Last February 24 at 2pm, the Ateneo Men’s Football Team started their game against the UP Men’s Football team for the UAAP football championship. Before the game started, tensions were high. This most likely came from the fact that the players were already warming up on the field in front of the crowd. From what could be heard, there were many yips and screams coming from the spectators because of their excitement for the game. It was the first time the Ateneo Men’s football team made the UAAP finals in almost 6 years and having won the first game in the best-of-three bout, they were primed for the championship. During the players’ warm-up there were many random screams of “Go Ateneo!” or “Go (insert player’s name here).” The crowd seemed to be personal friends of the players, as opposed to just admiring fans. There were many fans though; they filled the bleachers and even the outside fence of the field. We felt their tension as well. This was our first Ateneo Men’s Football game, and our timing couldn’t have been better because it was the possible last game of the season, a finals game, which hasn’t been a common sight for Ateneo Football in quite a while.
The first half went underway and the football game seemed similar to that of a UAAP basketball game. The crowd cheered all the same, accompanied by the Blue Babble. However a very noticeable difference is the overall intensity of the game. Much more profanities were being blurted by the spectators, and they were usually directed toward the opposing team or the referees. Also, when the players would get the ball near the opponent’s goal, the spectators would shout and scream until a goal was attempted. This level of intensity carried throughout the whole first half. Also a noticeable aspect was that everyone seemed to be prepared for the weather conditions of the game, by bringing umbrellas. It wasn’t raining, but the sun was blazing on the field and on the spectators. Such preparation wasn’t made by us conducting the participant observation; some of us even had sunburn after the game.
With a score tied at 0, the horn sounded which commenced the end of the first half. During the halftime break, the intensity of the spectators died down a little. Most of them immediately rushed to the concessionaires to buy food or cold drinks, which was evident by the very long line at the concessionaire stands. The halftime was relatively quiet, with Babble not cheering and everyone sitting down. This was most probably rest for the spectators as well, since the whole first half had them standing and cheering under the hot sun, and preparation for the same thing during the second half.
The second half was similar to the first half, and just as intense. The crowd did not tone down even a bit, knowing that a goal is the only thing away from a UAAP championship. Tensions were even higher because of the calls of the referee, which were unfavorable towards the Ateneo team. This had the spectators shouting and cheering profanities even more. It was even difficult for us to not join such merriment and intensity. Every goal attempt did have us hold our breaths a little, in the hopes that it would go in, and we’re sure the crowd felt the same. The horn eventually sounded, and the score still stood tied at 0.
The game didn’t end in the second half and the game was going to continue. Even though it was so sunny and hot the crowd was still asking for more. They wanted to see their schools win. While waiting for overtime you can see students and people from UP talking and chatting with people from Ateneo. Even my informant, a student from Ateneo, was talking to his friends from UP. You wouldn’t think you were in the finals game of anything. People seemed to be very friendly with one another. Things all changed when the ball started rolling again and overtime began. The atmosphere changed almost immediately and the division was clear again. People were shouting and cheering for their teams and shouting profanities at the other teams. We even heard someone from the UP crowd shouting profanities at a nearby Ateneo player and the player’s attention was caught and he almost made a mistake that would have given UP the upper hand. The crowds can really affect the way the game is played. Some of the players managed to shrug it off but others seemed to get bothered by the constant jeering. These two different crowds were helping their teams to an extent they were a part of the game.
Overtime passed without a goal but the intensity of the crowd didn’t drop even slightly in fact it got even more intense. This time the break in between overtime and penalty shoot out wasn’t a time for friendly interaction between the two crowds; instead it was as if the game was still going. There was cheering and shouting coming from both crowds. People were cheering for their schools and shouting profanities against the other schools. My informant was also very vocal about cheering for his team and I also followed suit because the intensity was getting to me as well. The longer we watched the game the stronger the connection we felt with the Ateneo team. It came to a point where whenever they did something good we would feel excited and feel the thrill but when UP got close to score a goal we felt threatened and nervous. This was one of the effects of being part of a live crowd in a sporting event. Watching on tv still gives you that thrill but watching live gave you that connection with the team that’s hard to achieve through a screen. That connection made you feel like you we’re part of the team and everything good that happens for the team makes you proud and happy and makes you cheer even louder and sometimes make you dislike the opponent even more.
During the penalty shots every shot made you hold your breath hoping for your team to score and the other team to miss. It wasn’t just me who felt that way but you could tell from the atmosphere that everyone was feeling that way for their team. With the final kick that would decide the winner, the atmosphere became tense and silent. With the final shot working in favor of Ateneo, the Ateneo crowd exploded and cheered for their team. Along with our informant we were all celebrating as well. We felt as if we were a part of that win and it was amazing. As a participant in the crowd we really got absorbed in to the game and felt the thrill that we could’ve only gotten from watching live.
As soon as the win was clear, members of the women’s football team along with other fans and friends ran onto the field to congratulate the players. Joyful and celebratory screams, laughs and cheers filled the entire atmosphere. Many family members also joined in the celebration, many proud parents, siblings and even grandparents kissing and hugging their sons, brothers and grandsons, and taking non-stop photos. Members of the Ateneo Men’s Football team rejoiced, hugging one another, some lying in the field in satisfaction while others ran around in triumph. Back on the bleachers, those holding their umbrellas dropped them and joined in the clapping and cheering as the Blue Babble Battalion band energetically pounded their huge drums, with the same enthusiasm they possessed at the start of the game. Blue Babble members were shouting their signature speeches of school spirit and encouraging the crowd to join in the chants. We looked around and noticed, much to our surprise, the presence of many high-ranking administrators, faculty personnel and even what looked like Ateneo alumni fervently celebrating the much deserved win.
The hype continued even up to the time of awarding. Many of the Ateneo Men’s Football team members were given prestigious recognition, like Nick O’Donnell who had earned his title of best goal keeper in not only the last two final games, but throughout his entire season, the speaker mentioned. Despite the heat, many stayed on long after the win was officially announced, taking pictures with cellphones and calling friends and family even, gladly reporting of Ateneo’s victory that afternoon. Homemade posters made by fans for the team were lying around, adding much to the picturesqueness of the triumphant scene. Members from both the UP and Ateneo teams were also switching jerseys with one another, giving a friendly pat on the back, handshakes and hugs in congratulations for a game well played as well.
As the Alma Matter song began to play, all quieted down for a minute and joined in song. Everyone raised a fist into the air, singing the Alma Matter. Though many had gotten lost in the lyrics, people participated anyway and all were smiling from ear to ear. Honestly, right then and there we really felt much of Ateneo’s school spirit. We felt as if this common event really united audiences of all ages and occupations with Ateneo as their common factor. It also helped us realize that though basketball is the obvious favorite sport, there is now a new, large and fast growing fan base for football now. Even Father Jett Viliarin, president of Ateneo, was seen gleaming in his Ateneo Football shirt, talking to what looked like alumni and alumnae about how proud he was about the football program and how it was quickly progressing in popularity. And if football can get bring out this kind of enthusiasm and support from not only the student body, but the entire Atenean community, why not the other sports as well? Sports as we have come to realize is not only a form of fitness for the athletes or a form of entertainment for the audience. It can also be a uniting factor that can bring together all kinds of people for the common interest of the excitement of watching, the thrill of cheering and for the pride experienced for your school or team. Our first live football game was truly something for the books and we look forward to watching all the other sports of our school because it is an experience really like no other.
Cruz, Sager, Veloso