Haters, be gone! After the Azkals lost the friendly game against Singapore (or even before that), it seemed as though the haters once again had the loudest voices. I think that it is foolish and unreasonable for people to put down the players and fans following a loss or start a contrived, juvenile “rivalry” between basketball and football. These are examples of woolly thinking perpetuated by haters. Shallow and ill-informed, such opinions simply hint at insincere support and the absence of a sense of sportsmanship. It’s not like the Azkals didn’t want to win—they wanted to, obviously—but in any sport, sometimes you win and sometimes you lose. You learn from mistakes and you don’t let failure define you.
This isn’t a match analysis of the recent game against Nepal; Cedelf Tupas, Mike Limpag, and Roy Moore did a brilliant job with that. This is my attempt to encourage everyone to support the Azkals with conviction and restore your faith in them. If there’s anything you want to share, like why you hate the Azkals, then explain yourself. And for goodness’ sake, if you’re going to speak your mind online, I challenge you not to hide behind the cloak of anonymity. Don’t be a coward. Don’t be yellow. Seriously, though, I’ve never come across a reasonable opinion grounded on hate.
When the Azkals outplayed and trounced Nepal, 4–0, on October 11th at Rizal Memorial Stadium, it became obvious that any disparaging remarks, at least for a moment, were suppressed. The Azkals beat Nepal, a team ranked 31 spots higher than the Philippines, with the Azkals clearly dominating the pitch and leaving their opponents with no goals to their credit. Even a hater has to admit that that victory was undeniably a result of true talent and sheer determination. Did you see Dennis Cagara? Weren’t you blown away by his performance? I was. You can say that good luck may have played a role in the victory, but a team does not get to 4–0 on superstitious attributions alone. The Azkals will arguably always have something to prove, but they aren’t afraid of proving themselves and stepping up to the plate. I think the fans are the ones who should prove themselves: How willing are you to put your support behind the team in good times and in bad?
“Individually, they’re great, but collectively, they don’t produce the desired effect.” In my opinion, this is a reasonable comment or observation, but don’t assume that no one is doing anything about it. Some players came from other countries and play for different clubs. Training together to improve that cohesion is apparently difficult and takes time. But the team’s manager, coach, and staff always try to make sure that there are a few days of training with the team so that everything is solid and everyone is on the same page in time for the next match. I hope people notice that despite the lack of intense, regular training together, they always play to win.
Since the Azkals won the last game of the year, I’m pretty sure they’ve won the hearts of the public again. The friendly game was symbolic and impressive. For the Younghusbands, playing passionately that day was their way of paying tribute to the memory of their late mother. For the rest of the team, it was a special chance to end the season on a high note. All of their efforts this year were summarized by that wonderful success over Nepal. Next year will be even more amazing and memorable. I know that we are going to make history again.
I urge everyone to keep in mind that the Azkals are the ones who play the beautiful game—not you, not me. Winning and losing are part of that game. They know that they shouldn’t play exhibition football even if it’s a friendly. They know that they are there to win, to put up a fight no matter what. The winning attitude is already there, but what they also need is for us to believe in them. You can’t just turn on them because they lost a game or because someone said they had become lazy, big-headed, stuck-up players. When you choose to become a fan, it should transcend losses, rumors, everything. End of story.