Thursday, February 3, 2011

Our HOME team comes to fore.

I could never fully fathom why people proudly wear kits of other countries.

Club colors, yes. Koreans play for Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspur, so I can buy that.

But to see a fair-skinned (clearly Filipino-Chinese) fella wearing the canary yellow of Brazil, or a very clearly Asian looking guy wearing Ghana’s colors?

Yep, I’m guilty on both counts.

Of course our country has a football team. Every country on this planet has to have a football team. To not have one should be considered one of the seven deadly sins.

Problem is, do we even know we have a National Team? Do they even exist? Hardly ever news comes out anyway. Does anyone care at all, save for a select few?

After the 1-13 thrashing we got from Indonesia a few years back, and countless humiliations before that…., the answer has to be NO. Mercifully, we were spared from further punishment by our non-qualification for the 2008 Suzuki Cup. One really has to be a masochist of unimaginable degree to be caught wearing the Philippines colors on your back.

Cue the 2010 Suzuki Cup, and said mongrels rise to prominence. For football loving fans like me, it is a godsend. It is like rain after 4 months of El Nino.

The attention is nothing short of miraculous, given our very masochistic penchant for basketball.

But the results, thankfully, are not in any way miraculous. It is a product of a selfless benefactor, half Pinoys willing to join the project, and full blooded Pinoys willing to work with them. It may seem good now, but you can only imagine how the situation was when it started.

No one cared. Not the general media, certainly not the general public. Fil-foreign players wondered what the heck they got themselves into. Local footballers knew, of course. But they themselves hoped for the best and expected the worst.

In this environment, our Azkals thrived to qualify for the 2010 Suzuki Cup, and booked a place to the semis.

There is this very distinct fear of mine, that this is all a mirage. A one-off. A fluke. And I am not talking just of the results. My fear is that once results do not go our way, attention to the Azkals would fall by the wayside.

I sincerely hope not. I am doing my best to help promote football, and judging from social network feeds, so are a lot of others. We all love winners, but my thinking is, we have to love football, win or lose. We have to love football even if the next generation Azkals look more like Ronaldinho than Younghusband. To do this, we have to start introducing the game, earlier and to more places.

I have been lucky enough to watch the last two World Cups live, and all I can say, the wave of patriotism is certainly something we could certainly use. The coming together of one nation is so majestic that it gives me goose bumps every time I remember it. In Africa, and certainly in Europe, people live, eat and breathe football. It would be a stretch to say the same here in the Philippines, but the two legs of the Azkals semis was certainly a start. Here’s calling to the mainstream media not to drop coverage once some results do not go our way.

I could name all the German, Brazilian and England team’s starting 11 plus their bench players and their coaching staff, but do I know anyone from our own Philippine team? Two months ago, I did not.

Now I do.

Did I jump into the football bandwagon? No, been cheering on the beautiful game for a good 8 years now.

Did I jump into the Azkals Bandwagon?

Absolutely. And I have absolutely no intention of jumping ship.

* This article first appeared in The Bleachers' Brew by Rick Olivares on December 31, 2010.

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