Monday, October 24, 2016

Soccer Struggles to find its footing in the Philippines

During a February UFL (United Football League) Cup match, Global FC battled against Nomads at Rizal Memorial Stadium in the heart of Manila. The game, a competitive and entertaining affair, was also a case study of how difficult it has been to grow pro soccer in the Philippines.
Global, one of the best-funded and most successful professional teams in the country, was battling against Nomads, a 102-year-old semi-professional team. Despite perfect conditions for the game, only a few hundred spectators sat in the 12,000-seat stadium. Nomads held Global to only a first half goal but succumbed down the stretch, losing 4-0.

I watched the game in the stands with Bob Guerrero, a soccer journalist, and football supporter (Twitter account @PassionateFanPH) in the Philippines. He has observed firsthand the birthing pains from growing soccer in the country.
“It has struggled,” lamented Guerrero. “There are some fans, there is a niche support, but it hasn’t received wide mass support.”

Thursday, June 23, 2016

General Santos Fish Port Market in Mindanao Philippines

On my recent trip to the Philippines, it was fascinating to photograph the fish port in General Santos, Mindanao. Some of the best quality tuna and fish from the Pacific Ocean was on sale at the harbor.
It's best to watch the fish port come alive at daybreak when it stirs to life with the latest catch delivered.

All the fishing boats dock and unload their catch. There the fish will be weighed, checked for quality, and sold to the highest bidder.

On the day I was at the port, the fishermen were bringing in tuna and marlin for sale.
For the marlin, the fishermen hacked their heads off before taking them off the boat.
Once all the fish was brought to the port, the buyers lined up to view the catch.
The buyers had a tool which they could insert into the fish and pull out a sliver of the tuna meat. From this piece, they would know the quality of the meat in the fish.  Each fish was graded by quality before the bidding began.
Several buyers would try and outbid each other for the highest quality fish.
When the bidding was over, a worker in the fish market would carry the fish to be weighed.
Weighing the fish was the job of this man.
Everywhere there was blood in the fish market, which meant all the workers and visitors had to wear white plastic boots to keep the port sanitary (and your shoes from being ruined!).

Some of the fish were so large it would take several fish market workers to carry the fish to the scales.
It was back breaking work. The biggest fish weighed that day was around 72 kilos (160 pounds).
World champion boxer Manny Pacquiao started out working in the fish markets of GenSan years ago.
The port continued to hum with activity as the sun rose higher in the sky.  Fish buyers accumulated more fish...
...while more fish were brought from the boats and sold.
The highest quality fish would be immediately wrapped in cardboard and tape and put on ice and shipped to Japan.
After the large fish sold, the fishermen would bring out the smaller fish. 
The smaller fish were for domestic consumption.
After being processed by the fisherman...
...the fish would be tagged and marked for the quality of the meat before being shipped to local stores and restaurants.

If you ever make it to Mindanao and have the chance, check out the General Santos Fish Port.  The port is open to visitors and tourists free of charge (you can rent the plastic boots from the fish port itself). It is an experience you will never forget.

Monday, June 13, 2016

2016 Dipsea Race

 This year was the 106th running of the Dipsea race. It's not the first time I have shot the race, but it is one of my favorite annual assignments to cover.
 For those of you who don't know, the Dipsea is a race that starts in Mill Valley and continues over Mt. Tamalpais and Muir Woods and finishes in Stinson Beach.  I photographed the starting line up to the Dipsea stairs for the Marin IJ. It is the oldest trail race in America.
 Its such a festive atmosphere at the start, with many locals running the race.

 Another fun part of the contest is it has runners as young as seven years old, and some that are 79 years old.
 From downtown Mill Valley the athletes make it up Throckmorton Ave. ...

 ...and into Old Mill Park.

 After the park is where the accent begins up the Dipsea path.
 The path includes a daunting series of steps.
 The stairs are grueling for the runners.

 Climbing the first set of stairs feels like a huge accomplishment.
From there you can run on a road or take a shortcut straight up the hill.

Unfortunately that's where my coverage ended for the race. To see more check out the Marin IJ's coverage.

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Copa America - Argentina vs. Chile

 Argentina and Chile, two powerhouse soccer countries from South America, met up for a Copa America group match at Levi's Stadium in Santa Clara.
 It was a great atmosphere, even for fans visiting from other parts of the galaxy.
 After an incredibly tense first half full of beautiful soccer, Argentina scored two goals early in the second half to open up a lead.
 Chile scored a late goal, but it was not enough to get a result.
 One of the most interesting aspects of the game was watching a fan catch a soccer ball hit of bounds and not returning it.  I wrote a blog post about it on SFGate.
Argentina fans were excited by the result. They won without their best player, Lionel Messi, playing.
It looks like Argentina is the team to beat this Copa America Centenario.

Monday, June 6, 2016

USA vs. Colombia, Copa America Centenario Opening Match

Finally, the Copa America arrived on the shores of America, and with it the crazy passionate soccer fans of South America.
The opening match for Copa America was held at Levi's Stadium in Santa Clara and featured Colombia, the number three team in the world, against the host country the United States.
There were many USA fans at the game...
...including a large group of American Outlaws fans that marched into the stadium from the tailgate.
Before the start of the match, there was an opening ceremony event...
...that featured hundreds of people who had to work together in harmony to pull it off. It was quite a site to behold.
The American Outlaws brought some TIFO for the game...
...but the Colombia fans were soon cheering after going up 1-0 within 10 minutes.
The USA fans looked on in stunned disbelief...
...before getting back to cheering on the home country.
But the Colombia fan's prayers of an opening game win were soon rewarded... James Rodriguez scored a penalty kick right before halftime.
After a quiet second half, the Colombia fans honored former player Andres Escobar, was killed after scoring an own-goal against the USA in the 1994 World Cup.
Many of the other Colombia fans celebrated the victory which put them securely in first place in Group A of the Copa America tournament. The USA will need to regroup before playing Costa Rica on Tuesday in Chicago.