Eighteen players suited up for the University of the East (UE) in a critical game Thursday evening against football might University of the Philippines (UP) as four key players watched from the grandstand due either injury of suspension.
Among the pitch absentees was the injured Lance Jeter Bencio, the Red Warriors’ number 1 goalkeeper.
Enter goalkeeper number 99—Joniel James Pamati-an.
It was his first cap of the season as the inexperienced keeper had to contain one of the country’s finest football programs, the seven-time champion Fighting Maroons.
Pamati-an started the game on two feet. He exited the game carried by two teammates.
His calves bore the staggering brunt of UAAP physicality as, after colliding with UP’s Marc Tobias off a Francis Tacardon inswing from the right corner, managed to collect the loose ball in the 27th minute.
However, a two-minute lull ensued as Pamati-An sprawled onto the pitch, as UE medics sprayed painkillers on his legs.
Pamatia-an could barely walk when play resumed.
He even spilled and nearly conceded a second goal in the 45th minute but managed to chase the ball off a running strike by Karl Bugayong.
He held the fort for the next 45 minutes but a 1v1 against fresh-legged sub Anton Guariña was too much for the wounded warrior to handle.
Fans were stunned as to why UE head coach Fitch Arboleda did not sub out Pamati-An in the first half.
“Wala na siyang sub,” clarified Arboleda. “Injured si Bencio.”
It did not matter for Pamati-An.
“At first, ang nasa utak ko lang ay manalo and kahit na-injury ako di ko talaga naisip ang sakit, basta po manalo,” he said to this writer after the game.
“Inenjoy ko na lang yung game at yung panalo talaga ang nasa isip ko,” he added.
Pamati-an pointed out nerves as what bugged him more, considering the monumental task of defending against UP on his first cap.
“To be honest, nung first kinakabahan ako pero nung first na naka-save ako, yung kaba nawala,” Pamati-an said.
In the end, it is all about playing for his school community.
“Sa mga sumusuporta po, thank you po talaga. Alam namin ang UE hindi [kilala] sa football pero ngayon po ipapakita namin sa lahat na kaya naming lumaban sa mga malalakas na team,” Pamati-an concluded, as teammates carefully escorted the limping keeper outside the stadium.
* * *