Twin triumphs of a lifetime
Jose Cojuangco Jr. couldn’t believe he had been toppled. He refused to shake the hand of the handsome younger foe who defeated him.
It’s the sort of triumph that could come only once in a lifetime. There’s no other story in Philippine sports that could be more significant and compelling than the ouster last month of Cojuangco, 83, as president of the Philippine Olympic Committee (POC).
Nearly a month after the rise of management master Ricky Vargas as head of the powerful POC, a tremendous triumph was scored by the Philippine Azkals when it outclassed Tajikistan in a dream win that qualified them for the Asian Football Confederation Asian Cup for the first time.
It was a comeback for ages, wrote Cedelf Tupas of the Inquirer, reporting from the overfilled Rizal Memorial Stadium. There was delirium.
“Philippine football regains foothold on glory. Rising from a goal down—and years of frustrating finishes—the Azkals got over the hump. Captain Phil Younghusband converted the 90th minute goal penalty to make it 2-1. What followed were scenes out of a movie, grown men hugging each other, tears of joy streaming down their faces.”
The gallery erupted in approval. Make that: The whole nation applauded in full jubilation.
No need to review the record books. These are triumphs that come long in-between, or maybe only once in a lifetime. These monumental victories were achieved in a span of only three months, within the first quarter of 2018.
It would be unfair to say luck was behind these golden achievements. They were fruits of arduous perseverance and strife.
Dan Palami, chief backer and main financier of the Azkals, refused to play it coy. He said they had been through a lot.
He would also confirm pregame rumors about a depleted bank book.
“You look at your bank account, you just think if it’s worth it,” he told Tupas. “It’s the story of every Filipino. We are able to achieve a lot of things because of our perseverance.”
He said he hopes this could be the catalyst for more support in Philippine football, adding they got “tremendous backing from the private industry in 2010.”
Meanwhile, Vargas didn’t tarry and invited Cojuangco to be part of the new POC Board. This despite the fact that Cojuangco had tried to kick him out, thus making it tough and nearly impossible for him to run for the POC presidency.
Vargas was readily hit and criticized for his move. There were elder sports development experts who called his unexpected compassionate gesture the big joke of our time.
Vargas, with a quiet and remarkable management style, refused to be swayed.
He swore Cojuangco, despite a failed lengthy reign as POC chief, could be of great help in recharting the new path of poor Philippine sports.
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