Let the Azkals Under-23 Play

Let the Azkals U23 Play

After the disappointing news that Philippine Olympic Committee (POC) and the Philippine Sports Commission (PSC) won’t be including our football and futsal teams in the upcoming Southeast Asian Games in Myanmar, I felt like my heart shattered into a million pieces. Though that would mean I would be dead by now. Anyway, I wanted to write something to express my sadness and disappointment, but if I did, it would have been anger-fueled and would not help anybody.

Good thing I read “Let the U23 Azkals Play: An Open Letter to the PSC and POC” by Bob Guerrero, and it made so much sense that I decided to calm my thoughts and keep them to myself. A day later, though, I still wanted to share my thoughts on this matter. So in the same fashion as Bob’s piece, I’m writing a letter, but this time, I’m pretending to be one of the U-23 players, and this is my “journal.”

Dear POC and PSC

I woke up to the news that football and futsal are off the list for the coming SEA Games in Myanmar. I couldn’t believe it, honestly. Is this verified? Funny how I was just dreaming about my debut for the Philippine national football team, and then I woke up finding that my dream was crushed just like that. It’s worse than stealing my PlayStation from me; it was like stealing my dream and shredding it in front of me.

Ever since the announcement that I would be officially training with the U-23 Azkals, I have never stopped thinking of the SEA Games. I really want to play in front of a big crowd and represent the country through the sport that I’m actually good at. I’ve been training with the team for weeks now, and I’ve been noticing improvements in areas that I was once weak at. I’ve observed my teammates’ remarkable improvement as well. In a recent friendly, we were able to test ourselves and validate that we have indeed improved. Considering that the SEA Games is still in December, we have ample time to jell together and build chemistry to collectively do well in the competition. We’re having training camps too, so I’m pretty sure that would be more than beneficial. Did I mention former Ayr United manager Coach Reid is our coach? I don’t mean to brag, but this is probably the best U-23 squad ever. You just have to take my word for it, though. I wish you would see us from the perspective of our staff, sponsors, fans and supporters. Maybe that would change your mind.

Honestly, I find it heartbreaking when I read that you have to “strictly follow the criteria that allow the inclusion of only the gold medalists in the previous SEA Games and potential gold performers in the national delegation to the Dec. 11–22 biennial meet.” As a born athlete, I have never encountered such a rationalization or philosophy in my life. Growing up, I’ve read and heard a million sports quotes that serve as my motivation and guiding light in victory or defeat, but your criteria seem to defy and negate all of them. My father once told me, “Even if you know and feel you’re gonna lose, you have to play the game and give your best. Because whether you like it or not, there are still people out there who believe in you, that you will win, and I know I am one of them.” As sports savants, you guys are supposed to be believers by default. But what happened?

Why would you only give the gold medalists and potential gold performers a chance to play and represent the country? It’s unfair. Losing and winning will be always part of the game. I’ve learned through experience that losing plays a vital role in a player’s learning process, a never-ending journey that we all go through. I’ve fallen several times, but I always came back stronger. Football is an unpredictable game and will forever be; that’s why you can’t assume anything. In any sport, you can’t assume that victory will come as easily as the last time. Since when did things become predictable around here?

I’m sorry if I’m complaining and ranting, but I just can’t help it. A lot of people have done so much to promote football and to give young Filipino footballers such as myself a chance to shine in football, the world’s popular sport, and prove that we can now compete and excel at it. Football is supposed to bring glory to this country, but you’re depriving it of the opportunity instead of providing it. Aside from your criteria, it’s safe to say that you have expectations too—to win is obviously one of them—but we also have expectations. We expect you to stand by your cause and objectives to encourage and develop sports in the country. Winning isn’t everything. If you stick to winning alone, the whole point of competing disappears.