A few years ago, only a limited number of people know about the existence of the national football team and the United Football League. The majority wasn’t aware that there is a Philippine football squad that goes by the nickname of Azkals. To many, azkals meant stray dogs and nothing else. But nowadays, almost everyone knows the Azkals and many Filipinos started looking up to them. This is a huge welcome development for Philippine football.
Since time immemorial, football had been an underrated sport in the country. A few people play it and only a handful understands it. It seemed that football can never catch up with the popularity of other sports in the country such as basketball and boxing. But thanks to the Azkals, they made it possible for the Philippines to excel in this field. Their historic victory at the 2010 Suzuki Cup was the trigger of the current football craze in the country. Football was no longer unnoticed when the Philippines dumped defending champions Vietnam in a huge upset to cruise to the finals of the Suzuki Cup. But even if the national team failed to bag the Cup in the finals, they remained victorious in the eyes of the Filipinos.
That moment was the start of it all. That was what gave the Philippines a chance to further promote the sport and cultivate the talent of the future generation. Without that victory, football will remain overshadowed by more popular sports and the skills of Filipino footballers may never be tapped. That win opened the door for sports development in the country. It drove the media to air more football matches, encouraged kids to try the sport, and inspired Filipinos to unite and cheer for one team.
Though the prestigious World Cup is still out of the Philippine team’s reach, the Azkals are the ones preparing the next generation of footballers. They started the change, they turned impossibility into a possibility, and it is now up to us to protect this chance. Every Filipino can play a role in promoting football in the country. May you be a football lover or not, you can merely support the team and that’s enough already. Given the controversies that have surrounded the Azkals since their rise to stardom, not everyone is happy with them. Some criticize, while others aren’t impressed at all. Many are still looking down on them and saying that they don’t have what it takes to win in any major international competitions. They may be right. The current national squad is way too far from the skills of other football countries such as Brazil, Spain, and Britain. I wouldn’t argue with that. But as a football enthusiast, I’m hoping that more Filipinos would look beyond the current status and condition of the national squad, and into the possibility of prospering the sport itself in the country. This isn’t just about the Azkals, this is about football as a sport.
This is our chance to make football bigger in the country. A chance to develop a pool of talented Filipino footballers. A chance to improve the entire sports industry. And this opportunity, if lost, would be a great waste of talent and skills. Filipinos are innately good in football. They don’t have to be tall to play it. The youngest and the highest scorer that Barcelona, one of the leading football teams in Spain, had in its reign was a Filipino by the name of Paulino Alcantara. All these simply show that the the football industry has a room for the Philippines. The sport just needs support from us. It’s a really long long way to go but it can be done one step at a time and the Azkals have made it all possible with that single win. Let’s just hope that this football craze isn’t temporary but is something that will last.
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