Inside one of the country’s top sportswear suppliers

Early in the year when the Azkals took to the field in Nepal for the Challenge Cup, something was different.

Instead of the Mizuno kits they had been wearing, the national team had new unis with a strange new logo on them: LGR.

"I get a some haters on our Facebook page" says LGR's Rhayan Cruz with a smile. Some fans apparently didn't like the idea of an obscure brand being the kit supplier of the national team at that time.

Mizuno was the Azkals' official supplier for years, an arrangement that some near the relationship say was hardly a match made in heaven. Before Mizuno, it was Adidas. If you see that old picture of Chieffy Caligdong celebrating a goal in the 2004 Tiger Cup, you'll notice the three stripes on his sleeves.

For a very brief time ASICS was the Azkals kit supplier, I think, but am not sure, during the 2005 SEA Games. Prepare to win a lot of bets on that fact.

LGR was founded by his mother Sonia 25 years ago. Rhayan is the "R" in LGR, the "L" and "G" stand for Lucky and Gary, his siblings.

If you needed proof that it's a Filipino company, that's probably it.

LGR is located in Singalong, Makati, a cramped and stuffy green four-storey building that is overflowing with jerseys, shorts, fabrics, and other elements of the trade. On the wall are photos of college and pro Basketball players using LGR uniforms. Some of the photos are mine, from Rebound Magazine.

Draped on a hanger in one corner is a De La Salle Baseball team shirt.

Giant rolls of fabric are all over the place, stuffed even along the staircase, in a myriad of colors. They are all imported from Thailand, Vietnam, and other countries. The same fabric used by top brands like Adidas and Nike.

On the way up to an upper floor, Rhayan stops by one particular roll of dark polyester. He yanks out one corner of it. It's all-navy blue, but with subtle stripes created by changes in texture.

"Ito yung fabric ng team USA sa Jones Cup" he says with pride. Maybe having a Pinoy supplier for an opponent of Gilas Pilipinas helped, since we all know that the RP team won that tournament.

LGR is pretty much all over the sports map these days. NCAA clubs like Letran, Benilde, Mapua, San Beda, Lyceum, San Sebastian, are kitted up with LGR these days. As are UAAP teams like FEU, UST, Adamson, National University, and University of the East.

Ateneo and La Salle also use LGR for their other sports teams and cheering squads as well.

Switch on the PBA and you'll see stars from San Mig Coffee, Barako, Global Port and Air 21 soaring to the basket in LGR apparel.

Soon Titan, the hoops apparel store/barbershop, will sell customized Basketball apparel with LGR as part of a joint-venture called Titan X LGR.

LGR has also penetrated the UFL. Top teams like Green Archers United Globe and Global, as well as second-tier clubs like Forza, Laos, and Team Socceroo wear LGR. The last three years ever since Football has exploded have been good for Rhayan and his crew.

LGR uses sublimation, or computerized printing, for many of its jerseys. But many teams still prefer old-fashioned silk-screening.

"Yung sublimation ang pinaka-madali" he explains. "Mas mahal lang because of the investment in the equipment."

The company also makes goalkeeper's kits. FIFA Match Coordinator Gue David tells me he has worked closely with LGR to work out just the right spots for the padding in a goalkeeper shirt and shorts.

Rhayan holds up a prized possession: Phil Younghusband's white #10. It is gorgeous, with red trim and faint gray lines on the chest. On the left, the PFF logo, on a sleeve, a flag.

Rhayan is excited to learn that the team will announce, very soon, where and when you can buy the shirts.

The sooner the better, Rhayan hopes. Ever since Azkals mania erupted, he has become a huge fan.

You can follow Bob on Twitter @bhobg333.