The match between the Loyola Meralco Sparks and Green Archers United last Friday marked the first ever United Football League match played outside of Metro Manila. The partnership with the Philippine Marine Corps not only facilitated a historic moment in Philippine football, it marked an important trip for highly regarded youngster Daniel Gadia.
“This is the first time that I have had the chance to play in the first eleven and I played the whole 90 minutes in the game,” he said proudly. “Even though it’s hard to play on a non-artificial field, I think the experience was good,” he added, as the team got the opportunity to play on real grass in Zamboanga.
Despite his first start, the UAAP MVP refused to get carried away, fully aware that there is still plenty to work on with the season entering it’s final stage.
“I think I need to be more prepared because we have two games left and we need to win. I think I need to deliver, even though in the next game I might not be starting, I’m prepared to help the team to win. Because this is also my dream. I’m lucky I played the whole 90 minutes and played a part in helping the club to get to the AFC Cup.”
Unbeknownst to some, the UFL game was dedicated to Lt. Col. CJ Paolo “Tiny” Perez, who was slain last June. Perez’s untimely passing served as motivation for the match — particularly for Gadia, who is friends with the fallen hero’s son.
“My first motivation coming from that game is Tiny Perez. He’s the dad of my friend Lorenzo so I met tito Tiny way back in Manila when I was a kid, and I heard the news that he was killed here in Zamboanga. So for me, it was a big motivation to win that game for him and offer the game to him.”
The 3-day affair in Zamboanga was also Gadia’s first trip with the Loyola Meralco Sparks, and he’s hopeful such endeavors will happen more often in the future.
“For me, it was a good move for the UFL that we bring football in Zamboanga because I think the only sport that they have here is basketball. And bringing football here makes them know that they can also play football, not just basketball,” said the youngster.
“We need more of this, maybe we need to put some football clinics in Basilan or Sulu as well, so children there would know what kind of outlets are available, not just basketball, that there is football or volleyball too.”
By jumpstarting the move to play outside Manila, Gadia agreed that the UFL has tapped into a market that is eager to participate in the sport.
“It was a good promotion cause football is so isolated in general in the Philippines. The teams only play in the Rizal Memorial and less people are watching the game. Here in Zamboanga, when we played, a lot of people came and I think some of the people (who wanted to watch) didn’t even get to enter the venue.”
With their return to Manila, Gadia and the Sparks will have a two-week break before their most important battle against Kaya FC at the Rizal Memorial Stadium.