Pilipinas Dragons make waves in Barcelona

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The Pilpinas Dragons, a football team of boys mostly born in 2000, set records in Barcelona last week when it became the first Philippine competitor in the history of the prestigious Mediterranean International Cup (MIC) 2016, which saw action from some 500 teams in 42 countries.

All told, the Filipino boys coached by Ayi Bimbo from Ghana, sent shock waves with their maiden win in a friendly against the Japan Football Academy, 3-1, and an opening day 1-1 draw with Bellmare Fuijsawa. Bellmare is one of the oldest teams in the Japan premiere league.

The Dragons, who were last summer’s U15 champions in the UFL, gained more international exposure in a 1-3 loss against AEC Manlleu of Spain at Fornelis de la Sieva. It was followed by a 0-6 yield to Sel Espana-Brasil, a Spain-based Brazilian team, also on March 23, at the Sant Feliu de Guziols. Both opponents notably play almost everyday as they work towards professional football careers.

Despite the opponents’ obvious height advantage and the unfriendly cold at average of 8 degrees Celsius, the Dragons came back the next day with “puso” (heart) and breathed fire on Spain’s UE Balafia 2-1 at the Llagostera stadium, winning in this round toward the Consolation Prize.

The MIC is attended by the youth teams of the world’s best soccer clubs and national teams, such as FC Barcelona, Manchester United, Inter de Milan, Manchester City, Real Madrid, Atlético de Madrid, Celtic de Glasgow, Villarreal, Málaga CF and RCD Espanyol. It offered competitions in six categories. Lionel Messi played here years ago as a young competitor with Barcelona. The five-day 2016 tournament ended March 27.

The win versus UE Balafia fuelled the Dragons’ next challenge with The Netherlands’ Alphense Boys in Sils. The Dragons drew first blood and took the lead 1-0 at the half but the superior heft and height of the Dutch took the toll on the Filipinos as they yielded two consecutive goals to seal the game at 1-2 at full time. The game was deemed respectable, considering the Dutch legacy as World Cup placers, and as the Dutch players probably paid tribute to their greatest football player Johan Cruyff, 68, whose death was mourned by the global football community.

Members of the Dragons contingent are Team Captain Carlos Roleda, Lance Aquino, Kimmayong Ayahao, Louis Campos, Neon Casibang, Jose Domingo, Rian Dy, Paolo Fernandez, Antonio Kho III, Paco Mathay, Ching Paurom, Jose Poe, Carli Recio III, Paolo Sandejas, Jose Sioson, Co-Captain Troy Sy, Teddy Travis and Vinnie Vinculado. Assistant Coach is Alhassan Mohammad.

The Dragons settled within the top 16 of 32 teams which vied for the Group B Consolation Prize. As of the posting time, the semifinals in Category B were slated between the FC Barcelona, RCD Espanyo, Aspire Football Dreams and Gimnastic de Tarragona.

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