Saturday, July 30, 2011

Fair Play: We're in for the game of our Azkal lives

Fair Play column last July 28 on Sun.Star Cebu

MANILA—Staring at a three-goal deficit, against a team that hasn’t lost in eight games, the Azkals are in for the game of their lives.

So, too, are the football fans.

The Azkals, if they want to continue their recent run of exemplary results, must be at their best today. They can’t afford a single mistake against a team that is quick to exploit.

The fans, if they want to continue being one of the positive stories of the sport—a newfound love affair that has been written about in the Asean, Asian and even world football federation websites and even the BBC—must be at their best behavior, too.

Nothing spoils football’s Cinderella story if the big bad wolf comes to the party, right?

In the fan pages and Twitter posts, there’s a picture that’s being circulated that boils the blood of Pinoy fans. It captures a moment when Kuwait fans used laser pointers against Neil Etheridge in a below-the-belt attempt to distract the keeper.

Some fans are screaming vengeance and payback. Some, and I agree with them, say it isn’t necessary.

Though I can understand the rage, I hope to remind some of the fans what for me was one of the best moments in Pinoy sports, a feel-good story that happened back in November, 2006 involving the country’s other national sport—billiard.

I was in Bacolod for the AFF qualifiers that time and I was glued to the TV as Ronnie Alcano beat Ralf Soquet for the World 9-Ball title.

A disappointed Soquet was in tears just before the trophy presentation and the fans noticed. Then the crowd began chanting, “Ralf Soquet, RALF SOQUET!!!” buoying the German player’s spirits. That moment led one writer to say it showed how classy Pinoy fans are.

The kind of fans who I hope will show up in tonight’s game, the biggest one, yet, for Philippine football.

So what will happen tonight? Can the team dig itself out of the 3-0 hole?

I’m not sure but the team, as many know, isn’t a stranger to adversity, on and off field. Last year, they erased a 2-0 lead against Laos, with James Younghusband scoring the equalizer deep in injury time.

That was back in the time when every body’s idea of a young husband was a teen daddy and every body’s favorite askal was Bantay.

Trust the team, the Azkals know they’re in for the game of their lives.

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