2022 World Cup Blog #2
As I write this post, I am on the plane from Manila to Doha, the capital city of Qatar.
I have spent a ton of hours on planes so far (PDX to SFO to Seoul to Manila, and now to Doha – around 30 hours in all)
The first few days of the trip were spent in Manila, Philippines. When I arrived, I met my friend Tom Atencio, who I have known for years and this will be our third world cup together. I also met Coach James, the Director of Coaching for Hawaii Soccer Academy.
Sleep was decent, but it did take a bit to catch up from the jet lag (16 hours ahead of Portland) – it will be another adjustment in Doha which is 6 hours behind. Whew.
The first thing to notice about Manila was the size and the traffic – it’s massive. 13 million people and it took a good 45 minutes to get about 5 miles from the airport to our hotel. When I arrived at the hotel, my two partners were ready for their first adventure. It was a meeting with Selu Lozano, the owner and coaching director for FC Makati, a city in Manila.
We met at his office, which also had a restaurant, a bar, a dance studio, and a workout gym. Selu is an interesting guy with a passion for a lot of things. His office was adorned with photos and trophies from the history of the club, and filled 2/3 of the wall space (another part of it was a tribute to his pug).
We talked about the challenges of running a soccer club in a densely populated city with not much of a soccer culture to speak of (we saw more basketball gear than soccer gear on our journeys). We went to his club training the next day.
This practice was held at McKinnley Road Stadium, a turf field surrounded by a small stadium on 3 sides. There were 5 groups, separated by age, participating in very organized drills run by around 15 coaches. Many of the coaches were African, and were lively and engaging with the players. Selu put on a very professional environment for these young players, who were decked out in blue and red club gear with the Philippine Airlines sponsorship on the front. As you would see in the US, parents were scattered throughout the stand, observing practice and chit-chatting. It’s always interesting to see how soccer is organized outside of what I am used to. For the most part, soccer is soccer wherever you go.
Overall, Manila was a great first stop. The weather was warm and sometimes rainy, a typical tropical island feel, and the people were very friendly and quick to say hello with hand over heart. We did some walking around town, and a little sightseeing, which was somewhat difficult to do with the traffic.
As far as the World Cup goes, we have only been reading bits and pieces of the news going on (Sadio Mane injured and doubtful for Senegal’s first match, the Argentina team’s seemingly late arrival, and maybe the most dominant headline – no beer allowed in the stadiums, a reversal of earlier decisions by the Qatari federation). This morning we spoke to a couple of Australian fans, and in the airport we spoke with a couple of Mexican fans.
Oh, and I didn’t know this before but now I know, the Black Eyed Peas will be performing at the opening ceremonies….