Sunday, September 30, 2012

Fair Play: One crazy night for Philippine football

(Thanks to Fracisco Villamor III for the fotos and video)
SECONDS after the final whistle in the Philippines 3-1 win over Chinese Taipei in the Peace Cup, we pointed to the singer of the Marshal Irish Pub and, on cue, he delivered on his assigned piece.  And like a bunch of crazy fans, we started singing at the top of our voice, with not a care if we were in tune or not, "We are the champions, my friends!"

Crazy enough, three Germans approached us and asked, "What did you guys win?"  When he got the answer, he said, "I hope Stephen Schrock plays next time"....grabbed our mini Philippine flag, and joined us in another rendition of our favorite Queen song for that night.

Our inebriated singing, it turned out, was infectious, and a Liverpool fan (I'm sorry, we had introductions last Saturday night, but I'm very poor with names and all I remember is that one of the German guys was named Mike), was encouraged to sing "You never walk alone," and we of course, we provided ample back-up.

Married to a Cebuana, the English guy--who had the Liverpool emblem tattooed on one leg and the three stars and a sun on the other--was having quite a night as the Reds were routing Norwich, 5-1.

One of the German guys--who taught me the proper pronounciation of coach Hans Michael Weiss's name--later teased the guy from England--that since 1966, the Philippines has won more titles than England. 

One crazy night to cap a crazy week, or to be more precise, a crazy two-year ride.

But what did we win, actually?

The Peace Cup against lightweight foes Macau, Guam and Chinese Taipei as some critics say?

So what? A cup is a cup is a cup!  And, just in case you didn't notice, we won a darn title for the time in 99 years! And it happened in our lifetime.

What we won—more than the cup—is validation that the Philippines can and will do well in the international scene.  It was a just reward, too, for fans who have endured all those 12-2, 15-0, 11-0 blowouts all those years ago and have remained fans of the national team.

And as fate would have it three different players scored in that game—Chieffy Caligdong of the Philippine Airforce, a national standout since 2004; Denis Wolf of Global FC, one of the latest recruits of the national squad and 18-year-old OJ Porteria, now with Kaya FC, who was discovered in the US tryouts last year.

Last night was vindication too, for Ed Sacapano, one of the most overlooked players in the national team. A starter relegated to the bench when Michael Casas came along in 2004, and when Neil Etheridge took over in 2008, the Army man stayed with the squad.

And look what he got to do—earning the Best Keeper award after surrendering just one goal and stopping a penalty. If I remember it right, the last keeper to do that was Casas against Malaysia in 2004.

So, should we send this squad and expect a similar triumph this November in the Suzuki Cup?

No and I think it showed in the latter parts of the game against Taipei, when the visitors were harassing our half and our defense lost composure a bit.  But what we now have, of course are better options should our Europe-based players like Stephen Schrock, Rob Gier, Paul Mulders, Dennis Cagara and Ray Jonsson fail to make the Suzuki Cup squad.

But for now, let’s not think about that.  Let’s just savor this for another day or two.

The Philippines is a champion in international football.

Who would have thought that was possible?

One more time, let’s raise our glasses and sing it—“WE ARE THE CHAMPIONS, MY FRIEND…AND WE’LL KEEP ON FIGHTING TILL THE END!!!”

(To see the video, click here)

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