Saturday, December 08, 2012

Azkals, Mindanao and a home game

I grew up in South Cotabato, learned football and sportswriting there.  Despite living in Cebu for the past 16 years--nine years in college and seven or so in the Cebu media--I still consider myself a child of South Cotabato. 

A Mindanaoan.

And on Dec. 8, football and Mindanao would be at the forefront, and it would be on a sad note.

While South Cotabato was spared from the brunt of Typhoon Pablo, Davao Oriental and Compostela Valley weren't and hundreds of families are forever scarred by that rare Typhoon that touched down south.  I hope it would be the last one.

Compostela Valley is a province that I've always paid attention in high school, because when it comes to the Regional Schools Press Conference--these guys always come out on top.  They may be known lately as the mining province in the news, but for me, this is the province that had some of the best student writers--including sportswriters.

I still remember, too, the first time I saw a uniform of a Philippine national team member and I remember guys like me, who were still learning the game, were very impressed seeing a national team member.  Judging from his uniform, which looked old, I don't think he was a current player that time, but in the eyes of an easily impressed 11-year-old, seeing a footballer from Marbel--an Ocampo, if I remember--wearing the national team jersey was something.

I haven't been back home in quite a while, but I know football is big in Mindanao.  It has always been, even before the Azkals phenomenon.  Mindanao had the Liga Mindanao in the past, while in our place--baseball and football were the top sports.

That minute of silence, and the Azkals' gesture to donate their bonus to relief efforts may not mean much to some, but truly these are very much welcome.

Because sometimes, when  you are down, it is gestures like these that will lift you.

I wanted to add some insights for today's game but I think Ryan Fenix, Roy Moore and the other writers who have more insights than me have that covered.

I only wish to remind Dan Palami, Chieffy Caligdong, Phil and James Younghusband, Ray Jonsson, Chris Greatwich, Rob Gier, Jason de Jong and of course, Ed Sacapano, of that feeling they had when, just hours after drawing Myanmar 0-0 in the 2010 Suzuki Cup, the then PFF president said there wouldn't be a home game.

We now have that home game, two years removed.  So please, make this one special.   

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