Wow, Last Saturday I was stunned to learn that Philippines has defeated defending champions Vietnam 2-0 at the 2010 Suzuki AFF Cup. Even our NT Coach Simon McMenemy was shocked at the outcome. We got an unexpected tie with Singapore last Wednesday so nobody was expecting a lot. The outcome was so amazing I made a song out of it. We drew against Myanmar and we'll be facing Indonesia on the 16th which falls on...Friday next week! Historically, we've never defeated Indonesia in any match before. Just a tie sometime in...1977? Worse, AFF decided that our opponent shall host two semi-final matches against us in a crowd of 80,000+! Reinstated president of the PFF President Mari Martinez allegedly insisted that our stadium does not pass FIFA standards and even blocked inspection from the Association itself.
Broadsheets were now focused on Azkals, songs were sung, a party at Hotel H20 were held in their honor. But the odds are against the Azkals, can they prevail? Suppose they get past Indonesia, they will be battling whoever wins in the Malaysia-Vietnam match (most likely Vietnam will win) in the finals. If they have to face Vietnam once again, they have to do much much more to win!
Philippine football is in a precarious position. Our team needs a huge huge ounce of mental and physical toughness to win. Fate is in their hands...and feet.
I have a crazy prediction. If the Philippines win the Cup, it would usher in a new brand of unity and nationalism that we've never experienced before. Team Sports is far more overwhelming in victory than a counterpart in individual Sports like Boxing. We celebrate in honor of Pacquiao whenever he wins in a match, but we celebrate in honor of Azkals in victory, not only Greatwich, not only Younghusband, not only Etheridge! Pinoys would realize that we can truly achieve something as a team despite all odds. That we can finally have a place in the international stage. As we all know, there are more countries in FIFA than in the United Nations. We laud Filipino individual achievements, good. But there is a magic in football that brings people together. Unlike England and most countries in Europe, our national team is far more prominent than our clubs and I encourage that idea because in this setup Pinoys would be able to celebrate together rather than subdivide themselves again and again until there is none to divide with.
The moneymaking potential here cannot be ignored. Football is so vast, so immense that it requires huge manpower and capital. When Pinoys clamor for better facilities, better rankings, better performance, private and public sectors could take advantage by hiring more workers and specialists, more promotions for commercial advantage, and therefore more potential in steady cashflows and profit.
A victory in the Suzuki Cup would come in two-edged sword -- it could inspire us to strive for the better; or, lead us once again in apathy. For the latter, I don't think so. We have far more worlds to conquer. There is the Asian Federation Challenge Cup where we would face Middle Eastern Countries and perhaps even South Korea and Japan! Oh, Coach McMenemy has also been eyeing on the 2014 World Cup. THAT is the bigger prize. We must qualify! We must!
Let's keep the dream alive!