Lope Pascual, who led football in tough times, dies at 84

 

 

 

MANILA, Philippines – Lope Pascual, the genial Air Force colonel who presided over trying times in Philippine football with success, passed away at 84 on Tuesday, June 4. 

Pascual's son, Nelson, told Rappler in a phone interview that his father felt chest pains on Sunday.  "He had a heart attack," he said. 

Wake is at Loyola Commonwealth until Friday and burial is set on Saturday at Loyola Marikina.  

Within minutes after getting the news, Elmer Bedia, one of the all-time great wingers who played under Pascual's Air Force teams, began posting pictures and thanked the man whom he called as his "second father."

Pascual was not a football man and relied on a close circle of trusted people, but he was decisive and took the initiative in many issues. 

He was swept into football as the manager of the Air Force that dethroned San Miguel Corp. as the strongest team in the land in 1977. The Airmen were led by the swift forward Roberto Benavides, nicknamed Beep-beep Bitoy after a cartoon character, playmaker Polly Arenal and rugged defenders led by Eddie Dumago, Conrado Tolentino, Pepsi dela Cruz and Pancho Zulla plus gusty goalkeeper Noe Doctora. 

When Air Force won, Pascual thanked everyone and asked reporters to talk to his coach, the roly-poly Bertie Guanzon, and Benavides. "See? Look at them," Pascual said of his happy men who just made history.

He was a simple man who wanted to do things without any fuss. Commonly, one heard" "Thank you, thank you" or "ok lang, ok lang." 

San Miguel pirated some of the Air Force players but Pascual and coach Bertie Guanzon, always looking for talent, found Bedia, who scored the winning goal that stunned San Miguel in the 1979 National Cup at Ugarte Field in Makati.

As the economic recession hit in 1983, commercial teams folded, the military upon Pascual's urging, recruited top players to sustain competition. The military's presence along with the later Coke Go For Goal Program sustained football.

Pascual was also able to convince the local Chinese, who had shied away from their former prominent position in Philippine football, to return as sponsors. The groundwork was laid for hiring an East German coach who prepared the national team for the 1991 Southeast Asian Games. 

What happened was a miracle. The Philippines drew Vietnam 2-2 and nipped Malaysia, 1-0 which sent a sparse crowd at the Rizal Memorial wild. Although two late goals sunk the Philippines against Indonesia 2-1, the team entered the KO stage where Thailand prevailed 6-2 and Singapore prevailed 2-0 in the battle for 4th place.  

Though Pascual may have been faded into the horizon, still he kept up his interest in football. Last year, his son said his father was watching World Cup matches. – Rappler.com