Lost at SEAG

Sometimes we feel a little lost at sea. We might feel this way for many reasons, and it’s absolutely and completely normal. But when we do get lost, it takes courage and a little self-belief to find our way back to shore so we can set sail another day. Well, if you’re the type who wallows in losing (read: SEA Games), then I’ll do what I can to help you weather the storm.

All of us have certain expectations whenever we watch our favorite team play, but when they lose, there’s no need to take up arms against them. What we can do is discuss the game and give constructive feedback without pointing fingers, no matter how tempting it might be. I’ve read some articles about the recent losses and a collective feeling of disappointment seemed to tie them all together. I know that some got a little carried away, hence the upset tone and snippy comments, but I also came upon a lot of interesting points that deserve our respect.

I’m not going to discuss every one of them, but since a lot of people have been speaking their mind, allow me to do the same. I felt disappointed and frustrated about the Vietnam and Timor-Leste matches as well. Naturally, I feel disheartened whenever my team loses. Who doesn’t? But as sports fans, we need to be critical, discerning, and perceptive about everything we read. We are free to agree or disagree, but we should also ask ourselves whether we are aware of elements beyond the writer’s thoughts. Can something that seems enlightening also be misleading? It’s better when a piece makes readers think by fairly presenting both sides of the story.

They say that football (or any sport) is known for its cruel clarity, and so if the fans and audience can spot what’s wrong with the team, then so can the coaching staff, the players, and the management. Nevertheless, we cannot simply welcome hasty generalizations and other fallacies into the world of football just because we feel like we’ve had enough. We can’t explain everything based on what we experience as spectators. We can’t assume that nobody’s doing anything, either. Furthermore, the sentiments of one person involved with the team don’t necessarily reflect those of the rest of the team’s management. The top management always has the last say—they can be counted on to inform and instruct—even if things seem like they are not going as planned. Sure, they’ve made some mistakes, but the team’s management picks up on these mistakes and takes an active role in making improvements. We shouldn’t give up on them so easily.

The Philippine Football Federation’s (PFF) grassroots program has also come under fire recently. Timor-Leste’s performance and victory over the U-23 team may have triggered the close scrutiny, but honestly, I think the PFF sprung into action from the moment that match ended. They’ve made baby steps in the right direction, albeit with little evidence to back that up. Of course, if we compare other countries’ grassroots programs with ours, we will only notice areas of sharp contrast between the two. Snarky comments against the PFF won’t do anyone good; these will only encourage the vicious, fault-finding haters out there.

Let me end by saying that everyone is a work in progress. The players, the coaching staff, and everyone else involved with the team are no exception. They are relentlessly ironing out the wrinkles in the system. True, the players gave it their all and lost, but they are well aware that they can do better. We can do better. Every day, every game, is an opportunity to improve, to rework and reinvent ourselves. The results may vary—could be a losing streak or winning streak—but never stop believing. Have you forgotten about the Azkals’ motto? It also applies to the U-23 team. Didn’t “We believe” stand out as the most inspiring and empowering motto in the history of Philippine sports? We can’t just let everything we’ve got fall to the bottom of the sea. Not now.