After features on Anto Gonzales and Daniel Gadia, we wrap our Sparks Focus series on the club’s UP Influence with the spotlight on the defensive duo of center back Ian Clarino and goalkeeper Ace Villanueva.
During their title-winning UAAP campaign, the University of the Philippines football team proved the old adage, “Defense wins championships.” With Ace Villanueva in goal, and Ian Clarino leading the back line, the UP defense conceded only six goals throughout the entire campaign — more than two times less than any other team in the tournament. With their tight defense, superb offense and will to win for Rogie Maglinas, UP conquered the UAAP season.
“For me, syempre sobrang saya ng feeling na nagchampion kami. Lalong-lalo na nung nagawa na namin yung mission namin doon, na nandon kami para manalo for our brother Rogie. Kung manalo, matalo, okay lang. At least para sa amin, nagawa namin yung best namin para kay Rogie at para sa UP Community, pati hindi naman kelangang manalo or matalo basta makuha yung experience na nalaro mo, yun yung magdadala sayo sa next stage,” said Ian Clarino on the special campaign.
Meanwhile, Villanueva said that Maglinas’ passing served as their sole motivation to win the title. “Dinala namin si Rogie throughout the campaign namin for the UAAP season 78 and nagbunga naman sya and naging champion kami.”
Now that the duo joined the Sparks, a bigger challenge awaits them as they battle against the country’s top clubs in the 2016 UFL League. Despite not having their appearance yet, the two are looking forward to their first UFL game.
“Hindi na to kasing age namin so parang sobrang competitive netong season ko lalong lalo na sa training palang sobrang competitive na. Hindi mo alam kung ma-lilineup ka sa game diba. Each training, binibigay ko nalang best ko kasi after ng training, alam kong nandiyan yung mga kaibigan ko na sasabihin sakin na eto yung mga kelangan kong maimprove. Every time na sinasabihan ako ni coach Anto, si Gadia, kung ano kelangang maimprove, the next training ginagawa ko sya. Kung maswerte man akong malineup sa game, kahit ilang minutes yan, kahit 1-minute, 2-minutes, ipapakita ko kay coach na deserving ako na ipinasok nya ako sa lineup,” said Clarino.
On the other hand, Villanueva is hoping to see his first game soon. He also mentioned that he will bring everything that he has learned from his previous years into his Sparks career.
Clarino and Villanueva’s performance impressed a lot of people, including their UP coach and Sparks teammate, Anto Gonzales.
According to Gonzales, “Ace has been very very consistent this season. I think this is his best season yet. Unfortunately, during the finals, he made a blunder, so to speak.”
Despite not winning the best goalkeeper award, Gonzales is certain of Villanueva’s talent and that he should just show the people that he deserved the award.
Daniel Gadia, UP team captain, also commended his teammates’ performance especially Villanueva.
“For me, Ace, grabe yung season nya ngayon. I think, ang nagconcede ay 2 goals lang buong season and marami syang big saves na nakuha sa mga games namin sa UAAP. Alam ko dream nya rin, dream namin to eh, matagal naming napagusapan na someday makapasok sa mas maayos na clubs,” said the team captain.
Ian Clarino also received his own share of praises as Gonzales, Gadia and Villanueva unanimously saw his potential to be the next big Azkals player.
“A lot of people say that Ian can be the next Azkals defender after Amani. I think he has the tools, he has the physique, he has the physical attributes. Technical ability is also right there. He just needs to be a little bit more mature and improve in his decision making and he will get there as an Azkals defender,” said Gonzales.
“Si Ian, for me, next in line na yan para sa akin sa senior team. Kasi sobrang rare ng mga defenders, center defenders na Filipino,” mentioned Gadia.
Clarino, however, said that he just did his job and whatever happens in the future is considered a big blessing to his career. He also added that if ever he is considered to be part of the national team, he will do his best to contribute and help the Azkals progress.
“Syempre nagsisipag lang naman ako. Syempre hindi ko naman magagawa yun kung wala yung blessings ni lord. Sya yung nagbibigay ng blessings sakin kung ano man yung maibigay sakin ni lord, tratrabahuin ko na lang. Kung mapunta man ako sa Azkals, eh di isa pang sobrang blessing na dumating sa buhay ko yan. Kung mabigyan man ako ng opportunity na makalaro para sa kanila kahit reserve lang, sa training ibibigay ko yung best ko para matulungan ko sila pagdating ng games,” said Clarino.
See the UP boys and the rest of the Loyola Meralco Sparks back in action this week, as they resume UFL League duties.