UA&P’s new sports center unveiled, hosts Ambassadors Cup futsal event

It has a rather innocuous name: the Parking and Sports Building or PSB. But the University of Asia and the Pacific's new facility in their Ortigas Center campus will nonetheless make history, especially in the field of football and its indoor variant, futsal.

The huge sports area that sits on top of three levels of parking is designed to accommodate a variety of sports. There are areas for martial arts, fencing, table tennis, a rubberized track at the highest level, and a section for weight training. The floor area is so large that two basketball games can be played at the same time side by side. Ditto for volleyball. There are also five badminton courts laid out.

But the most interesting sport court laid out on the surface is demarcated by those yellow lines on the pictures above. I am told it's an international regulation-sized 40m by 20m futsal pitch, widely believed to be the first in the country. (The kids in the pics are only using half of the court and are basically using a basketball court. But for senior competitive matches, the entire court will be used.) That it's sprouting in UA&P is fitting, since this is the school that helped pioneer the five-a-side version of football in the country.

Almost every other futsal match in the country has had to take place in vastly smaller basketball courts. Thus our national futsal teams, when going abroad, have struggled with the huge international game. But those difficulties may soon be a thing of the past.

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The court could not only be a training venue for the national futsal team, known as the Muzangs, but it could theoretically be the birthplace of proper futsal leagues as well. Futsal is definitely a version of football that needs to be pushed in the Philippines for many reasons, as is outlined in this post.

The surface itself is called Decoflex LITE 7mm, and it is supplied by E-Sports International Philippines, the same good folks who are fixing Rizal Memorial's artificial turf. The stuff is polyurethane and it covers the entire flooring of the main sports area as well as the upper floors. It is totally seamless, and maintenance is next to nothing, we are told.

It is rather firm to the foot, but UA&P's Chris Dominguez played goalkeeper on it last Saturday and he insists it does have some give when he goes to ground. Before UA&P futsal players had to make do with the old concrete court near the academic buildings.

The as-yet completed structure was designed by Asian Architects and was planned as an environmentally-friendly edifice. Hundreds of windows dot the walls of the building to allow natural air to flow in. There will be no airconditioning, just large fans below to provide some relief on warm days. There is plenty of lighting from LED bulbs that hang from the rafters.

The roof also features huge windows as well, and on top of the roof are solar panels that create enough energy to power the structure and even a bit of the school's other buildings, says UA&P faculty member Leon Peckson, who has dubbed the place “the Dragon's Lair.” UA&P's basketball team is nicknamed “the Dragons.”

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On one side of the sports area are rows of bleachers. Peckson says they will hold about 400 spectators. Last Saturday they were far from finished, but the angle is quite good. Spectators will be behind the goal of the full futsal pitch and will be beside one of the basketball courts.

Peckson says that DMCI was the contractor for the complex.

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While not yet completely finished, the PSB has already successfully hosted one event. The inaugural Ambassadors Cup futsal tournament was held on Saturday.

Embassies of eleven nations, namely the United States, Canada, Mexico, Argentina, Chile, Indonesia, Nigeria, South Africa, South Korea, Timor Leste, and the United Kingdom each sponsored a team from a disadvantaged neighborhood in the event. One team was sponsored by the Philippines. The teams wore jerseys similar to that of the sponsoring nation, or at least flew that country's flag on their kits.

There were two age-group divisions, 13-and-under and 11-and-under, with the teams split up into three groups of four. The top team in each group plus the best second-player reached the semifinals.

Most of the players were beginners, although some teams featured kids with some footballing background.

After the dust settled, South Africa – San Ildefonso Parish took the honors in the U11 competition after prevailing over Timor Leste – Marikina Heights 4-2 in a penalty shootout. The tiebreak was necessitated after the teams finished 2-2 after 20 minutes of see-saw action.

In the U13 category Indonesia – Gawad Kalinga Tatalon defeated USA – Western Bicutan 3-0 in the final to lift the trophy.

The embassies took care of the tournament expenses, including uniforms, transportation, meals, and other expenses like trophies and medals. There was even a field trip for the kids to watch a UFL game live. The Philippine Football Federation chipped in balls and other gear, and also ran a basic futsal coaching course for the community coaches.

Also sponsoring the event was BPO giant Telus and Italian dining chain Amici. Handling much of the logistics were players of Team Socceroo of the UFL, especially task force head Paulus Reyes and his brother Nicholas and Michael.

Gracing the occasion were several of the ambassadors and their representatives, including PFF Gen Sec Ed Gastanes and National League Task Force member Bernie Villegas.

But the focus was on the kids and this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. No doubt they had fun baptizing the new futsal surface. Every single goal was celebrated like a World Cup-winner. For sure many more goals will be scored in UA&P's new futsal palace for years to come.

Follow Bob on Twitter @PassionateFanPH.

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