Fair Play: Lessons from Gilas, disgruntled Azkals can learn

(Sun.Star Cebu's Aug. 14 edition, this is my Fair Play column for)
WHEN Gilas Pilipinas was first formed, I thought, this over-paid bunch doesn't need a new patron, but to rediscover the honor of playing for the flag.

Let them look at the football team, I'd tell colleagues over beer—no allowance, no fancy uniforms, no recognition, and heck, there weren't even overseas stints, and they play like wearing the country's colors is the highlight of their careers.

That was in 2009, a year before the Azkals phenomenon hit fever pitch in Hanoi 2010.

Now, four years later, with some of the football team members bickering about playing time, honesty and miscommunication, the best example of “national team-first” I can cite is that of Gilas Pilipinas, especially Beau Belga.

That bulky forward who seemed too slow, too fat and too short to even make the national team pool got a silver medal in the 2013 Fiba Asia, even if he didn't make the final cut. He still contributed on his own, even if he wasn't part of the final lineup and the team manager decided to repay his contributions with a silver medal.

Then there was Asi Taulava, long removed from national team considerations because of the emergence of new faces, who showed up in the first Gilas practice a couple of months ago just to give the undermanned team more bodies to bang up against in scrimmages.

In scrimmages.

You hear that and you hear stories of some Azkals griping about playing time or not starting or not even making the list and you wonder has the previous four years gone to their heads?

The players are very lucky, all the criticisms have been mild. The team, too, is lucky as there has been no fallout. But I know, there are those in the local football community who are turned off by these drama.

Stop whining. Play for the flag. Be thankful the country picked you, because if we want to be brutally honest about all of this—these guys won't see a minute of senior international football if the Philippines didn't come calling.

And if you've forgotten what's it like--or what it used to be like before the hype, before Vietnam 2010--check out Gilas Pilipinas in the Fiba World Cup.

I think it's but fitting that for this Suzuki Cup 2014, when the Philippines is the No. 1 team in the region, it's Vietnam that's once again that will be hosting.

A little throwback—to borrow the social media savvy—to a time when it was all about the name in the front of the shirt.


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