By FRANCIS SANTIAGO
MANILA, Philippines — As if bringing NBA stars Kobe Bryant, Derrick Rose and Kevin Durant to Manila weren’t enough, sports patron and businessman Manny V. Pangilinan has revealed another planned sports extravaganza that could again capture the imagination of the Filipino fans: Exhibition matches by Spain’s Real Madrid football and basketball teams here.
Plans are still on the drawing board, but Pangilinan said if everything falls into place, the visiting teams may play a pair of tune up games against the Smart-Gilas Pilipinas and the Philippine football team.
The idea to bring in the Spanish teams here was offered by one of the business partners of Meralco, the country’s largest electrical power distributor, which Pangilinan heads as President and CEO.
“We have already talked to them about how much it’s going to cost and the arrangements. But I don’t know yet about the calendar. So it’s really very preliminary,” Pangilinan told reporters Wednesday night at the Meralco headquarters in Ortigas.
Bannered by top winger/striker Cristiano Ronaldo, Real Madrid FC is widely considered the most decorated professional club in Spanish football, having been voted by the International Football Federation (Fifa) as the most successful club of the 20th century.
On the other hand, Real Madrid’s Baloncesto basketball team, which plays in Asociación de Clubs de Baloncesto, is one of the top basketball squads in Spain and Europe, having won 30 Spanish League championships and a record eight Euroleague crowns.
“It’s still in the drawing board that’s why I don’t want to raise expectations. But I’m hopeful it will happen if we could only work out the economics of it,” Pangilinan said.
Pangilinan’s announcement came on a night the new members of the Loyola Meralco Sparks FC were formally introduced to media.
Azkals’ Fil-British brothers Phil and James Younghusbands, who spent time with English Premier League club Chelsea when they were teenagers, signed a three-year deal with the squad in the United Football League, which starts its UFL Cup competition in October.
Aside from the Younghusband brothers, the three Hartmann brothers, Matthew, Darren and Mark were also introduced. Matthew and Mark are part of the training pool for the Under-23 football team that will see action in the Southeast Asian Games in November.
“I would like to thank the players and welcome to Meralco. I think we have a family affair since we have brothers in the team,” Pangilinan said.
LMSFC, one of the youngest teams in the league that finished fifth last season, competes in the 10-team first division of the UFL, which recently struck a five-year, P150-million television deal with TV5 to have its matches shown live.