By Alder Almo
When Chieffy Caligdong scores, fans roar in approval. When Mark Caguioa scores, three fourths of the Big Dome goes wild.
Caligdong can zigzag his way to the goal the way Caguioa slashes to the basket.
The Philippine Azkals co-captain and Air Force midfielder pictures himself as "The Spark" in football.
"Si Mark (Caguioa), ‘pag gustong umiskor dire-diretso yan. Parang ako, ganun din sa field," said Caligdong, a self-confessed Brgy. Ginebra, when he appeared in the PBA AKTV Center last night.
Caligdong actually rooted for Purefoods before when his childhood idol Alvin Patrimonio was still playing. He also roots for James Yap since they are both Ilonggos (James hails from Escalante while Chieffy comes from Barotac Nuevo) and represented Western Visayas in the Palarong Pambansa together.
But Caligdong got bitten by Brgy. Ginebra's never-say-die bug. He first captured the imagination of a basketball-crazy nation when he scored a nutmeg goal against Mongolia in the AFC Challenge Cup qualifiers in Panaad Stadium last year.
Just like Caguioa, Caligdong has a flair for drama. His charisma mirrors that of Caguioa and it spilled over to his team in the United Football League (UFL).
"Ang Phil. Air Force parang Ginebra yan. Never-say-die kami at crowd favorite dahil pure homegrown kami at walang import," Caligdong said.
If PBA has the Manila Classico – Brgy. Ginebra-Bmeg – rivalry, the UFL is slowly shaping up its own in Phil. Air Force and Loyola Meralco Sparks.
"May rivalry na rin kaming nabuo sa UFL with Loyola. Bukas, siguradong gusto nilang bumawi sa pagkatalo nila sa Finals," Caligdong said.
The comparison is not far-fetched.
Just like B-Meg, which has the tag as the glamour team in the PBA, Loyola has that aura too with Phil and James Younghusband leading the team.
On the other side is Air Force, whose homegrown tag has the "masa" appeal.
The Airmen defeated the Sparks in a heated championship battle in the last UFL Cup. Expect another playoff atmosphere when they meet for the first time since that emotional game.
Caligdong, however, is doubtful to play in today's much awaited rematch due to a back injury he sustained last week in the Airmen's 3-5 loss to Global.
"Sana makalaro ako bukas. Depende pa kung makakuha ako ng clearance from our medical staff," Caligdong told philstar.com.
It will be a big blow to the defending champions if Caligdong can't play as the squad is currently mired in the middle of the pack while Loyola is on top of the heap.
But just like his favorite team that won despite Caguioa getting injured midway, Caligdong is hoping that their own Manila Classico match today against the Sparks will end in their favor despite the odds stacked against them.
"Never say die," Caligdong said.
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