‘Mr. Football’ Elmer Bedia optimistic of Azkals in AFC Cup
PANGLAO, Bohol, Philippines — Retired Filipino-Australian football legend Elmer “Lacknet” Bedia is optimistic about Philippine Azkals’ chances in its debut in the 2019 AFC Asian Cup.
“For sure we have a good chance in the Asian Cup after 63 years of absence,” Bedia told the Inquirer while in Bohol province on Saturday.
The 2019 AFC Asian Cup will be the 17th edition of the AFC Asian Cup, the quadrennial international men’s football championship of Asia organized by the Asian Football Confederation (AFC).
Bedia said he watched the Azkals in the 2018 Asean Football Federation (AFF) Suzuki Cup campaign where they lost to Vietnam in the semifinals.
Bedia said the Azkals should focus on their defense.
“The weakness really is the defense because some of them are a little bit older now. I think we need fresh legs to move forward and faster,” said Bedia, who was several times honored as “Mr. Football” by the Philippine Sportswriters Association.
The Philippines, which is in Group C, will be pitted against South Korea on Jan. 7 at Dubai’s Al Maktoum Stadium.
The clash promises to draw a large crowd, especially from the estimated 500,000 Filipinos in Dubai.
Next, the Azkals will face China on Jan. 11 and Kyrgyzstan on Jan. 16 which is anticipated to be an energized match.
“I know we are behind in the competition but you know the ball is round. And the Azkals have a strong team this year. We have a good chance. We hope they keep on scoring,” Bedia said.
Bedia was in Bohol over the weekend to mentor around 100 children from different parts of the province under a free football clinic which he is conducting with the Bohol Football Association (BOHFA) and Panglao Dolphins Football Team (PDFT).
He gave an extra lesson on football along with the keys to the game.
In personal development sessions, Bedia and BOHFA officers gave the participants plenty of advice on technique, tricks, shooting, dribbling and spontaneity.
Kcovein Esterado, 11, Grade 6 pupil at Holy Name University, said that he was happy with the training.
“I am in the team of Panglao Dolphins. And I really like soccer so joined the Panglao Dolphins . And now I enjoy myself in the tournaments and practices,” he said.
Erich Warnke, 13, had been a football fan since he was 3.
A Grade 11 student at Victoriano D. Tirol Advanced Learning Center, he said the training taught him many things.
“I really enjoy this program because of our Australian coaches … and we are going to learn more about football,” he said.
Bedia also brought and gave football equipment, shoes, socks and balls to the children from poor families.
The PDFT which hosted the free clinic has 40 boys who regularly practice every Saturday at the town’s plaza. The visit of Bedia boosted the club’s enthusiasm to continue the sports despite the lack of full support from the government.
Alma Esterado, president of PDFT, said the football clinic in Panglao was considered an historical event in sports.
“We are actually wishing that you now, one of them, many of them, will be included in the Azkals. Well, Mr Bedia is a pre-Azkal guy , he is really the legend, we are honored and really humbled hat we are chosen,” said Mitchell Leones, the founder of PDFT.
After the clinic, an educational scholarship would be awarded to the best participant to study in Manila for free.
He also wished that through the clinic, BOHFA, through its president Edmar Thaddeus Simpao, hoped to produce great players.
“With this beautiful game in football, we can help them refresh their attitude and teach them how to behave and focus on their beautiful life. Hopefully, we can find some of these kids one day that represent Bohol to play for the country,” said Bedia.
Bedia was born in the football hotbed of Barotac Nuevo town, Iloilo, in 1962.
At 13, he was playing football using coconut drupe which was wrapped with cloth in Barotac Nuevo.
He played for the Philippines’ National Team for 13 years and was the country’s most feared striker. He was voted “Mr Football” of the Philippines in 1981, 1983 and 1984 by the Philippine Sportswriters Association.
At 24, he was recruited by an Australian professional team, the Brisbane Olympic United Football Club.
From 1986 until now, he remains in Brisbane with his wife Maria Theresa Salazar Bedia and their six children. /cbb