Despite loss to home team, Azkals generate enthusiasm from Chicago’s Fil-Am fansBy Grace Garcia
The Azkals Philippine national soccer team lost 3-1 during an exhibition game against the US Premier League the Chicago Inferno Aug. 11 in Wheaton, IL, but that did not dampen the enthusiasm of Filipino –American fans who came in droves to fill the Joe Bean Stadium of the Wheaton College, 36 miles west of Chicago.
During a greet and meet dinner three days earlier, some of the players in a question-and-answer dinner session at a Filipino banquet hall had lowered the fan’s expectations.
They intimated that they would try to overcome the hometown advantage, the different turf and rules.
“The Azkals need this exposure and soon they will be ready for the big league,” observed at the night of the game by a Filipino-American who used to play professional soccer.
The absence of players– Phil and James Younghusband, Jerry Lucena, and Dennis Cagara, and Neil Etheridge surely did not help the Azkals first exhibition game in the area.
Attempts were made by midfielder Jeffrey Christiaens and defender Carlos Alberto Murga during the first half. During the seventh minute mark, The Chicago Inferno Forward Carl Haworth made the first goal. Taking advantage of a weak defense, two more goals were made by teammate Drew Jeskey.
Its performance was improved during halftime. Azkals coach Hans Michael Weiss brought in substitutions with Matthew Uy, Demit Omphroy and Patrick Reichelt in for Marwin Angeles, Chieffy Calingdong and Ian Araneta.
During the 73rd minute, a pass from Midfielder Jerry Lucena to midfielder Carli De Murga clinched the Azkals’ first and only goal of the night. A total of nine attempts were made by the Azkals compared to seven for the other team.
Despite its defeat, the audience which was dominated by Azkals fans who noisily rooted for their team led by a mascot whose face was painted in the colors of the Philippine National team chanting “Let’s go Azkals!” and waving a huge Philippine flag.
Gawad Kalinga volunteers led by Herminio de Guia Jr manned the traffic, ticketing and ushering–earning positive reviews from the promoters for their efficiency.
The Azkals finished third in the AFC Challenge Cup early this year. The Philippines, which plays in the Asian Football Confederation, is using the U.S. as a training camp to prepare for November’s ASEAN Football Federation (AFF) Suzuki Cup, which will be co-hosted by Malaysia and Thailand. The Azkals reached the semifinals of the last Suzuki Cup in 2010.
Azkals local sponsor Eliseo “Jojo” Prisno of P/E Capital Investments had organized the exhibition match. “These events fall in line with our commitment to bringing entertaining and affordable high-level soccer to the area,” he said.
The Azkals will face the Virgin Islands Aug. 18 in Indianapolis.