Rappler.com