Tating Pasilan: the best Pinoy Footballer you’ve never heard of

Tating. Image copyright Bob Guerrero.

"He's probably one of the best players I have played with. His movement is natural and he is fast as hell" says goalkeeper Patrick Deyto, his teammate in Green Archers United Globe.

"That guy is a fighter on the pitch," chimes in Azkals captain Aly Borromeo. "Quick and ferocious with that left foot."

"Alam naman natin na magaling yan" intones the other Azkal captain, Chieffy Caligdong. "May speed at maganda ang attitude. Kulang lang sa exposure sa International games. Malaki ang future niya sa national team. I recommend him sa Azkals."

Philippines, meet Floriano "Tating" Pasilan Jr., our most underrated Footballer.

There were well over 200 players in the UFL Division 1 rosters in the last league season. And only two of them, Phil Younghusband (23), and Global's Izo Elhabbib (13), scored more goals than Pasilan, whose twelve strikes was equalled by Mark Hartmann of Loyola.

What makes the feat more amazing is that Pasilan missed the first two games of the 18-game season because of an appendectomy.

If defenders can't stop him, then bloated intestinal appendages might.

How did this left-footer become so good? And why on earth isn't he on the national team?

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His story begins 26 years ago in San Carlos City, that most overlooked of Negrense Football hotbeds on the northeastern shoulder of the island.

Pasilan was born to Floriano Sr., an employee in the city waterworks, and Celia, a housewife. Tating is the second of five children. The family lived in a modest home in Purok Gmelina in the heart of the sleepy provincial capital.

Like his father, Pasilan first took up Baseball, and up until grade four played first base, where a lefthander like him is quite useful.

But not long after he succumbed to the charms of the Beautiful Game, and afternoons after school at Ramon Magsaysay Grade School and Julio Ledesma National High School were spent in pickup games at one of the city's five fields.

His skill caught the eye of college recruiters and he was picked up for a full scholarship at the University of St. La Salle, where he starred for their Football team alongside another San Carlos product, midfielder Arnie Pasinabo.

La Salle's bitter rival was, and is, West Negros University, helmed by the legendary Norman Fegidero. WNU owned St. La Salle in the Bacolod inter-private schools league, but in the Unigames it was a different story, as Pasilan led St. La Salle to victories over their rivals four years in a row.

After earning his degree in Agribusiness Management, Pasilan became an Azkal in 2008, earning full International caps in the Challenge Cup qualifiers in Iloilo and the ASEAN Football Federation qualifiers in Cambodia.

Aly Borromeo saw his potential and got him to relocate to Manila to play for Kaya. The Borromeo family then owned GNC, and Pasilan worked at the supplement company as a warehouse coordinator.

It was a hard existence, working full time at the warehouse and practicing on Thusday nights at Nomads field, then commuting home to Carmona sometimes as late as 1:00AM.

Pasilan lasted only two months in the warehouse job but stuck with Kaya. In 2009 the team, which featured current stars like Anton Del Rosario, Aly Borromeo and Eddie Mallari, dominated the UFL Cup, going unbeaten throughout the season and blasting Pasargad 6-2 in the final match.

Pasilan will gladly show you the highlight of those early days; a grainy video in his phone of a play against Army. There he plucks a ball out from the air with his left foot and bicycle-kicks it past a shellshocked Ed Sacapano.

In 2010 the Green Archers football team was born, and the team, managed by Monchu Garcia, poached him from Kaya.

"He's a manager's dream" says Garcia of his captain. "He's like a big brother to the other players, and he's putting his younger brother through college. That shows you his character."

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Tating is blessed with the one currency that Football coaches crave: raw, unadulterated speed. The kind of pace that leaves defenses in tatters and torments opposing coaches with sleepless nights.

"Gusto ko yung bola sa space lang tapos... karera na" says Tating as we sit for an interview in the house in Ayala Alabang where many of the Archers live.

"Pag may chance na may space, shot na. Di ako masyadong ma-dribble."

Tating in full stride on a proper pitch like Rizal Memorial is a true spectacle. He may be short and stocky, but he covers ground like a gazelle, with his feet close to the surface, somewhat reminiscent of Cristiano Ronaldo.

Pasilan marking Dario Dakic of Kaya. Image copyright Bob Guerrero.

But naturally speed isn't everything. A quick trip to Youtube will reveal his other asset, a wicked left foot capable of both power and trickery.

It's a League matchup with Air Force in the 2012 UFL season. There's a free kick for the Archers. The Airmen have assembled their wall to the left of the goal as Pasilan stands over the ball. One of the Philippines' finest keepers, Tats Mercado, moves to the right side of the goal.

Pasilan strikes the ball with the outside of his left foot, and it curves around the right side of the wall and careens towards the left part of the goal. Mercado reacts, but it's too late. Goal Archers, and Pasilan is mobbed by his teammates.

It was a display of world-class skill and technique that even the UFL's foreign players rarely display.

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The obvious question is "Why isn't he in the Azkals?"

Pasilan says he did try out for the national team early in the Weiss regime. But a busy work schedule and difficulties going to and from his home in Carmona (he only moved to Alabang last June) prompted him to pass on the national team for now.

Tating coaches the De La Salle Zobel grade school team and in fact he led them to a title in a recent Football festival.

But next year will be a different story. "Pag mabigyan ako ng chance, willing ako mag-try out."

Pasilan could help his cause by working on his biggest weakness: an almost nonexistent right foot.

Twice already in the UFL Cup's first two games he has been given clear-cut chances at goal from the right flank, with a defender on his left, and has been unable to deliver, once in the 1-1 draw with Kaya and again in the 7-2 shellacking of Dolphins. Although in fairness he did attempt one right-footed shot in that game that rattled the crossbar.

"Yung kanan ko pang-emergency lang," admits Tating.

He has a long way to go to emulate Caligdong, who was once primarily left-footed but has scored plenty of goals for club and country lately with his weaker foot.

This one chink in Pasilan's armor hurt him in 2008, during AFF championship qualifiers. The Azkals were playing Brunei and tied 1-1. With only minutes to go till the final whistle, Tating was gifted a ball in space in the opponent's penalty box. But it was sent to his right foot. He tried to shift the to his left, and that gave a Brunei defender just enough time to sliding-tackle the ball to safety.

The game finished 1-1, and after the tournament, the Philippines ended up tied at seven points with Cambodia, with both teams at +1 goal difference. However, Cambodia scored more goals, and the Indochinese squad, and not the Azkals, progressed to the tournament proper.

Had Pasilan one-touched that ball into the net, the Philippines could have qualified, and perhaps the Azkals mania that swept the nation in 2010 would have happened two years earlier.

The miss still haunts Pasilan to this day. "Hindi ako makatulog nung gabing yun. Sabi ni Melo Sabacan, (former National Team Goalkeeper and then the Azkals Goalkeeper's Coach) 'Kung win-one touch mo yun, lahat ng newspaper sa yo.'"

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Pasilan captains Green Archers United Globe, the maddeningly inconsistent outfit that finished eighth out of ten teams in the 2012 UFL League, a point above Army and five adrift of Nomads Auction Manila. For the UFL Cup GAUG has loaded up with several key signings.

Ghanaian Ayi Nii Aryee bolsters their midfield and attack, while Lawrence Obinna Ikegwuruka, late of Loyola, starts at centerback along with former Nomads defender Dominic Mensah. Sean Saeyoul Lee of Korea, who played with FEU, is another promising midfielder.

Green Archers celebrate their equalizer versus Kaya. Image copyright Bob Guerrero.

But the Archers do rely on several outstanding homegrown players like Pasinabo, Ronnie Aguisanda, the blazingly quick Jesus Melliza and goalkeeper Deyto, who many are touting as the future of the Azkals between the posts.

There are high hopes for the UFL Cup.

"Ang target namin makapasok sa finals" says Pasilan. "Nag double effort ang teammates mag mula pumasok ang Globe. Ang mga allowances mas maganda na. Walang excuse na di mag-training."

"Last year Monday and Wednesday lang ang practices. Now Monday, Wednesday, Thursday at Friday ang schedule of practices, minsan pa nga Saturday at Sunday."

"Ang problem last year lalamang kami, tapos last 15 minutes bumibigay, nagda-draw, o talo" recounts Pasilan. This year with improved conditioning it could be a different story.

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In his free time Pasilan watches Football on TV where he follows the exploits of his idol, Lionel Messi. He also chats with his longtime girlfriend, Allyn Apurado, who lives in San Carlos.

But he and his Archers housemates are like most young Filipino men: when not working they troop to the nearest Basketball court and rustle up a pick up game.

Not surprisingly, when Pasilan is on the court, the strategy is familiar.

"Hagis sa akin yung bola, tapos takbo."

For fans of Tating Pasilan, they know his speed is his greatest asset. And he can't get back to the Azkals fast enough.

Follow Bob Guerrero @bhobg333 on Twitter.

Editor's note: The blogger's views do not represent Yahoo! Southeast Asia's position on the topic or issue being discussed in this post.

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