A new door for Philippine football
It was the perfect story just before Philippine sports took its annual Holy Week break.
The Philippine football team or the Azkals scored a dramatic 2-1 home triumph against Tajikistan to secure a slot in the competitive Asian Cup competitions in 2019 in the United Arab Emirates.
The victory came at a time when many who were interested in the fate of the Azkals had lost track of the team. The passionate followers were aware of where the players were in club play and kept going to the games. Those who were just beginning to appreciate the sport were not so conscious, save for a few tweets and links in social media.
The triumph keeps the journey of football aflame to capture the attention of new football fans and retain the passion of those who never lost interest in the team.
In time, the “beautiful game” will have more fans. Football need not compete with the more popular basketball landscape but needs only to continue to carve its own niches.
Volleyball, specifically the women’s game, has grown steadily after the initial seeds of club and interleague play were sown. The game will most likely never replace the popularity of basketball but volleyball seems happy to co-exist with the hoop game.
There should be no pressure to immediately have passionate football following in the Philippines like in Europe or Latin America. The game has different roots there and has exploded to extremely large dimensions. The important thing is that there’s interest, based on the game’s history, tradition and foundations in the country.
There are formal and informal football clubs all around, with some based on school alumni affiliations or simply because somebody in the office said, “let’s form a football team!”
There are also football camps all around the metropolis, most of them based in school campuses which have the space and facilities to accommodate several age groups simultaneously. There are willing coaches who patiently run the drills for beginners and seasoned players alike.
It’s important that the Azkals keep on playing and hopefully, winning the high-profile matches. International competition and success attract media coverage, sponsors and fan following. More children will be interested in trying the sport as well.
The big win before Holy Week may have just opened a new door in that direction for Philippine football.