At the last moment, the UFL All-Stars outplayed the Azkals 4–3 during yesterday’s exhibition match at the University of Makati. The Philippine Azkals—a mixture of homegrown talents, half-Filipinos, and over-the-hill stars (Ryan Giggs’ generation mates)—simply didn’t do enough to snatch victory away from the jaws of defeat. Well, for a game where nothing real was at stake, the All-Stars felt like they had something to prove.
If I’m being honest, I knew they were going to win. Don’t get me wrong; I really do believe in the Azkals. What I’m trying to point out is that when I observed the UFL All-Star team step onto the pitch, I knew they had instinctively found a common goal: to outshine the Azkals. I don’t think they talked about how to beat them, but it’s as if each one of them wanted to prove they were not your average footballer. If I were part of the UFL All-Stars, I would have wanted to outplay the Azkals, not for any pretense on my part, but because as a player, I would want to show off my skills to demonstrate that I’m anything but ordinary. I guess it’s safe to say that an exhibition game could, in reality, be used as a stepping stone to the football firmament.
I don’t want my opinions to be taken out of context. I obviously support the Azkals, duh, and all I want is for the Azkals to pay attention to their weaknesses, which they unmindfully exposed yesterday, and magnify their strengths. I know some fans were taken aback because the defeat occurred in a supposed non-competitive match, but they shouldn’t be mad at the team for losing. There was nothing dishonorable in their defeat. There is simply room for improvement. Besides, the lineup isn’t set in stone. Who knows, maybe some of the UFL All-Stars might end up on the Philippine national football team roster.
The problem with one’s favorite team always winning is that some fans get a little too used to it. Yesterday’s defeat crushed some fans’ hopes so hard that they couldn’t bring themselves to appreciate an enjoyable match. They should be proud because the UFL players showed us quality; it’s yet more proof that many Filipinos are good football players. In the end, it was a win-win situation for all of us. Let yesterday’s match nurture your passion for anything football.
“Complaining about boring football is a little like complaining about the sad ending of King Lear: it misses the point somehow, and this is what Alan Durban understood: that football is an alternative universe, as serious and as stressful as work, with the same worries and hopes and disappointments and occasional elations.”
—Nick Hornby, Fever Pitch