Saturday, March 19, 2011

Fair Play: Criticizing the Azkals

IS THE honeymoon over? Is it Azkal-bashing time?

I hope not.

Why? For one game? In cold Mongolia? A home-and-away series that they eventually won and we ditch them?

No, no and no.

But do the Azkals deserve to be criticized?

Of course!

The Azkals have achieved a new place in Philippine football and along with the pros are the cons—the critics, pundits and what-have-you. They felt most of the “pros,” during their Cinderella run and are meeting the “cons” now.

The Azkals got famous because anybody, anywhere suddenly started talking about them.

Now, they must learn to deal with the situation when anybody, anywhere suddenly finds a chink or two.

How they listen or react is what will make them different from other sports stars.

The fans, too, should not shut out the critics, at least those who offer objective points. Besides, an all-praise discussion is dull.

Some say they tweet a lot, spend too much time with the fans and are just nothing but an overly-hyped team.

Are they? I think it depends on which side of the fence you sit. Like some famous people, whatever they do, someone is bound to be disappointed.

But for this overweight dude, I think they’re not guilty of all three accusations.

Sure, some of their twitter posts are a bit un-Azkal but you have to remember, these guys are 20-something folks who are just basically kids thrown into the limelight. I think they still have a lot to learn. Besides, how do you even define what Azkal and un-Azkal is?

As to all their autograph and fan sessions? I think that’s what makes them different from the other sports superstars—their accessibility with the fans.

But the hype? Well, can you blame them if some TV anchor says, “Uupakan daw ng Azkals ang Mongolia...”

And when they didn’t...

That reminded me of Manny Pacquiao vs. Juan Manuel Marquez 2. Public opinion—and the media—all thought Marquez will simply keel over and drop once Manny launches one punch.

People forget there’s the other side and they’re supposed to think and adjust, too. Juan Manuel Marquez did it, brilliantly.

Mongolia did, too. From a team that managed only one shot on goal in the first leg to one that had 10—and scored twice—in the first half alone.

As to the game, well, of course I’m disappointed, who wouldn’t be with a 2-1 loss after a fourth-minute goal?

But the Azkals did their job. Their character was tested and they qualified. Sure, Ed Sacapano conceded two goals—goals that to some instant goalkeeping experts—were too easy.

Emilio Caligdong, the hero in the first leg, received his share of bashing for being a ballhog, getting accused of letting success in the first leg get to his head.

I have to admit I hate ballhogs, especially when they force the issue when the easier—and better—option is to pass.

I must have screamed “PASA!!!” 10 times during Chieffy’s almost-brilliant rush from halfcourt to the Mongolian penalty as there was clearly a guy to either flank who could have taken a shot. But he forced the issue.

But one play doesn’t define a player, one game doesn’t define a team. Caligdong is one of my favorite players and he sure disappointed me in that move.

But damn, you have to admire his guts for even trying that. He surprised everybody, the defense and, unfortunately, those two teammates.

And Caligdong, those two teammates and the rest of the team are pretty much disappointed by that play and will have a critique or two about it.

And folks, let’s trust these critics because I think, they can speak for all our concerns.


rona ivane said...

"But one play doesn’t define a player, one game doesn’t define a team. " sakto jud kaayo ni, Sir Mike!

sidrow_c said...

no more excuses. the result of AFC Challenge Cup group phase will make or break the Azkals.

the inclusion of fil-foreigners in place of the locals will have pros and cons for the team. hoping for the former than of the later.

supporters are dying to watch azkals win their matches through team effort.

Indiobravo said...

In the recent UEFA Cup, Dynamo Kiev qualifies to next round due to better aggregate against Man City. Dynamo at home won 2 nil. Lost the 2nd leg 1 nil. When the 2nd leg finished, Dynamo fans where very jubilant, inspite of the" loss", because everybody knows the loss is insignificant. They have done their job. So for me the Azkals did precisely that, qualify to next round, which is more important than the Mongolia win. This sort of scenario just shows footballs weird intricacies. Sometimes a loss is still a win.

Mike Limpag said...

Hehehe, that's the difference between fans with a rich football culture and one with a growing football awareness

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