It's midway through the first half on Wednesday as Blue Guards are holding Loyola 0-0.
Well, at least that's what the scoreboard says.
In reality it has just turned 10-0 in favor of the Sparks, and Leo Estelar, the UFL staffer in charge of operating the simple tarpaulin scoreboard at Emperador Stadium, is getting the extra “1” digit out so he can update.
It's that kind of night for the Blue Guards. Call them the Black and Blue Guards on the night. The team has the motto “Expert drinkers since 1965” on their crest. Tonight they will probably need something really stiff, like cognac.
Moments after Estelar places the “1” he flips over another as Loyola goes up 11-0.
The UFL public address announcer soon stops mentioning the score, instead settling on just naming the scorer.
“Ano, tatayo na lang ako dito?” (So I'm just going to stand here?) asks frustrated Blue Guards goalkeeper Samuel Letargo rhetorically to his outfield mates as they allow yet another goal.
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“Wala, ang lakas, di kayang habulin” (they're too strong, we can't catch them) replies Blue Guards playing coach Luis Locsin, 52.
The Blue Guards are a graying bunch. Dodie King is 63, Letargo looks well into his forties, and another starter, Noel Reyes, is 48. The team says their average age is 46. They did not field Mindo Fajardo, who at 80, is believed to be the Philippines' oldest active Footballer.
The Loyola onslaught, featuring Phil and James Younghusband plus other top Filipino and foreign pros, continues as I observe from behind Letargo's goal. The Sparks attack is like an orange wave that washes onto the shore then recedes, only to return moments later.
At 13-0 we suddenly hear the loudest cheer of the evening. The Blue Guards are on the attack! Somehow they breach the defense of Loyola enough to allow Roger Sulit a shot at goal. It misses.
Regular programming is restored when Lee Joo Young makes it 14-0. Loyola is up by two touchdowns.
Then Letargo makes a sensational save on James Younghusband. I applaud from the end line, and the keeper acknowledges my support.
Soon it's 15-0. Patrick Deyto, the Green Archers United keeper, walks by. His team plays next (they go on to win a squeaker over Navy, 5-0.)
“Wow I feel for that guy” he muses, referring to Letargo.
Substitute Chad Gould tries to make it 16-0 but his outside-of-the-boot effort slams into the post. I think of berating him good-naturedly but think better of it.
Blue Guards then proceeds to hold Loyola scoreless for the next fifteen minutes. Not really surprising, since it's half time.
“I only have two defenders” moans Letargo as he strides off the field. I find that interesting since the Guards seem to be playing what looks like an 8-1-1 formation, albeit a very porous one.
I chat with Dodie King at the interval and ask him the obvious question; “why?” Why did a team that does not even play in the third tier Weekend Football League endeavor to join a top-flight competition like the UFL Cup?
With a broad smile he answers “We play here (Emperador) once a month and we pay P8,000 (for a two-hour slot). In the Cup we pay P25,000 and we get four games. It's cheaper!”
I ask Locsin, with as straight a face as I can muster, if he will make any tactical adjustments for the second half.
“We're not playing our game” he offers. “Sumasabay tayo sa long ball nila. Eh hindi kaya. (we are playing their long ball game and we can't keep up.) The score is given, but we should play the game we play on Sundays, with short passing.”
The Guards are in good spirits. “Look how worried they (Sparks) are!” says King jokingly to his mates. “Randy (Roxas, a Sparks official) is giving the pep talk.”
The second half begins and there is more of the same. Within seconds its 16-love. I'm still standing behind the west goal and Loyola keeper Baba Sampana, in what appears to be a futile attempt to ward away boredom, is doing calisthenics in front of goal.
Soon after James Younghusband makes it 20-0 and an awkward '2' is sandwiched in between the digits on the scoreboard. While they are fixing it, the scoreline ticks to 21.
“Kukuha na ako ng number '3' says Estelar, in preparation of Loyola breaching the 29-goal mark.
After the 90 minutes is over, Loyola wins 33-0, two more than the world record for an International Match, which was Australia 31, American Samoa 0, set back in 2001. Watch the highlights of that massacre here.
Phil scores eight goals, Gould seven, and there are five scores apiece for Matt Hartmann and James Younghusband.
In case your wondering, 33 is just six less than the output of the UP Fighting Maroons Basketball team last September when they lost to UST 63-39. On the day before Halloween, nothing could be ghastlier.
It's Blue Guards' last group match of the Cup after a 16-0 thrashing to the Archers, a 10-0 hiding against Navy, and an 11-1 beatdown at the hands of the Dolphins. Their goal difference is -69.
Loyola is unbeaten after three games and next faces the Archers for the Group E top spot.
“We joined and played for the experience” writes Noel Reyes on Facebook. “We were once the gods of Football during our prime. We knew we weren't going to win. We just wanted the experience of playing with our great Azkal players.”
Randy Roxas explained the fielding of their top players against such an overmatched side.
“Blue Guards FC is a club with a long history and they are passionate and proud when it comes to Football. Some of their senior players were former national team players. We respect them and showed them respect by fielding our best players and playing the attractive attacking Football we love to play.
“If we did the opposite and fielded our bench or played without any motivation, then we would have shown them disrespect by judging them even before the starting whistle was blown. That's not what FIFA Fair Play is all about.”
“The Sparks took this game seriously and prepared for it just like any other game. It was never about the scoreline. I spoke to some of their (Blue Guards) players after the game and they thanked us for the experience.”
“The result of the game now sends a message to the other amateur clubs that this is a serious league. If a club wants to participate then they should be prepared and invest in the right resources to be competitive.”
The Blue Guards showed a terrific spirit and great attitude while absorbing the drubbing. Many of them are to be commended for playing any kind of Football at their advanced age. But it's not unreasonable to say that they don't belong in the UFL. For certain, some sort of screening must be in place for next year's Cup.
But for the Blue Guards, it doesn't matter. They will tell their grand kids (and perhaps great grand kids) about how they once shared a field with Phil Younghusband. And over adult beverages, will savor the defeat as just another memorable chapter in the rich history of their fabled squad.
Follow Bob on Twitter @PassionateFanPH.