Phil Younghusband of the Azkals vs. Vietnam during the Suzuki Cup
For many decades, Filipinos have always been indifferent with the rest of world during World Cup. Football as a sports in the Philippines takes the backseat behind basketball, boxing and billiards. Our version of World Cup fever, the street celebration and the sudden surge of nationalism, happens only during a Manny Pacquiao fight or an Efren “Bata” Reyes billiards championship match.
Why the indifference with football? It’s not that we don’t like football per se but simply because the most popular sports in the world is not present in the consciousness of many Filipinos.
The lack of a concrete football program by the local governing body, funding from national sports authorities and dirty politics contribute greatly in the unpleasant state of football in the country. Moreover, despite the attempts of a few football enthusiasts to resurrect the interest in the sports, it does not get enough attention to reach the level of national awareness.
- Planting the seed of football consciousness at a young age for these aspiring footballers
Amazingly, football exists in this country as a youth sports. It’s very popular among kids as seen during the Alaska Football Cup which is the oldest and biggest youth football event in the country. For 15 years, Alaska Football Cup attracts 280 team nationwide with 3800 players and they play in 25 football fields simultaneously in one weekend every November.
I have not seen this kind of interests in football except in tournaments for the youth like this one. This event molds not only the interest and consciousness of the youth in football but develops their fundamental skills as well. Yet the question for most, if not all, participants of the Alaska Football Cup is “what’s next” after graduating from youth football competitions.
The buck stops there. It’s a dead end.
There is nowhere to go for these aspiring football players. The only option they have is to join local football clubs that compete in the local tournament called United Football League (UFL) which many don’t know about or the national team.
Football in this country can only get the full support it needs from the government and private sectors if it can build an equity as sports entertainment. Meaning, football should have a commercial value which many Filipino can patronize. This is the only way it can get a mainstream status and entry into the national consciousness.
A few days ago, a spark happened. The Philippine Football Team also known as the PH AZKALS did the impossible by defeating ASEAN football powehouse Vietnam in the Suzuki Cup, 2-0. The victory of the PH Azkals is considered as one of the biggest upset in the history of Asian football.
The PH Azkals became an overnight sensation and front page material. They were in all media especially the internet. They were with the President. They were in congratulatory ads. Funds for the team started to pour. Everyone wants a piece of the PH Azkals. Yet, the most phenomenonal thing about it was not the victory itself but the reaction of the Filipinos both home and abroad.
The reception was like that of the World Cup. That victory sparked the bandwagon that have spread into the minds of Filipinos like a wild fire. Their monicker Azkals suddenly became a brand. The players were regarded as heroes. But more than the PH Azkals, the winner here is football itself.
The football fever has finally arrived in the country. Football is finally in our consciousness.
On December 16, 2010, the PH Azkals will face another powerhouse, Indonesia, in the semi-finals of the Suzuki Cup. Though they are homecourtless, the entire nation will be watching and supporting the PH Azkals. I can already sense street party celebration and surge of nationalism regardless of the outcome.
To the PH Azkals, good luck.
My Rule of Thumb: THUMBS UP!
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