The Blue-Haired Fanatic: ‘Not an icon but a servant’
We are used to cheering our hearts out for our favorite teams, scream boo’s at our bitter rivals, celebrate whenever we reach victories and mourn with the teams in heartbreaking losses.
Most of us put up banners and endlessly wave them through the bleachers while others design T-shirts and have their idols’ names imprinted on the front.
Ebong Joson, a football devotee, does all that and more.
He went to the Panaad Stadium for the Azkals vs. Mongolia AFC Challenge Cup with the Philippine flag painted in his entire face while wearing a curly blue-dyed wig. Unsatisfied, he grabbed by the hand a humongous Philippine flag, jumped off the grandstand and ran through the football field like a madman.
“We have to strike while the iron is still hot,” said Joson in an exclusive interview. “We have to take chances while they are still there and take risks while we still can.”
Such fanaticism is understandable in the Philippines’ first love, basketball. Football, on the other hand, is relatively new to us and since it has only reached its peak of popularity for only almost a year, the sport obviously needs a solid support system.
Luckily, Joson and other football friends were able to understand that and they decided to invent a new booster squad for the sport.
Taking their cue from the Azkals, the moniker for the Philippine men’s squad, they called themselves the Kaholeros.
“It was hard because we really have no history of having a booster squad in football, we are all new at this,” Joson, who is also known as The Blue-Haired Fanatic said. “Even though I knew that there was a big possibility that I would be embarrassed, I took the challenged and now, here we are.”
After sometime, Joson was appointed head of fan management of the Philippine Football Federation and with his faithful apprentices, they were destined to fight with the Azkals side by side in every game the team had and will have.
“Other countries’ chants and cheers take years to develop while we only have little time,” he quipped. “But it turned out really good. We have Kaholeros in Iloilo, Davao, Taiwan, Indonesia and many places more. It has been a wonderful first year and we are so happy to be in the middle of all of it.”
Even before Joson became officially a part of the team, he had already been watching the Azkals’ games, even if he had to jump into a plane and travel a hundred miles away from the Philippines.
And rare experiences like those gave him more excitement because not only that he had been able to cheer for his favorite team but also got the chance to meet people and share the friendliness that Filipinos have.
When he was asked the most important aspect of him being the Blue-Haired Fanatic, he answered, “I want to be able to build bridges no matter how small they may be because I want other people to learn about our country; build friendship in the name of football.”
The sport is his way of bringing people together and whenever he travels outside the country, he travels not only as a Football fan but a Filipino and this is what he passes on to his Kaholeros.
“We are being united not wholly by the game but the presence and heart of the team,” said Kaholero Pearl Domingo. “It’s really fun and exciting to meet new people, cheering and hanging out with them even for a while or just through Facebook or Twitter.”
True enough, in a span of 90 minutes, the sport not only grants exciting and breathtaking goals but also relationships which are irreplaceable, even across the globe.
“More than anything else, I feel that I am a servant of my own country and I want to continue helping. I want to continue serving even in the littlest of my ways.”
Although Joson’s first love is football and this is what he uses to reach out, his heart isn’t game for it alone. He is also passionate about other teams because he believes that after all, it is not one sport against another.
“Sports is what is important,” The Blue-Haired Fanatic shared about the negative issues regarding sports programs in the country. “I have a lot of respect for all sports. We must support one another because we have one country and that means, we are one huge team.”
He also said that it doesn’t really have to be football that people have to get themselves into. The sport does not matter; the important thing is for everyone to get involved.
“Football and sports, in general, helps the us to do something. The idle mind and body is the devil’s play thing,” he said.
“We must do something because we have to keep on moving forward. There should be something happening. When we have football or sports in our lives, it gives us motivation and a sense of direction. Sports itself can develop our lives.”
And when he said that sports can develop our lives, he meant that because Joson himself had experienced that sudden change.
“Never did I imagine that I will be here. That run in Panaad changed my life. Problems of this country can be solved too by just playing a game and I hope they choose football because it really is something perfect for each one of us. It can change how things are. I’m able to say this because it did change my life.”
The Blue-Haired Fanatic believes that the sport is strong enough to handle itself and beautiful enough to attract anyone who finds interest in it.
He knows that when they give it a chance, Football will take care of itself and show those fans and aspiring players that it is worth loving.
“Give it some time and it will happen. I tell you, now is the time to get into the bandwagon of football.”