Thursday, August 28, 2014

Fair Play: No room for nostalgia in Azkal lineup

(This is my Fair Play column for Sun.Star Cebu's Aug. 28 edition)
ONE forgotten December almost 10 years ago, Chieffy Caligdong and Aly Borromeo conspired in the dying minutes to end the Philippines’ winless drought in international football.

Facing a 1-0 deficit in the dying minutes, Borromeo’s header connected with Caligdong for the equalizer and deep in injury time, the two were at it again as Caligdong scored the game winner for the Philippines first win since the 1991 Southeast Asian Games.

For some, the Azkals rise started in Vietnam, 2010, but for me, I think what really turned the team around was in 2004, when the Philippines showed it was no longer pushovers in the Southeast Asian scene. After that game, we even shocked Thailand by taking the lead, only to lose 3-1.

Ten years later, when the country hosts the Peace Cup for the third time, there’s no Chieffy or Aly in the lineup ecause of injuries.

Since 2011, Aly has to deal with a string of injuries and sadly, isn’t at the same level as he was before. I saw one his games in the UFL, when he was fielded as a forward, but the missed and awry passes showed he was a step or two off his best pace.

That was a few months ago and I was hoping he had improved.

And when he made the training camp, who wasn’t elated seeing the former captain, whose face was plastered all over the papers when we finally beat Vietnam, back in the team?

Thomas Dooley told Ryan Fenix, one of the country’s respected football columnist, “I told him he is in a situation where maybe he and I hope not, but it looks like the national team level is not for him anymore.”

Ouch. Though Dooley said he’s hoping that more playing time in the UFL could help Aly earn a place back in the national team, that statement pretty much cut short Aly’s international career.

Which is sort of ironic. Because of what guys like Aly and Chieffy have done, the level in the national team has skyrocketed. Heck, four or five years ago, an Aly that’s just 60 percent off his best form is probably good enough to make the squad.

But not anymore.

And as we all know, but getting to the squad now is always about, whether you can deliver now, and not about what you did.

It’s a different story with Chieffy’s. As his recent bout with an injury isn’t serious enough and he still has a great chance of making the national squad.

I hope to see Aly again in the national squad and I hope it won’t be because of what he has done but because of what he can still do.

I hope.

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