Friday, August 05, 2011

Fair Play: Azkals and the Filipino

Columnist Jerry Tundag raised quite a ruckus when he wrote that he never got onboard the Azkal train, not because football is just a passing interest but because he “cannot relate to those who he knows to be Filipinos just now.”

That last statement is what pisses off most fans and a lot of colorful words were used against Sir Jerry, who was then the Associate Editor when I started my career at The Freeman.

Just because the media is talking about the Azkals now doesn’t mean the team popped out of nowhere, with a blend of instant players from all corners of the world.

Instant fixes are for politicians seeking election, not for sports.

I disagree with what Sir Jerry wrote because the Azkals are not instant Filipinos, and you can’t play for the national team if you are not Pinoy. And these are our countrymen by blood, none of them are naturalized citizens like how some countries fuse strong players to their squad.

Besides who is—or isn’t Filipino—doesn’t depend on how, or when, one becomes aware of them, right?

To call them Filipinos just now is an affront to their parents. It’s like saying those who left the country should stop calling themselves Filipinos.

Sir Jerry isn’t actually alone in that observation and I’ve heard a lot of “puro man na foreigners” references when it comes to the Azkals.

And it’s wrong.

Do you call a cousin who grew up in the states American or Filipino? Don’t we refer to him as “taga-States pero Pinoy?”

It’s a pity that Sir Jerry said he can’t relate to the Azkals the way he does with other Filipino athletes because I think if he went beyond the superficial, I know he can find himself in the Azkal, or the Azkal in him.

The same goes too for those who begrudge football the publicity, and financial success it is getting at the expense, they say, of other sports.

Work hard, persevere and believe in yourself, and you’ll get there. Isn’t that what we tell ourselves?

Majority of the members did that for seven years, toiling for the flag for a pittance, risking their high-paying jobs in European clubs playing for a country that didn’t care.

And that’s what we had in mind when we coined the term Azkal back in 2005.

What is an askal? Nobody cares or feeds it, save for that odd homeless person. It doesn’t have a home or a master. Yet it survives, right?

We thought, then, that for the team—and Philippine football—to survive it must have the tenacity, resourcefulness and survival instinct of an askal. One other athlete made these traits famous on his way to eight world titles.

Nobody gave them any attention when they stole the headlines in football sites in January 2007, when after a couple of 4-0 losses, they stopped Myanmar from making the semis with a 0-0 draw in the AFF Championships. The team was already eliminated and Myanmar was expected to roll over them.

That, till now, remains one of my best moments as a football fan.  It showed the team had and have a dedication to the flag that not all Pinoys—athletes and non-athletes—have.

And even when the team finally got a benefactor in late 2009, do you know how much the players received? The players, who were not qualified to get allowances from the Philippine Sports Commission, got P500 per training session.

I’m not supposed to say this but in a meeting, it was said the team had to increase their training sessions just so the players can get P10,000 a month—a pittance to the P20,000 Class A athletes get from the PSC. That was then.

Now, the players are reaping the benefits of seven years of hard work. And Philippine football—as one pointed out—is reaping the benefits of a coaching course conducted some 16 years ago, when a certain Aries Caslib, the national coach in 2004, was a participant.

Like every Juan else, this team worked hard to be where they are.  Heck, in 2006, during the AFF qualifiers in Bacolod, the PFF gave away tickets—sold at P20—just to fill the stadium.

The Azkals are not an overnight success story, nor are they a team of “just now Filipinos.”

They only seem that way because it’s only now that the rest of the media are paying attention.

And it’s not the Azkals’ fault.


raineashly said...

shame to all those writers who have nothing to write, and no nothing about the subject but still write and now they looks foolish... i always read Jerry's To the Quick n Freeman but with his latest articles, he has 1 less reader!

raineashly said...

shame to all those writers who have nothing to write, and no nothing about the subject but still write and now they looks foolish... i always read Jerry's To the Quick n Freeman but with his latest articles, he has 1 less reader!

Mike said...

Cut all the hullaballo in his column and go to the last line. I think that was what Sir Jerry was trying to say. And it backfired.

Anonymous said...

I totally agree with you Mike! Very nice article.

Anonymous said...

Mike Bai, if any writer, or reader for that matter, is savvy enough, they just have to read through your blogs all the way to 2005 to get a historical context of the askal, now Azkal. Then nothing will backfire to them ...

Mike said...

Thanks. I hope this is the last time I have to correct a writer.

gem said...

hi sir mike,

thanks for this article. whenever i read stories like that of jerry's, it is really hard for me to simply ignore those scathing words against the team and just move on. i am an Azkals fan and it is natural to get hurt in the process whenever i hear or read stories like that where if only words could kill, the players are already dead a thousand times. i hate it! and what i hate most is i don't have the capacity to defend them.

people like you who continue to care for my team, our team, and defend them against those harsh articles are really blessings to each and every JUAN who truly believes and supports our countrymen.

thank you so much!


Anonymous said...

very well said sir..a wake up call for the gov't and to all the crab mentality pipz sa pinas..

luckystrike said...

i dont think so mike. people need to be educated in football and as one of its premier writers and diehards, i supposed it has become a duty already for you,

Mike said...

The thing is, if Sir Jerry wanted to know. He need not visit this blog, all he had to do is ask their managing editor, who is an avid football supporter and knows the history..

Thanks Gem, yep, some of the things being said about the team are quite spiteful (there's even a hate page in facebook) but I guess, that's the way it goes. Some folks really just wnat to hate something.