UAAP 81 Football: UP turned their season around at the right time

Santino Honasan on Apr 11, 2019 05:31 PM
UAAP 81 Football: UP turned season around at the right time
"If we want to go on and succeed in this campaign, we have to be together, each one giving his best. Not 90 percent, not 99 percent. 100 percent, all out.” - UP head coach Anto Gonzales

University of the Philippines' start to the UAAP Season 81 Men's Football Tournament was, in some ways, disastrous. 

In the first round, the defending champions dropped four of their seven matches, including a forfeit loss to NU as well as back-to-back losses for the first time since Season 76. 

Coming from a program that had two of the last three men’s football titles and had not finished lower than third place in the last eight seasons, the slow start was definitely unfamiliar territory.

In the second round however, the Fighting Maroons have seemingly turned a corner.

UP is undefeated so far in the second round, avenging losses against Adamson, De La Salle and defeating Season 80 FInals rivals University of Santo Tomas.

Thursday afternoon at the FEU DIliman Football Field, UP notched their fourth straight win with a 4-1 destruction of NU that ultimately booted the Bulldogs out of playoff contention.

The Fighting Maroons meanwhile, are right in the thick of things in the playoff picture, currently sitting at third place with 19 points.

A far cry from where they were just before the start of the second round.

According to head coach Anto Gonzales, before their final first round matchup, they decided to give the Fighting Maroons a wake-up call.

“Before our first round game against Adamson, when we didn’t have the six national team players, we showed them a video of our previous game. We conceded two goals in that game, and then we played those moments back, we showed it to them, and inisa-isa namin,” Gonzales shared. “The problems weren’t not knowing what to do, because we asked them, ‘In this situation, what should have you done?’, and they knew the answers.”

“The problem lied in their desire to really commit themselves fully to the team, to sacrifice for the team, to take responsibility for the team, that was the story of our first round,” he added.

All first round long, Gonzales was very vocal about his team and their lack of a leader-figure on the pitch, so to say. It was something that was addressed, Gonzales shared, as they headed into the second round.

“We had some players that were not fully committed, and when you play a team game, if you have one player that’s not fully committed, not giving himself fully, to the team effort, things will crumble,” Gonzales explained.

“And we had a few players, and we were candid. We told them ‘Hey, you have to step up.’ and fortunately, they got the message, and in terms of sacrificing for the team there was a huge improvement,” he continued.

From last season’s title-winning team, one of the key losses was MVP and team captain Ian Clarino, who was a huge presence on the pitch for the Fighting Maroons, due to his leadership.

Aside from the loss of Clarino, Gonzales believes that this year’s squad has just as much talent as last season’s team.

“Talent-wise, this team, it’s comparable to last year’s team. We only lost a leader at the backline, Ian Clarino, but I mean, we still have enough talent, the core is still here.”

For Gonzales, UP’s turnaround is a result of going back and playing not for themselves, but for the whole team.

“I think the story of the second round, the way we have turned things around, is we went back to that. Being selfless, sacrificing for the team, taking responsibility, for the team. No special tactical adjustment, nothing.”

For UP to capture back-to-back titles for the first time since Season 74, Gonzales said that they needed to be one team  with a common goal.

“It was just a matter of realization, that ‘Oh, I’m not really giving myself totally to the team, and the team will suffer.’ and if we want to go on and succeed in this campaign, we have to be together, each one giving his best. Not 90 percent, not 99 percent. 100 percent, all out.”

With three matches left in the elimination round, UP has an excellent chance to close the season out strong and solidify their place in the Final Four. With the way that they’re playing now, another men’s football title for UP should not be out of reach.

 

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