Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Fair Play: What the game vs. Malaysia meant to me

(This is the draft of my Fair Play column on Sun.Star Cebu for March 1)
I’M not talking about last night’s game of course.  I wrote this hours before the match, because that’s the rules guys like us have to live by.

I’m talking about a much earlier encounter, one that happened when I was both starting as a footballer and as a follower of sports.

It happened almost 21 years ago, in the Southeast Asian Games, the SEA Games (or Sea Games as some media outfit call it) for short.  And as a 12-year-old, I always wondered why there were basketball, football, tennis and all other sports in the hard court in an event called the Sea Games.

It was the first time that I followed a sports event, and the first time, too, that I followed the sports pages and I thought, writing about these events must be fun.

But, sadly, I really don’t remember much from that historic win, when we beat the defending champions, 1-0.

However, I do remember a conversation that happened among match officials in the Coke-Go-For-Goal eliminations months after that SEA Games.

It was my first footie tournament, and I guess, the fact that I remember overhearing what officials say sort of showed the path that I was going to take.
They were talking about the win, and this I can’t forget because I can still quote the guy word-for-word, “If we beat Malaysia, we can quality to the World Cup.”

World Cup? Eh?

The win over Malaysia meant heightened interest and support for the sport—relatively compared to the Azkals—and that led to the short-lived P-League.

It was a promise squandered, as we have all learned to know, but for me, I’ve always used the line, “We once beat Malaysia,” when I get tired of having to defend Philippine football against cynics.

Yep, we once beat Malaysia.

And last night we hosted them, again.

In a column back in 2010, which was written hours before the Philippines was to face Vietnam, I deleted a line, a move that I have since regretted. I wrote,
“The team was to face Vietnam last night….but I believe in this team.” 

I deleted that because, well, I expected us to lose.

For last night’s game? I won’t try to get it back and use that line. Besides, as a superstitious fan, I try to keep things the same the last time my favorite team does well.

All I want from last night’s game is this--for a kid, some 21 years now, to be writing, “What the game vs. Malaysia meant to me.”

Because that would be something.

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