Tuesday, November 30, 2021

United City entering groundbreaking partnership with Gravity Sport

Eric Gottschalk with the UCFC kit
 Tack on another historic notch for the United City Football Club.

The Pampanga-based team entered into a landmark partnership with Gravity Sport, with among all things, allowing the latter to become the former's official blockchain partner.

In addition, the deal allows UCFC to build & monetize content, data security, and entertainment in a custom-built digital asset ecosystem, something that no Asian football club has done previously.

A similar commercial and technological deal is in place with Serie A side Parma.

UCFC believes that having this kind of partnership "will pave the future of football and how fans will have ownership of the club's collectibles and put a new meaning to tokenization," especially with the increased awareness of blockchain, NFTs, and metaverse in the country.

Team President Eric M. Gottschalk shares, "We are proud to have reached another milestone in our vision of how we think Club football not only in the Philippines shall evolve over time, and we would like to thank Gravity Sport for its vision to see the potential in partnering with UCFC as well as Orchid Sport & Entertainment, which helped us to complete the deal."

He adds, "We will be the first regional football club to integrate blockchain into its operations from merchandise, membership, data analysis & security. Therefore, it allows our fans to get closer to the players through our dedicated fan tokens and exclusive NFTs, which will be launched ahead of the 2022 season."

Using Gravity Sport blockchain technology and NFT marketplace, UCFC will have the opportunity to craft innovative fan-owned assets, including digital player cards, as well as interviews, match highlights, and goals. Such tradeable assets would be available to acquire through unique fan tokens. In the process, Gravity Sport also helps enable the digital economy in serving as the host and operator of that platform, connecting and establishing a new form of engagement with a new global audience and providing an opportunity for them to adopt this new endeavor.

Gottschalk also shares, "The partnership with Gravity Sport and the use of blockchain technology will allow UCFC to make another step forward in unlocking new revenue streams and to become a sustainable football business that does not rely purely on match-day revenues or sponsorship income alone."

Gravity Sport founder Stuart Gallacher shares, "Gravity Sport is tremendously proud to add United City FC to its growing portfolio of international sports properties, following our jersey partnership with Parma Calcio in August."

He adds, "The Philippines is a very interesting market for us as the country is poised to reach new economic heights in the near future while its young, tech-savvy population is naturally equipped to easily grow into the new area of "blockchain technology. And just like us, UCFC is fast evolving, has a clear, futuristic vision while displaying strong values which assures that our ambitions are closely aligned. We are excited to innovate jointly with UCFC as we believe we have an incredibly exciting global blockchain NFT marketplace which will benefit all stakeholders, players, media, and of course the strong fan audiences that UCFC already has."

Gravity Sport's deal is also extended to UCFC's eSports wing, and the public will get a full glimpse of it when the league starts its 2022 season in February/March.

Azkals call up 27 for Suzuki Cup duty

The Philippine Football Federation has called up 27 players to comprise the preliminary roster for the AFF Suzuki Cup.

Stephan Schroeck of United City leads the squad as captain, with Patrick Reichelt acting as vice-captain. Mike Ott, Martin Steuble, Angel Guirado, and Kenshiro Daniels also got enlisted by head coach Scott Cooper and his staff.

Amani Aguinaldo, Kevin Ingreso, Iain Ramsay, and Daisuke Sato are back after sitting out the dual World Cup and Asian Cup Qualifying this past June, with recent call-ups Jeff Tabinas, Mar Diano, Bernd Schipmann and Kevin Ray Mendoza also returning.

Fresh from their stint in AFC U-23 Qualifying are Oliver Bias, Justin Baas, Dennis Chung, Quincy Kammeraad, Oskari Kekkonen, Sandro Reyes, and Christian Rontini.

After a long naturalization process, Bienve MaraƱon will finally make his Azkals debut, alongside Matthew Custodio, Harry Foll, Amin Nazari, and Jesper Nyholm.

Notables missing out on the competition are Jarvey Gayoso, Manny Ott, Carlie De Murga, Sebastian Rasmussen, Adrian Ugelvik, and Canada-based brothers Michael and Matthew Baldisimo.

A few more were ruled out due to club commitments. With the competition being held outside of the FIFA international window, clubs are not obliged to release players. This includes the likes of Neil Etheridge, Gerrit Holtmann, Michael Kempter, Raphael Obermair, and Patrick Strauss, as well as the likes of Patrick Deyto, and Josh Grommen.

Meanwhile, both Javier Patino and Michael Falkesgaard have called time on their international careers.

Cooper says about the Suzuki Cup, "This is a very prestigious tournament. We have a history of doing well and going to the semifinals, but we need to do more than that. We have to look at the last Suzuki Cup (in 2018) and that half of that schedule, was in the FIFA calendar. For this tournament, we have so many players unavailable and most of them were unable to be released by their clubs. We don’t have that luxury as other countries so we’re hoping that organizers look at the calendar in the future."

Team manager Dan Palami acknowledges that preparations for the tournament have been far from ideal, especially with players still in club competition with less than a couple of weeks from the start. He adds, "We have to deal with the situation. I think now more than ever, the team will have to summon the never-say-die spirit that Filipinos are known for."

Cooper also shares, "It’s extremely difficult hence we have to temper our expectations. We have a nice squad and we have a new addition in Jesper Nyholm, whose season is finally finished, so we can bring him in and there’s couple of new faces coming in."

Nonetheless, he says the Azkals still need to be ambitious and “represent ourselves well.”

"We have a good squad, we must be positive and go on and show what we can do."

Slotted in Group A, the Philippines will kick off their campaign against hosts Singapore on December 8, followed by matches against Timor Leste on the 11th and Thailand on the 14th, all at the Singapore National Stadium. They will finish off against Myanmar at Bishan Stadium on December 18.

Twenty seven players make up the Azkals lineup for the AFF Suzuki Cup 2020 set in Singapore beginning December 5.

Friday, November 26, 2021

PhP 2M awaits Chooks MPBL Invitational champ

Ronald Mascarinas

As always, Ronald Mascarinas comes up with a surprise.

As announced by the BAVI head honcho in cooperation with league founder Manny Pacquiao, the Chooks-to-Go Maharlika Pilipinas Basketball League champion is expected to net a couple of million pesos, which provided the 22 teams present with a delightful incentive for their participation in the tournament, which takes place from December 11-23 at the Mall of Asia Arena.

Runners-up will not come up empty handed, as they would receive PhP 500,000 for second place and PhP 250,000 for third.

Mascarinas notes, "This is not just a simple re-start we wanted our league to be at par with the best of the world."

The competition format was also revealed during the event, which sees the teams drawn by league commissioner Kenneth Duremdes into four pools.

Datu Cup champions San Juan has been slotted into five-team Group C, alongside Nueva Ecija, Sarangani, Valenzuela, and Muntinlupa.

Inaugural VisMin Super Cup champions Basilan also was drawn into Group B, with Laguna, Marikina, Makati, and Bicol.

Group A contains Caloocan, Pasig, Bacolod, Iloilo, and newcomers Negros, while completing the field in Group D are Manila, Rizal, Imus, GenSan, Mindoro, and Bulacan.

Duremdes expressed appreciation to the Chooks-to-Go group for their full support of the league's return after a long hiatus as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Given the schedule and teams involved, five-game playdates will take place during the eliminations, with a select few to be broadcasted on live television.

TAP renews deal with Aussie NBL

Tap Digital Media Ventures secured another partnership on its sporting portfolio, entering into an exclusive multi-year deal with the National Basketball League, allowing TAP to remain the home of top flight Australian basketball.

The partnership allows TAP to showcase live and delayed NBL content, as well as highlights, on its linear channel TAP Sports and its OTT platform TAP Go.

Hungry Jack’s NBL Commissioner Jeremy Loeliger shares, "We are delighted to be partnered with Tap to broadcast NBL games in the Philippines."

This season's iteration of the Hungry Jack’s National Basketball League will be special, with the presence of the young Filipino national team prospect Kai Sotto on the Adelaide 36ers roster.

The 7'2" 19-year old joined the 36ers as a pathway towards the NBA, signing a two-year deal with an option for a third. He joins a growing list of prospects who recognize the league's potential in getting them ready to enter the NBA Draft, including Terrance Ferguson, RJ Hampton and LaMelo Ball.

The team is currently in Tasmania participating in the NBL Blitz, a preseason tournament that would help the participants get themselves ready for the upcoming campaign.

Kai has played in just one game for the 36ers so far, netting seven points, five rebounds, and a block against Cairns in the preseason opener.

Loeliger adds, "There is huge Filipino interest in the NBL this season thanks to Kai Sotto’s signing in Adelaide and we are excited Filipino fans will have access to NBL content throughout the year.”

TAP DMV Chief Technology Officer Gonzalo "Bogie" De Guia also shares, "Kai Sotto is one of the most promising Filipino basketball players to ever come out of the Philippines. With the NBL coming to Tap Go and Tap Sports, the country will be able to watch him closely and continue to follow his journey in the international basketball scene. No doubt, he will become a dominant force in the league. We can’t wait to get started."

The 36ers will not only have Sotto as their only major newcomer, as they have tapped former Australian international CJ Bruton to be their head coach. He will make his head coaching debut with the team after spending the last five seasons as an assistant with the Brisbane Bullets. Adelaide also tapped Mitch McCarron as the one tasked mainly to fill the hole as a result of the departure of Josh Giddey.

Adelaide kicks off their season on December 3 as they face the Perth Wildcats.

TAP remains in negotiations with the league as to the extent of the games set for local broadcast.

The NBL adds to the depth of TAP's commitment to showcase the best of the Filipino athlete or those who trace their roots to the archipelago, from the B.League to the WTA, LPGA, and the Asian Tour.

Sunday, November 21, 2021

MPBL referees go through FIBA refresher

With the Chooks-to-Go Maharlika Pilipinas Basketball League Invitiational just three weeks away, the league ensured that its officials are ready to for their on-court responsibilities.

Chooks-to-Go Pilipinas technical head Hector Villanueva gathered the 26 referees tasked to handle the tournament at the Prestige Tower Roofdeck in Pasig City for a FIBA-endorsed refresher course Saturday night.

Villanueva invited recently-retired FIBA-licensed referee Liberato Valenzuela to speak in this course. Valenzuela is an honorary FIBA member and a FIBA Rules Contributor.

By the time mag start tayo we will be 110% ready,” said Villanueva. “Magpapatuloy kasi ang physical conditioning namin like kanina nag drills and exercises tayo sa Victoria Sports. And we also plan to hold regular meetings para lalong maging malinaw sa ating mga referees yung mga bagong set of rules ng FIBA that will apply to the games sa Invitational."

Actually na-touch kami sa sinabi ni Comm. Kenneth (Duremdes) na hawak namin ang integrity ng liga. We will make sure na maayos ang officiating sa liga,” he continued.

The course is a chance for the referees to be updated on the latest revisions on the FIBA rulebook, among which includes stricter enforcement for double fouls, window for technical fouls, as well as for instant replay.

Duremdes adds, "We reassure the viewers na magiging maganda yung games natin lalo na sa officiating. Yung integridad and professionalism kasi ng liga talagang nakasalalay sa good officiating and alam ko naman na our referees and technical officials are up to the task."

He also says, "This is also in line with the direction ng ating league founder [Manny Pacquiao] kaya wala akong duda na magiging maayos ang lahat."

Aside from the referees, the coaching staff of both Imus and GenSan were present in the refresher course.

Thursday, November 18, 2021

December 15 set for NBA Jersey Day in the Philippines

Happy #NBAJerseyDay next month!

The NBA is set to commemorate the second edition of NBA Jersey Day next month, as part of their activities in their 75th Anniversary Season.

Slated to take place on December 14 (15 in the Philippines), the day will be highlighted by four games: a United States nationally-televised doubleheader between the New York Knicks and the Golden State Warriors, as well as the Phoenix Suns and the Portland Trailblazers. Also set to be played is the matchup between the Toronto Raptors and the Brooklyn Nets, as well as the Detroit Pistons and the Chicago Bulls.

All four games are available locally via NBA League Pass, with the latter two games mentioned set for broadcast on NBA TV Philippines.

To help celebrate the occasion, the league is asking fans to show their support for their favorite NBA, WNBA, and G League sides by wearing their favorite player's jersey and sharing it on social media, appending it with the hashtag #NBAJerseyDay. In sharing them, you can also tag the league, the team/s, and even the player/s. That way, there is a possibility that it might just be picked up and shown on the social media platforms of either the teams or even by the league.

It can be a current one, a throwback, or even a Hardwood Classic. You can do a selfie, or even get the family or barkada in on the fun.

And in case you do not have one yet, you can avail of the variety of official jerseys that are on NBAStore.com.ph.

Don't forget to follow the NBA on its varied social media footprint, whether on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and TikTok.

GAB helps MPBL in turning pro

The Games and Amusements Board conducted an online meeting with most of the team owners and representatives of the upcoming Chooks-to-Go Maharlika Pilipinas Basketball League Invitational Tournament.

Twenty out of the 22 participating teams in the upcoming December tournament were present in the gathering, in which GAB not only reminded them about the need for players, officials, and game personnel for the professional license, but also the duties and responsibilities expected from them as professionals.

Pro Sports Division chief June Bautista says, "We are happy that GAB was able to meet and orient the team owners about our mandate relative to GAB's supervisory and regulatory function over the conduct of professional sports such as basketball."

Bautista's assistant Jackie Lou Ornido adds, "We are also grateful that through this orientation and dialogue we were given the opportunity to discuss and address their concerns and inquiries. GAB is always there to assist and we look forward to working together with the league for the safety and welfare of our athletes and all our stakeholders."

GAB also helped assist with a free renewal of expired licenses for players who were part of the Pilipinas VisMin Super Cup as well as the National Basketball League-Pilipinas.

Wednesday, November 10, 2021

MPBL makes tweaks under new management

In 5... 4... 3... 2... 1...

Under new management, the Maharlika Pilipinas Basketball League will be tweaking its rules when it holds its invitational next month.

The adjustments are part of the moves Chooks-to-Go Pilipinas is conducting as it takes over league operations.

Chooks-to-Go Pilipinas spokesperson Mark Zambrano says, "Ang involvement po ng Chooks-to-Go is a little bit more expanded coming from a title sponsorship. Now, ang hawak na po ng Chooks-to-Go ay ang operations of the league. This will still be done in cooperation and partnership with both our league founder Sen. Manny Pacquiao and the office of commissioner Kenneth Duremdes. There will be changes but these changes will all be good for the league. Side-by-side, yun po ang gagawin natin."

The simplest tweak comes from the removal of restrictions involving Fil-foreigners. The league had previously instituted a height limit of 6'5" in order to be eligible to play. A Philippine passport is needed to be eligible to play in the league.

In addition, the limits on how many homegrown players, as well as "ex-pros" can be rostered have also been taken out.

However, the biggest development new management is set to introduce is the professionalization of the league, as well as securing FIBA accreditation.

Zambrano shares, "There will also be meetings with our team managers, league officials, and the Games and Amusements Board regarding this matter."

Kenneth Duremdes remains as league commissioner, and he has embraced the sweeping changes about to take place.

"Unang-una, nagpapasalamat kami sa lahat ng team owners na dumalo and, of course, sa Chooks-to-Go na nagkaroon tayo ng panibagong partnership. We both have a common goal which is to help our players reach their potential," he said. "May mga players na nag-struggle talaga this pandemic. Patience is a virtue talaga at naghintay ng tamang panahon ang MPBL para ma-reignite ang ating liga."

He adds, "This is the best time na matagal ng hinihintay ng ating mga fans at ng ating mga players."

This kind of sentiment extends to the participating teams.

Makati owner Paolo Orbeta shares, "We are very, very happy na makakapag-start na ang league with the partnership of Chooks and the MPBL. We would like to let everyone know that we are aligned with the goals of Chooks-to-Go MPBL. We needed this start para magtuloy-tuloy na for everyone. Maganda na we will have something to end the year on a positive note."

Marikina head coach Elvis Tolentino adds, "Kanina nga nabanggit ni Commissioner na ang tagal ng nawala yung MPBL. Yung invitational tournament natin is our window to start the new normal," while Rizal team manager Angie Azores says, "We are excited sa balik bola ng Chooks-to-Go and MPBL. It's been two long years. Sobrang dami naming natatanggap ng inquiries from the players. We are happy to be able to help them again and bring them back to the sport that they love."

Aside from the three teams mentioned, ten more squads have manifested their interest in participating in the upcoming invitational tournament, led by the Lakan Cup champions Davao Occidental.

Also set to join are Bacolod, Bicol, Caloocan, GenSan, Imus, Laguna, Negros, Nueva Ecija, Sarangani.

Additional teams have until Wednesday afternoon to confirm their participation, with the final list to be revealed on Thursday.

A major reboot will take place once the Maharlika Pilipinas Basketball League restarts this December.

Gone will be the height limit restriction for Filipino-foreigners that will play in the league. For as long as the player has a Philippine passport, he will be eligible to play.

Thirteen teams have already confirmed their participation for the Chooks-to-Go MPBL Invitational Tournament set from December 11-21 at either the Caloocan Sports Complex, the Ynares Sports Arena (Antipolo), or Sta. Rosa Sports Complex.

Headlining the field are Chooks-to-Go MPBL Lakan season champion Davao Occidental Tigers.

Other MPBL member teams who want to join the Invitationals are given a Wednesday afternoon deadline to make their decision. The final list of participating teams will be announced on Thursday.

Friday, November 5, 2021

Filipino-American Jordan Williams set for UFC 268

Bomaye set to take part at UFC 268

Expected to make headlines at the much-anticipated UFC 268 this weekend is the rematch between Kamaru Usman and Colby Covington for the welterweight title. Also deserving some attention is another rematch, this time between Rose Namajunas and Zhang Weili for the women's strawweight title, the co-main to the Usman-Covington main event.

However, someone that potentially could warrant some attention to Filipino fight fanatics in particular is tucked away in the Prelims.

In fact, opening the prelims portion of UFC 268 is a matchup between Jordan Williams and Ian Garry. Whilst the latter is making his UFC debut after winning his first seven fights, the former still seeks his first official win inside the Octagon.

Williams earned his way into the UFC through the Dana White's Contender Series. After a no-contest against Tim Caron back in 2018 and a loss against Ramazan Kuramagomedov in 2019, he broke through with knockout victory over Gregory Rodrigues in September 2020.

He shares, "I fought my way into the UFC. I am going to do my best to stay there. It is electrifying to be here in the UFC. I was a mix of emotions to be in the UFC after putting in a decade of work. I was dancing, crying, smiling..."

That paved the way for a couple of fights inside the Octagon, a unanimous decision loss against Nassourdine Imavov in Fight Night: Holm vs Aldana last October 2020 and a submission defeat against Mickey Gall at Fight Night: Sandhagen vs Dillashaw this past July.

Facing Garry, who earned his ticket into the UFC with his experience at Cage Warriors, Jordan says, "It’s going to be a technical match-up. He’s (Ian) a very good striker and his IQ is far from where his career is supposed to be. He mixes it up a lot. I like the match-up. It’s going to be a big match. At this point, I need to prove I belong."

He adds, "I need to derail his hype train and put myself on those tracks."

The man called "Bomaye" has a multi-faceted ancestry, having American, German, Nigerian, and Filipino ancestry. His Filipino heritage can be traced to his grandfather, who came over to the United States via the US Navy. Jordan is very much proud of his roots, showcasing all of them with tattoos on his right shoulder, or also known as his "heritage shoulder."

Jordan concludes, "I got into MMA because while wrestling in school, my friends and I saw Anderson Silva fight. He was such an inspiration. I would also like to draw inspiration and support from my Filipino roots this Sunday at UFC 268."

UFC 268, which is taking place inside the world-famous Madison Square Garden, will be available locally through the Premier Sports Channel, which is on Channel 272 HD on Cignal and HD 176 or SD 140 (Mega Manila) or HD 761 or SD 307 on Sky. Make sure to check your cable provider for further details.

It is also available through the TapGo Premium Plus plan on the TapGo app, which one can avail at PhP 599/monthly.