As we continue our series on the club’s UP influence, we focus our attentions on returning Loyola Meralco Sparks midfielder, Anto Gonzales, who recently achieved the spectacular feat of leading both the UP Men’s and Women’s Football teams to UAAP titles in the same season. We also chatted with Daniel Gadia, Ian Clarino, and Ace Villanueva, who played under Gonzales in the recent UAAP campaign. The trio hold a unique perspective of Anto, as they now share the pitch with him in the United Football League.
“The whole journey was very tough. It was time consuming, energy consuming. It took a lot of effort, not just on my part, but from everyone. It wasn’t really difficult to train and to mold players who are very much willing to learn,” said Gonzales, playing down his achievement.
He chose instead to highlight the dedication and willingness of the players to learn and bring home the title. The championship wins were also dedicated to his former player, Rogie Maglinas, who passed away before the start of the UAAP season.
“Everyone really had just one goal. They really wanted to win for Rogie (Maglinas). They really wanted to push themselves as hard as they can for Rogie. Rogie really served a great inspiration for them,” added Anto.
According to Daniel Gadia, UAAP Most Valuable Player and UP team captain, Anto Gonzales is meticulous in his preparation in every match, providing all the necessary details for his team to succeed — something evident in their impressive victory over Ateneo de Manila University in the finals
“Yung finals, halos tingin ko nacover namin lahat ng aspect. Alam namin yung gagawin ng Ateneo. Alam namin pag ganito yung ginawa nila, ganito yung gagawin namin, ganito yung movements namin para macounter sila. Well prepared talaga kami nung finals and every game, well prepared talaga kami kay coach Anto,” said Daniel.
Ian Clarino and Ace Villanueva also shared their own experience with Gonzales as their UP coach and Sparks teammate.
“Unang una, ang nakikita ko kay coach Anto nadadala ko sa laro ko, on and off the field. Nadadala ko yung hardwork nya as a coach at talagang ginagabayan nya lahat ng players. Minsan (iispin mo) nalilimutan nya sa dami ng players, never nya kinalimutan kami. Parang lagi nya kaming binibigyan ng points para maimprove,” said Clarino.
Villanueva also added that, “Sobrang dedicated talaga si coach Anto na maging coach and honestly nasabi nya sa akin na gusto na nyang magfocus na lang sa coaching parang ayaw na nga nyang maglaro eh. So ayun, as a teammate talagang nandun pa rin yung pagkacoach nya eh. Talagang tutulungan ka pa rin nya to improve more. Even if nandito na kami sa Meralco, hindi sya nagstop magturo sa amin ni Gadia, Ian and yung mga UP players here sa Meralco.”
After a hectic two months as head coach, Anto returned to the pitch during the Sparks game against Global as a replacement to Anton del Rosario. With 75 minutes playing time, Gonzales said that he felt a little bit rusty but still in good shape. He added that he’ll take that first game as his basis on his future developments.
The Sparks will return to action on June 9 when they take on Agila FC after an extended break from League duties. Fresh from UAAP success, Anto Gonzales, Daniel Gadia, Ian Clarino and Ace Villanueva are ready to take on the challenge.