The Miracle That Is the Philippine Azkals

Tonight the Philippine Azkals will play against Kuwait for the second round World Cup Qualifying match at the Rizal Memorial Stadium in Manila. Everyone is praying for a miracle, especially after Kuwait’s 3 goals in the first round.

As my son and nephew has been saying, the Azkals need 4 goals and they should not allow the 95th-ranked Al-Azraq to score any.

Three factors could help the Azkals today:
  1. The boost from the return of Aly Borromeo and Stephan Schrock on the field.       The first round showed us how important effective defenders are.
  2. The twelfth man. The profound impact of supporters and fans on how a team      performs has long been acknowledged as effective, and in the case of Azkals it certainly helps.
  3. They have played against Kuwait before and have studied how the team plays and work together, and most importantly the team has learned their lesson from the first game and can correct the misconceptions and errors in the first.

While everyone is rooting for Azkals, with some “haters” on the side, and everyone praying for a miracle which is a win over a team that has been playing longer than ours have been, let us not forget that the Azkals have already performed a miracle. And that is to teach and unite our basketball loving countrymen into loving another sport. For a country deeply rooted in basketball, a sport made for tall people, we have made inroads in associated football. Every now and then we take notice of other sports, like baseball, volleyball and tennis, but we always go back to the one true love that is basketball. Seeing the number of Filipinos at the Rizal Memorial Stadium and the millions that tuned in on their TV screens is proof that we have embraced futbol. It took a long time but betcha it’s gonna stay for good.

I definitely pray they make more goals tonight not only for the glory of our country or for the adoration of the fans but more than ever, I pray they score for the team, for the players. They have worked so hard for this and they deserve it.

But, whether they score a goal or not, for me they are already winners. They have already won the hearts of the Filipinos, the adoration of the fans, the respect of other football teams and players.

Win or lose, they deserve our support. For sure, as the team continues to develop and evolve, as we continue to supply the Philippine National Football Team with talented Filipino – homegrown or not is not the issue – players, as the PFF financially supports the team with trainings, equipment and a home stadium to spend their trainings, we’ll get there.

And one of the best ways to show that is to continue our love affair with the game. Teach our kids the beauty, the hard work, the teamwork, the sportsmanship of the sport. Let us start them early because our physique is definitely more designed for futbol. The smaller size of Filipinos makes them nimble and quick which are a plus for a sport like soccer.

With that, I want to share the trailer of Happyland, an Indie film directed by Jim Librian that tackles the sport football. It is a story of the Tondo kids who are footballers dreaming to be international players and how they form a team in slum area of Tondo in Manila. Something all kids can do if they are really determined.

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