Friday, May 30, 2014

Fair Play: I believe

(This is my Fair Play column for Sun.Star Cebu's Saturday edition)
I HOPE we wake up as champions in the AFC Challenge Cup today and our date in the Asian Cup sealed.

Last night's final started too late to make it to today's paper and that's why you have to appreciate the writers who are with the team, because they write for two news cycles as one game day there covers two working days here.

We made the final, can't you believe it?  And today, we learn, if we take another journey in January.

I hope we do.

It's been an amazing ride and to those new fans of the team, I hope you appreciate what this squad has achieved.

Just five short years ago, we all thought, a final and a spot in the Asian cup was something that simply won't happen in our lifetime.

Heck, when Dan Palami told fellow columnist Noel S. Villaflor in August of that epic 2010 year that his ultimate goal was the 2018 World Cup, I said to myself when I read it, "What is this guy smoking?"

But it turns, Dan saw something in the team the rest of the country didn't or even fans like me who used to believed but lost faith after infighting wrecked the PFF.

A spot in the finals of a continental tournament?  A chance to make it to the Asian Cup?

In our lifetime?


That's what this team has done.

Because after all the analysis, that what could-haves, the 4-4-2s vs. the 4-3-3s, it all boils down to this, what this team has done is they made us all believe.

They made us believe that we can do it.

And it is contagious. No longer do our national teams go to a competition, hoping not to lose by a mile but aiming for a win. It's something, too, that has spread to those who follow the teams.

In a forgotten competition, I once overheard a coach tell a player of a team who were way overmatched by the competition,"O, gusto man kaya mag Azkal, wala man gani sila ni surrender kontra Vietnam."  

A lot has been said--some derisively--about the makeup of the team, but I think the Azkals epitomizes the Filipinos, who are everywhere in the world.

And, just seeing one game makes you appreciate that fact that wherever they learned their football--in Germany, England, Switzerland or Spain--they'd give it all for the flag. Their all and then some.

It's not about pedigree  but passion. That's what the Azkals movement is all about.

And passion is what team captain Rob Gier personifies, just like the rest of the team.

Today, I hope, is a new day for Philippine football.

I believe.

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