HAVING been following football for the last four years, and having had the chance to witness it being played on the biggest stage in Berlin, I dare say there is little hope for us Filipinos in this game.
It has been said so many times that we Filipinos have what it takes to be successful in this beautiful game. We have the agility, the speed and even the cunning and creativity to do very well on a football pitch.
However, it has to be pointed out that football is not won by such skills or traits alone. It’s already a cliché, but I must say that football is, more than anything else, a team game -- even more so than in basketball. And this is an area where, I feel, we Filipinos are lacking.
To win in football, we must totally get rid of the “kanya-kanya” [every man for himself] system, which pervades our lifestyle and has even spread to sports. We have to shed our “me instincts” and develop our “team instincts.”
But can we get rid of this mentality?
Have you noticed what sports Filipinos excel at? Manny Pacquiao is in boxing, Efren Reyes in billiards and Paeng Nepomuceno in bowling. All these are individual sports. There’s no doubt that we are strong individually, but can we win as a team? And when I say team, I mean a team -- not a collection of superstars or “galacticos,” as the Spanish press calls them.
Consider the case of Real Madrid in the Spanish Football League. Back in 2003, after the team signed David Beckham to a multiyear contract, it was said that the team of so many attacking talents would simply run over the opposition.
With Zidane, Ronaldo, Raul and Figo already in the team and now Beckham, indeed that seemed to be a foregone conclusion. However, football is not won by individual talents, and Real Madrid quickly found that out by failing to capture the championship.
To win in football, there must be defenders who are not looking for goals and glory but staying back and defending the goal, much like Italy’s captain Fabio Cannavaro and Lilian Thuram of France in the recent World Cup. Their job is not glamorous, they may lack grace or juggling skills, but they are the rock upon which the team is built.
To win in football, there must be people who do the dirty work, tackling in midfield and winning possession. Unappreciated though some of them may be, they provide the stability and the impetus for the attack to take place. Gennaro Gattuso of Italy and Claude Makelele of France come to mind. Their names may not make the headlines as much as, say, a Zidane or a Henry, but they are every bit as important to winning games.
Claude Makelele for France
Now my question and challenge to our countrymen is: Do we have Cannavaros and Thurams out there who will help us succeed in the sport? Can our Gattusos and Makeleles do the job? In fact, is anyone even willing to play that role? For our team to succeed, we need this kind of people.
Gennaro Gattuso for Italy
I would love to see the Philippines make it to the World Cup. The feeling of solidarity, of togetherness, of being one is seldom more evident and more deeply experienced than on this grand stage.
When we arrived in Europe, especially in those countries which qualified for the World Cup, the tremendous outpouring of national pride was so palpable and overpowering. National flags were flown by every passing car or draped on shops and windows. People were wearing their “national uniforms,” their teams’ football colors. Imagine a whole square in Amsterdam full of people in orange shirts!
This is what the World Cup means to people. They are bound together by one common cause, cheering for their countries. There was no Rome, Milan, or Torino, there was only Italy. There was no Manchester, London, or Newcastle, there was only England.
Had we played in the World Cup, there would have been no opposition, no Lakas-CMD, no faction -- only one Philippines. Football would have brought to us something we desperately need: Unity and national pride.
But if we feel mortified by the state of our nation, who can blame us? What is there for us to be proud of? Almost every other guy I meet wants to leave. How can that enhance national pride? But that’s for another article.
In the meantime, I’m looking forward to seeing Cannavaro quietly do his thing in his own efficient and glamour-less way, and make his team better in the process.
And somewhat ironically, this year he will be doing it for Real Madrid.