GOALKEEPER Yu Murayama played the hero’s role in Ateneo’s drive to the UAAP men’s football crown - not with his hands but with his head and feet.
Transformed from 'keeper to striker at the start of the season, Murayama delivered when it mattered for the Blue Eagles by scoring in two shootout victories that completed a sweep of University of the Philippines in the best-of-three championship series.
The shift from being between the posts to standing on the spot during the shootout proved no problem for the third-year Ateneo mainstay, who slotted in his penalty kick in the 4-3 win in Game One before firing the title-clinching penalty in the 4-2 victory over the Maroons on Sunday.
Murayama also scored the game-tying header in the 83rd minute that paved the way for the Game One shootout.
Murayama’s goal-scoring heroics were unimaginable at the start of the tournament, when he was listed in the Ateneo lineup as a goalkeeper before being moved to the forward line out of necessity.
“Nagkaroon ng injuries sa mga striker namin,” said Murayama. “And since I was able to play field before, coach tried me again.”
The adjustment wasn’t easy since goalkeepers have a different fitness program from the rest of the team.
“It was hard for me because I didn’t run that much the whole year. So coach tried to put me in at halftime because I wouldn’t be able to last the whole game,” said Murayama.
Ateneo head coach JP Merida said that having Murayama as a striker gave his team different options.
“Maganda ang pinapakita niya every game considering na wala naman silang fitness training (goalkeepers) kasi konti lang ang running nila,” said Merida.
The switch also gave Nicholas O’Donnell the role of goalkeeper on a full-time basis and he didn’t disappoint with the Blue Eagles' keepers only yielding four goals during the elimination round.
O’Donnell was later named the MVP and the best goalkeeper of the tournament after Ateneo put the wraps on its first league title since 2006.
Murayama was happy for his fellow goalkeeper and feels just as fortunate to be around a special group of players.
“Sa akin kasi, I have trust in my teammates. Even if I didn’t play the whole season, it’s fine with me. It’s a pleasure to play with my teammates,” said Murayama.