Palami ponders; Azkals achieve–not!
Ten years ago I wrote that he was generous to a fault, although not super-rich as an Arab sheikh with the dough to make the desert green.
Today, Dan Palami is still at it. He continues to spend a fortune bankrolling our country’s dream team.
No, it is not the overhyped but underachieving Gilas basketball squad. His babies are still the bunch of local players and Filipinos born and raised abroad collectively called the Azkals.
And yes, the Azkals also remain overhyped and underachieving after all these years.
And yet, Palami the national 11’s godfather is keeping the faith. Although they finally made their debut in the Asian Cup, the Azkals failed to reach the knockout round of the tournament won by Qatar recently.
“It takes baby steps,” Palami said after the tiny Gulf nation triumphed over five-time winner and favorite Japan in the continent’s premier soccer league.
We have been playing soccer longer than the Qataris. But we don’t live in a wealthy nation. Despite their lack of a soccer pedigree, the Qataris are supported by guys with big bucks to actually make their deserts verdant.
And while the Qataris got the Hollywood ending they deserve, the Azkals are still writing their own script.
Before their maiden appearance in the Asian Cup, the Azkals had given the country a warm glow. They had fired up its imagination for what should be the national team sport that fits our body build and Latin-like temperament by actually reaching the knockout round of the Suzuki Cup, the Asean soccer championship.
“We have been languishing in the qualifiers of the Suzuki until the Azkals reached the knockout phase of the subcontinental tournament regularly since 2010,” he said.
“We were a game away from getting into the KO stage of the Asian Cup, just one tier lower the the World Cup,” Dan recalled.
“While the result was not what we would have wanted, it also showed that pitted against the powerhouses of the region, the gap is not as wide as it was before,” according to Palami.
He predicted that with lessons learned from Dubai, “realistically we will barge into the knockout round of the second-oldest continental soccer tournament in the world in the next two years.”
More on Palami’s ponderings next week.
(Members of Class 1969 mark their 50th year of graduation from St. Pius X Institute, the revered Catholic high school in my hometown, Cuyapo, Nueva Ecija, on Saturday, Feb. 16. Some class alums living abroad won’t be around for the once-in-a-lifetime event and will reportedly host a party of their own. The crabs reportedly felt slighted when they could not control organizing the event by remote control while local class members are working their buns off to make their golden jubilee and the school’s 14th global alumni homecoming a success.)
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