Friday, March 02, 2012

Fair Play: We drew Malaysia and it was beautiful

BEFORE last Wednesday, we played Malaysia in our first game of the Asean Championship (before it was called the Suzuki Cup and after
Tiger Beer withdrew its sponsorship) in 2007 and it was a very agonizing affair.

That match, and everything that was happening in the sport actually, was cause for concern, especially after the promise shown by the team by taking the second spot in the Bacolod qualifiers in November.
Aly Borromeo went down early to an injury, never to return to the tournament, and Anton del Rosario struggled to fill his role. However, he would have his day in the Myanmar game.

But that game against Malaysia ended in an embarrassing 4-0 bashing on live TV with one goal—a bicycle kick from Malaysia—getting featured on CNN World Sport Play of the Day. That time, I remember I wanted to get on the TV, too, for the condescending manner the TV commentator was talking about Team Philippines.

Off the field, there wasn’t much too look forward too. The NCRFA and the PFF was in the middle of a nasty lawsuit, and folks were afraid that that move could get the Philippines suspended. That lawsuit, too, was being blamed why Aly was denied the Player of the Year award as the NCRFA was headed by his father.

Yep, things looked dire for us in 2007 but when we faced Myanmar in the final group match, after yet another 4-0 loss to Thailand, the team showed a resiliency that surprised the hosts, holding Myanmar to a 1-1 draw.
Myanmar only needed to win by one, but boy were they surprised by what the team did, especially Anton and Michael Casas on defense.

That same never-die spirit that is now being shared by all Philippine football teams, especially the U21 squad in the Bolkiah Cup, and of course, the Azkals who played last Wednesday.

From that 2007 team, I think only James played last Wednesday (His brother Phil had to stay with Chelsea as he was in danger of losing his spot in the reserves) and boy was it beautiful. What a change.

Sure it was not Malaysia’s best squad, but still, we had the defending champion on the defensive early in the match and the team that beat the team that booted us out in the Suzuki Cup 2010 was lucky to get that draw with that last-minute goal.

And had Angel Guirado’s shots went in—the one that hit the post and his overhead kick—it would have been pandemonium. Imagine, to be up 3-0 against the Suzuki Cup kings? Unbelievable!

But perhaps the draw was the best thing, even better than a win. A win over Malaysia would have led to skyrocketing expectations, not necessarily going into the Challenge Cup, but going into this year’s Suzuki Cup.

The draw meant that we are going the right direction but we have to do a lot more to get there, especially in terms of preparations and match concentration.

Back in 2004, then coach Aries Caslib said “Historically, the problem with the Philippines is always in the final 15 minutes. It is when we collapse and give up a lot of goals.”

And Malaysia, well, they sort of reminded us, you may be the new kids in the block, but we are still the old guards, we won’t go down without fighting with that last-minute goal.

Still, we drew Malaysia, the Suzuki Cup champions, and it was freakin’ beautiful.

FLOYD AGAIN. It’s just a publicity stunt but I just couldn’t resist when Floyd Mayweather Jr. said that based on their conversation, Pacquiao isn’t the sharpest knife in the drawer.

Floyd was talking to Pacquiao in English, a language Manny wasn’t comfortable with just five years ago. Aside from English, Manny speaks two other languages too—or even three as folks in South Cotabato are tri-lingual-- and the guy taught himself to play the piano, and the guitar.

Aside from boxing, Manny’s an above average basketball and pool player and plays chess too.

Floyd, on the other hand, aside from boxing, is known to beat up guards, parking attendants and ex-GFs and is going to jail for it.

So, who’s the dull knife now?

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