Mother's View on Security

I've always been very particular of security wherever I go. I'm one of those persons who sit against the wall when eating in a restaurant where I can see everything going on around me. Being the only girl in the family, growing up in a province saturated with NPA and political violence, I was trained to be aware of my surroundings. Then came training at work, and more so now that I have an 11 year old who now goes out and hang out with his friends, watch movie, do laser tag and their meeting place is usually a MALL.

I always believed that malls, hotels, condominiums should and must invest properly for their security. People expect to have the assurance of a decent level of security in these establishments. With the recent incident at Robinson's Galleria and increasing incidents of crime, it's really about time that these establishments review their current security set-up. When people go out to the mall, with family or friends, they expect to enjoy and have a good time. Part of that involves feeling secure in the environment. Especially as a mother when my son goes out with his friends, I want to know and feel assured that he is safe.

Photo via cebujournal.com
Of course, security is never foolproof. If someone is really determined, that person can cause problems or endanger people no matter how tight security is in a particular establishment. However, implementation of proper security measures, utilization of properly trained professionals and equipment can help minimize the chances of an incident. We always look to the police to deal with criminality and to ensure public safety. While it is their responsibility, having well trained and competent private security firms will help complement the efforts of the police and enhance the general security environment. 

The local security industry is not without professionals who know the business and have the proper background and training to provide security services of a high standard. Perhaps it is time to start placing focus on this aspect of the industry, to start listening to, and provide industry leaders and professionals the opportunity to raise the standards of the private security industry in the country. 

31 March 2012, Moira G Gallaga©


Take a Bow, Azkals

Step forward and take a bow, Azkals. Well deserved and congratulations to everyone in the team for achieving another historic milestone and for providing a great boost to Philippine football. No need to belabor the point of the tough road the Azkals had to take to accomplish this remarkable feat and its significance for the growth of the sport in our country, a lot has already been said about that and Filipino football supporters are quite aware of what all this means.

The battle for bronze was quite a match, nerve-wracking and exhilarating. A 4-3 score line, both teams just went at it and you could see how both sides really wanted to win the match. The first goal for me was one of the best among the goals scored by the team in this campaign. Counter-attacking football at its finest, sprinkled with a bit of individual flair and brilliance by Phil Younghusband. As the Azkals continue with their improvement, it is still likely for now that against stronger teams the Azkals will find it necessary to play conservatively and try to score on the counter. That first goal exemplified the effectiveness of a rapid transition from defense to offense. From just outside our penalty box, Angel Guirado gains possession and feeds it forward to the wing to relieve the pressure and initiate an offensive move. Chieffy gets to the ball and plays it through behind the Palestine defense for Phil Younghusband to break through towards goal. It still needed a moment of magic from Phil as he eluded 3 defenders to squeeze in a shot with his weaker foot, but that’s why Phil is in the team and the deserved winner of the tournament’s Golden Boot. From a defensive situation, it just took 2 quick passes to set up a goal scoring opportunity. Simple, direct and effective, brilliant stuff!

Phil Younghusband opens the scoring for the Philippines. Photo courtesy of goalnepal.com.
Taking that lead in four minutes from such a wonderful move was pretty crucial. I think that helped settle the team and convinced them that they could win this match. This was one of those matches that shows the importance of the mental aspect involved in football. We all know that football isn’t only about skills, physical condition, tactics and strategy, the mental aspect is just as critical too. Focus, belief, confidence, discipline and most of all, heart and determination are game changers by themselves. The match against Tajikistan and Palestine shows how the Azkals have been slowly trying to put all those elements together in their preparations for this tournament. The match against Turkmenistan shows that there is still room for improvement.

Going back to the Palestine match, it was pretty exciting from start to finish. The Dubai training camp and the Malaysia friendly provided an indication that the team was going to focus on achieving and relying on a solid defense as a foundation for its playing style. The approach was going to be conservative and practical. The results of this campaign showed that this was a move in the right direction. Considering that this is still a work in progress (refer to Turkmenistan match), it does make for nervy moments as opponents try to break down our defensive lines. While the team has improved a lot over the months, they are not yet at the point where they can control a match and seal the result. Despite leading 3-1 at the start of the 2nd half, there was no assurance yet that the match was in the bag. The Azkals had to fight and struggle to maintain their lead up to the very last minute, and the Palestinians came close to bringing the match to extra time.

I’m not complaining though, this is all part of the process. What is important is the breakthrough and the relevance of the results and the over-all direction of the efforts being made to achieve these types of results. For one, we are playing with a bit more defensive solidity and our offense managed to score 9 goals in this campaign, with 4 of them in one match. Likewise, the conservative and practical approach has been more effective. I felt that the coaching staff tailored it for the opponents the Azkals would be facing and it paid off. All in all, it has been a very productive campaign for the national team and a validation of the hard work and effort being made in the sport by all those concerned. Keep in mind that the road to this 3rd place in Kathmandu, Nepal started way back in February 9, 2011 at the Panaad Stadium in Bacolod City. Bagging the bronze at the AFC Challenge Cup is proof that Philippine football and our national team is headed down the right path. So once again, step up and take a bow Azkals.

2012 Moira G Gallaga©


The Agony of Defeat - Azkals vs Turkmenistan

Painful that was a painful loss. It's probably why I couldn't get myself to write my thoughts on the match after it ended. :) We were 10 minutes away from reaching the final and the subsequent result was quite agonizing. It takes a while to process one's emotions after a match like that. 

Then again, when was the last time the Philippine Men's National Football Team was on the verge of making it to the finals of a regional competition? I guess this roller coaster ride of emotions we've been subjected to during the AFC Challenge Cup tournament is a clear sign of the remarkable progress the Philippines has made in the realm of football. We've been subjected to the thrill of the victories that has marked the long road to qualifying for this tournament and the distinction of making it through to the semis while grouped with the 3 previous champions of this tournament. So, when the Azkals were minutes away from reaching the finals only to see that opportunity slip away in the last 10 minutes, I am sure the agony of the defeat was also clearly felt by all Filipino football supporters and fans. 

The loss may have been agonizing, but as some people say, a little suffering is good for the soul. Missing out on the final? We weren't even expected to be there in the first place, much less reach the semis. I'll take this kind of suffering and close calls anytime over those dark old days where Philippine football was just there to make up the numbers. Besides, when the moment the Azkals finally go all the way and win one for the country, it makes the achievement all the more sweeter and ecstatic. At the rate they are progressing, we might not have that long to wait. 

Photo via pinoyfootball.com
In the meantime, the Challenge Cup isn't over yet. There is still 3rd place to fight for against Palestine. So we've got one more chance of experiencing either the thrill of victory or the agony of defeat this Monday. I'd prefer the former of course, but either way, this has been a most productive undertaking for the Azkals.

There are many positives to take from this outing. We can dwell on those later, after the tournament. Right now, there's a match to win against Palestine. We'll have Angel Guirado and James Younghusband back for this match, who knows how the Turkmenistan match would have turned out if they were able to play. Hopefully, Jason Sabio is fit to start or will be able to put in some minutes at least. He's been quite a revelation; he has improved so much, has stepped up big time in Aly Borromeo's absence and rightfully claimed a starting spot in the team. With Neil Etheridge suspended, we need a solid defensive line against the Palestinians and the presence of Jason in the defense is badly needed for that purpose. In addition, having Jason playing beside Rob Gier in the center of the Azkals' defense allows Coach Weiss to play Juani Guirado as a defensive midfielder, a role he played quite effectively for the team's benefit.

As for Neil, kudos to him for taking responsibility for his actions. Given the way, Neil provides stability at the back and the way he commands the penalty, one tends to forget he is still only 22 years old. It was a boneheaded act on his part but to his credit, he acknowledged his mistake and made no excuses. His stabilizing presence at goal will be sorely missed.

The next match is just around the corner, a shot at another victory and the consolation of taking third place. Let's go Azkals! Go for that win! We're all behind you guys, all the way no matter what. WE BELIEVE! 

2012 Moira G Gallaga©


We All Bleed RED: Time to Get Rid of the Fil-What Nonsense

We All Bleed RED: Time to Get Rid of the Fil-What Nonsense:
2012 Moira G Gallaga©

Dear Mr. Clavio,

I'd like to share this for your enlightenment - We All Bleed RED: Time to Get Rid of the Fil-What Nonsense. Also, please don't insult our intelligence. Don't issue another crappy non-apology like the one you issued the other day, own up to what you said and stick to the main issue. That's what you call RESPONSIBILITY. It's what grown-ups do. You should try it.

This isnt just about your comments on the Azkals, it's also about all those Filipinos in similar circumstances.

'via Blog this'

SUMMER PROMO: Aquahealth Alkaline Ionized Water

When you buy water and they say its alkaline or alkaline ionized, make sure you ask what's the PH balance issued by a water regulatory body after they had certified the water test and if it is regulated properly and all facilities are checked by the Health Departments of respective countries. A water test to determine the alkaline level of the water you're producing takes about two weeks, be a discerning customer. 


DipNote : U.S. Department of State Official Blog

DipNote : U.S. Department of State Official Blog:

Promoting Understanding and Empowering Women Through Soccer in Malaysia

Sports is a great way of building bridges and connections between nations and peoples. This is why sports have also been an integral part of cultural exchanges between governments, it is a commonality where divergence of interests only occurs in the field of friendly competition. It is therefore not surprising to see governments use sports as a medium and tool for diplomacy and foreign policy. With its mass appeal and universal reach, football is the most obvious and effective candidate.  

'via Blog this'


Oh Dear Azkals, What Have You Done This Time? (Azkals at the AFC Challenge Cup)

Oh dear, oh dear! What have the Azkals have done this time? They really can't help themselves can they? Do they need to keep doing this? Yes. Why? Because they have to. 

So what is it they have done this time? Well, they just achieved another historic milestone for Philippine football by defeating 2006 AFC Challenge Cup champions Tajikistan 2-1 to advance for the very first time in our footballing history to the semi-finals of the Challenge Cup. Not bad, not bad at all. What's more, this isn't over yet. They actually have a fair chance of making it to the finals, and if they get there, who knows? This is football, and in this sport, anything can happen. However, let's not get ahead of ourselves, one step at a time. 

But before we delve into this highly significant development in the history and progress of Philippine football, let's provide an added sense of perspective and look back in time. We actually don't have to look back that far, we only have to go back to as recently as the AFF Suzuki Cup of 2010. The years before that, let's just say those were the dark ages. Okay, perhaps not really the dark ages as they were a few moments here and there, but for those who have been following Philippine football most of their lives, you know what I mean.  

So what has happened in the short period since December 2010 from which the renaissance of Philippine football is reckoned? Frankly, quite a lot. Beginning with that first time entry into the semi-finals of the Suzuki Cup that involved defeating the defending champions Vietnam and holding ASEAN powerhouse Singapore to a draw. Even the 1-0 losses to Indonesia in the two-legged semis was a very credible result and a marked improvement as our country proved to be no longer the region's whipping boy in the sport.

This was followed by successfully qualifying for the AFC Challenge Cup. We played in the first edition of this tournament in 2006 but there was no qualifying stage. We immediately were in the group stage where we failed to progress due to goal differential against Tajikistan (Revenge is sweet). The following tournaments in 2008 and 2010 we failed to qualify when qualifying stages were eventually introduced. For this current tournament, we had to hurdle Mongolia in a two-legged knockout match. Up next was a qualifying stage in Myanmar where we faced the hosts, Bangladesh and Palestine in a group format with the top two going through to play in Nepal. The Azkals squeezed through that one with 2 draws and a win. 

In between, the Azkals also managed to reach (again for the very first time in our football history) the second round of the 2014 World Cup qualifiers, eventually bowing out to a highly skilled and strong Kuwaiti team. 

Now, the Azkals have gone out and added a much bigger feather to their cap by reaching the semis of a major regional tournament. Finding themselves in the group of death along with 3 previous champions of this tournament and having to deal with a looming investigation and likely sanction for charges of sexual harassment on some of its players when they get home, the challenges were quite formidable indeed for our National Football Team. 

However, as is their habit, the Azkals find it within themselves to rise to the occasion and give their all for flag and country, not to mention for all their supporters who have shown faith and belief in them all through this time. A loss in the opening match, a convincing win to keep their chances alive and a winner take all match which they win by scoring two goals in the second half after going a goal down at the very end of the first half - a compelling storyline if there ever was one, couldn't have been scripted any better for such a momentous and historic achievement. 

They have come a long way in such a short time. They have worked hard, played with great commitment and heart, and hurdled considerable challenges along the way. They truly deserve this accomplishment and should not be denied the corresponding glory. Yet, this isn't all. It isn't over yet. On Friday, they have yet another opportunity to go one step further, another shot at making dreams come true for the Philippine football community and its fans and supporters.  

Turkmenistan stands in their way next and typical for the Azkals, it is always never an easy road for them. Key players Angel Guirado (Man of the match against Tajikistan) and James Younghusband will be suspended for the semi-final match. However, the back line is still intact and so is the central midfield  pairing of Mulders and Juani Guirado which gives the team some defensive stability. It is a matter of stepping up on the offense to compensate for the absence of Angel and James. 

What will be going for the Azkals is confidence and momentum. If they can relieve themselves of the pressure of expectation and continue with the progress they have been making they have a decent shot. They have already achieved their goal to reach the semis. This is farther than we've ever gone before in football, any further progress is icing on the cake. So relax Azkals, enjoy the moment and play your hearts out, and who knows what will happen next. 

So what have the Azkals done this time again? Well, aside from making history once more and bringing football back to life in the Philippines, they have made us proud as a country and a people. If you can't appreciate that fact, then I feel sorry for you. More than that, they have also gained us some measure of respect. 

Photo via GoalNepal.com

It's only football others will say, well that's my point, because it is football it matters. It is a sport that matters to literally hundred of millions of people in every corner of the world. The World Cup is bigger than the Olympics, football matches elicit passion in levels way above other sports. Football has been responsible for starting a war in Central America, yet it is also responsible for initiating a truce between an African government and rebels seeking to overthrow that government. Heck, even in the recent SEA games, Indonesia may have come out over-all winners of that competition but their victory isn't complete because they lost the football gold to Malaysia who really relished the fact that they got the gold in the event that really mattered for them and the Indonesians. This is the context in which we should be viewing our place in the global sport of football, the beautiful game - it matters and we have a fairly good chance of being competitive in this milieu if we really put our hearts, mind and resources into it. Perhaps this is also why its rise in the Philippines is causing fear in those who don't understand or can't accept its rising prominence in the Philippines. 

Football in the Philippines has been marginalized for a long time, never given a second thought until its recent success. Now it is challenging the order of things of our sporting environment and it is making a number of people and some quarters uncomfortable. Come on guys, let me say just one word - reality. Football has made its mark, and on its own merits by the way. Government had nothing to do with this, it is people with heart, passion and commitment who have made this happen. Embrace the phenomenon, take it into our hearts and allow it to prosper.  

This is just the beginning of a project, a dream, a vision that is slowly making itself a reality and a very distinct possibility. The Azkals have done it again and is showing us the way, giving us reason to believe and to feel proud. So let's do our part as well and start acting as one country and one people and let's get behind this project and support not only the Azkals but the growth and progress of football in the Philippines as well.  

In the meantime, Turkmenistan stands in the way of further glory, go Azkals! We believe! ...and why do I get this sneaky feeling that these guys are going to end up doing something again in a few days time? 

2012 Moira G Gallaga©


Destiny Awaits - Philippines in AFC Challenge Cup

After a convincing 2-nil victory over the 2011 South Asian champions and 2008 AFC Challenge Cup champions India, the Philippine Men's National Football Team, the Azkals, have kept their hopes for reaching the semis alive.

Following a defeat to North Korea, the Azkals needed to win against India. This they were able to do without too much trouble. India had its moments, but one can reasonable say that the Philippines were more or less in control of that match. The changes made by Coach Weiss in the midfield paid off, and Phil Younghusband put away two of his chances. The first goal was shades of the goal against Malaysia on the 29 February. That long throw-in by Sabio has provided an added dimension to our offensive options. All in all, it was a pretty good and exciting match, with the victory making it that much sweeter.

The victory has set up a "winner take all" match against previous AFC Challenge Cup champion (2006) Tajikistan. An interesting development is that because of the respective score lines of both teams in their respective matches with the other teams in this group of death, a draw would result to a penalty shootout. 

Destiny awaits the Philippine Azkals. Their fate in this tournament, and a shot at another historic milestone and achievement, is within their grasp and fully in their own hands. 

Aside from providing the Azkals an opportunity of getting to the semis, the victory over India also brings renewed confidence to the team and the players. The victory and the opportunity for further glory is a good boost to team morale and the players will be raring to take on Tajikistan. The last time the Philippines and Tajikistan tangled it ended in a draw. This is a very different Philippine team now, and while the Tajiks shouldn't be taken lightly, the Azkals have a pretty good chance to pull off an upset here.

It gets tempting to get carried away now that we see that we have a foot by the door (the Tajiks too, by the way), but I believe there is cause for optimism. There is a bit more composure in the way the Azkals have been playing lately, and the defense has been proving solid. As the underdogs in this tournament, such improvements in those particular areas have become very vital to their current progress in this tournament. Conservative, smart and focus should be the buzzwords in this upcoming match. We cannot discount of course the burden and pressure of expectation, now that destiny is just around the corner. They cannot afford to be anxious and nervous about this match. They should approach this match with the attitude that they have everything to gain and nothing to lose.  In my opinion, the mental aspect of football will be the determining factor in this upcoming match. Though by the looks of the team, from their training matches in the Middle East, the friendly against Malaysia and their first two matches in this tournament, it appears they have what it takes to stay focused on the task at hand and effectively deal with the pressure of the occasion. 

Photo via goal.com

Another cause for optimism is Coach Weiss. He has taken a more pragmatic and conservative approach to matches. The team is now more organized and compact, resulting to more stability at the back. Quite a change from the swashbuckling offensive game the Coach was initially trying to develop for the team. That worked against teams of lesser quality, but definitely not against that way ahead of us in terms of ability and team chemistry. This new approach and emphasis in our playing style has obviously served the team well so far in this tournament. Additionally, Coach Weiss has also been utilizing his subs more. He has previously been taken to task to use subs sparingly. He may have his reasons then, but lately we've seen that he has been making use of the bench more effectively. 

So there we have it. The Philippines is on the edge of achieving another footballing milestone. Destiny awaits! It is there for the taking and the chances of doing so look promising. As we all dwell on this and what this all means, let us also not forget to consider how far this team and Philippine football has come in so short a time. 

2012 March, Moira G Gallaga©


North Korea vs Azkals - Climbing Mountains

The lofty peaks of Nepal serve as a fitting background for the latest round of challenges that the Philippines Men’s National Football team, the Azkals, face in this latest edition of the AFC Challenge Cup.

Having earned the right to compete in this tournament after successfully making it through the qualifying stages, the Philippine Azkals finally make it to the tournament after failing to do so in the previous two tournaments (2008 and 2010) when a qualifying stage was introduced starting in 2008. To say that the Azkals figuratively have a mountain to climb out there in Kathmandu, Nepal is no understatement.

Not only do they have to contend with playing in a high altitude environment where oxygen levels are much lower, they have also found themselves grouped with the three previous champions of this competition – North Korea, India and Tajikistan. Furthermore, aside from Paul Mulders, it looks very unlikely that key players such as Stephan Schroek and Dennis Cagara will not be able to join the team due to club commitments. Captain Aly Borromeo is still recovering from injury and was left behind in Manila while Co-Captain Chieffy Caligdong has just only recently been cleared to play but unlikely to start pending full recovery.

Now if those factors weren’t enough, there is also this dark cloud hovering about the team following the charges of sexual harassment on two members of the team just after their friendly match against Malaysia and around the time they departed for Nepal. No telling what effect that had on the players concerned and to the team in general given the public firestorm that unfortunate incident generated here at home. That is quite a challenging mountain that the Azkals must be climb in the next few days. For the Philippines, the AFC Challenge Cup is aptly named indeed.

However, following some solid and decent performances in their Middle East tour in preparation for this tournament, and in their recent friendly against Malaysia, the Azkals have shown considerable improvement and progress. Though still very much the underdogs in their group, the team currently in Nepal has the potential of springing a surprise or two.

The team just lost 2-0 to North Korea after holding the Koreans to a scoreless draw for 57 minutes. Considering that the North Koreans are the defending champions of this tournament and as recently as 2010, were in the World Cup in South Africa as well, our team did fairly well despite the loss. Come to think of it, what is North Korea still doing in the Challenge Cup if it can qualify to play in the World Cup? Anyway, a loss to the powerful North Koreans was very likely but the positives that we can derive from that match was that the performance of the Azkals showed quite a bit of promise as we look ahead to our matches against India and Tajikistan.

Photo via pinoyfootball.com

Granted this wasn’t the World Cup team of North Korea but more a mixture of its younger players and its veterans (their Europe based players likewise could not make it due to club commitments), it is still widely accepted  that their current line-up in Kathmandu is quite formidable and they are still considered the team to beat in this tournament. Therefore, with regard to our chances of advancing from the “group of death,” we will need the North Koreans to sweep all their matches and the Azkals should do all they can to pull off wins against the other two. This is the best and simplest scenario that works in our favor. There are other permutations possible that will enable us to squeeze in to the semis, but let’s not complicate things that much for now. Let’s cross that bridge when we get there.

North Korea is the toughest in the group and the Azkals did remarkably fine against them. Maintain that defensive solidity and compactness that they’ve been working on since their training camp in the Middle East and it will serve as a good foundation for the matches ahead. Perhaps their early arrival in Kathmandu would have allowed them to get more acclimatized to the thin air and they should be improving physically with each succeeding match. Following their match against the Philippines, the North Korean coach believes that the Azkals can cause trouble for the other two teams in the group.

So here we go a shot at making history and an opportunity to create further momentum for the growth of football in the Philippines. Up in the mountainous country of Nepal, in its capital Kathmandu, a momentous occasion awaits Philippine football and its fans and supporters. It is not an easy task and the challenges are formidable, but it isn’t impossible. In fact, just being there is quite an accomplishment in itself, to even have a decent crack at making it to the semis speaks a lot of the progress that Philippine football has made in such a short period.

So let’s go Azkals, let’s go Filipinas for WE BELIEVE!!!

2012 Moira G Gallaga©


MEN IN BLACK (…with Whistle and those Colored cards)

An official football match is never complete without those men in black (Well, at least back in the days. Nowadays, they get to wear other colors) with the whistle and those colored cards running the match, the referee and his fellow officials. Love them or hate them (it is more often the latter); they are an integral part of the beautiful game and provide their fair share of cause for the passion that exists in the world of football.

From the players, coaches, pundits and the fans themselves, you get this feeling that referees all over the world are incompetent, never get things right and worse of all, and cost your team the match. It is very rare that referees get commended for a job well done. If they were, the praise most likely came from neutrals. Often you would hear how a referee ruined what would have been a good match. He missed a crucial call; he lost control of the match, etc. The litany is endless.

Then again, let’s try to put a little more objectivity in viewing or judging referees. Many of their mistakes get scrutinized very closely because nowadays technology allows us to review incidents on video frame by frame. Yet this is hindsight, in the actual match the referee has mere seconds, maybe even less, to render judgment on the field and make a call. It isn’t easy and on top of all that, you have thousands of fans and supporters second-guessing your every decision and being very vocal about their thoughts and opinions on a call.

Now let’s look at the bigger picture. Human error, this is a fact of life and we live with this every day. We try our best to minimize it but the fact remains that it is still something we just have to learn to deal with in our daily lives. Human error is a feature of our lives that just happens and once done, there isn’t much to do about it but pick up the pieces and move on. As it is in life, so it is in football. For me, that is part of the beauty and wide appeal of the game around the world as football, both its positive and negatives aspects, is simply but a reflection of life as we know it. Only in football, we experience and savor life through a prism that is entertaining, exciting and loud (…and with my husband beside me, then it would also be full of swearing too).

Photo via uflphilippines.com
Now don’t get me wrong, I also believe that a lot needs to be done to improve refereeing. While I acknowledge that refereeing errors is part and parcel of the game, I also believe that authorities should be doing all that they can to improve refereeing.

Moving to a local perspective, let me just say that from some of the UFL matches I’ve seen and from feedback I get from my husband (to be honest, not the most objective resource in this regard), it appears local refereeing here needs to significantly raise their standards. The refereeing standard leaves much to be desired, especially in the manner by which referees control the match. It’s not so much botched offside calls, non-calls for handball or even inconsistency of the calling of fouls. I acknowledge that like our football, we also need to grow and support the development of our local referees. In time and with the proper support, I am sure standards will improve and those issues minimized.

Photo via interaksyon.com
The more immediate concern I have with the local officiating is the seemingly loose control of referees over some heated matches. There were some tough UFL Division 1 matches where you get the feeling that things were just going to boil over and the “violence” on the field was threatening to get out of control. This is a matter that needs attention right away. It is a situation that isn’t going to help our players, especially our young talents. As a mother, I also don’t relish having my son watch a match degenerate into a brutal and “dirty” affair because the referees fail to control the players and the general conduct in which the match is played. I can live with having my team lose because the referee botched an offside call. However, I can’t take situations where referees fail to give yellow cards for unruly and “dirty” behavior, retaliatory fouls involving flying elbows and the like.

Having said that, I am hopeful that efforts are being made by the relevant authorities to help and support our referees. Our players, clubs and coaches are growing and developing as Philippine football is now beginning to get the attention and support it deserves, our referees should also be part of that equation.

After all, the men in black with whistles and those colored cards are as much a part of the game of football as everyone who loves the sport.  

2012 Moira G Gallaga©



Philippines vs Malaysia - SO CLOSE...

Another football match for our men’s National Football Team, the Azkals, and they faced a worthy and accomplished opponent for this fixture. It may have been only a friendly match under the FIFA calendar, but the PFF had chosen no less than Malaysia, the defending champions of the AFF Suzuki Cup, to test the mettle of our Azkals. Considering that the Azkals will be off in a tournament in about a week, this was a pretty good challenge for the national team to prepare them for the AFC Challenge Cup in Nepal.

Higher than the Philippines in the FIFA rankings, and widely acknowledged to be the much better team, the Azkals were the underdogs in this match. The last time the Philippines beat Malaysia was 21 years ago at the 1991 SEA games. The succeeding occasions in which we got to face Malaysia on the football pitch have always been in Malaysia’s favor.

That’s not surprising of course. While the growth of football in the Philippines has gained momentum only recently, Malaysia had undertaken a long-term and effective grassroots development program to be where they are now. Based on interviews with the Malaysian coach, the core of their current squad were formed 10 years ago, back in the youth levels and were carefully nurtured and supported as they went up the ranks. Aside from being the 2010 Suzuki Cup champions, Malaysia is also the back-to-back champions or gold medalists in ASEAN U23 football for 2009 and 2011. Evidently, they are force to be reckoned with in the region and definitely posed a tough and skilled opponent for the Azkals.

Aside from serving as a warm-up match for the AFC Challenge Cup, the Azkals coaching staff and players described this friendly match as a gauge by which the progress of the Azkals can be measured following the renaissance of Philippine football sparked by that amazing run to the semis of the 2010 Suzuki Cup in December 2010. With Malaysia’s footballing pedigree, the match was indeed a very effective gauge by which we could assess where we stand in terms of football in Southeast Asia.

Well, the match did prove that the Azkals had been making steady progress and improvement since December 2010. Boy, were we so close to causing an upset and replicating that remarkable feat in 1991. The match ended in a draw, but despite the horrible condition of the pitch and Neil Etheridge’s choice of shorts (my husband and I thought he was planning to play golf instead of football, still swoon-worthy :), the Azkals put in a sterling performance.

We took the lead in the 34th minute through a diving header from Denis Wolf and held on to it until the Malaysians equalized in the first minute of added time. So close…

While we didn’t come away with a win that would have been well deserved had we done so, we could take heart that the team played really well and caused a lot of trouble for the Malaysians. This wasn’t the gallant stand of circa 2010 where we would absorb the pressure and take advantage of quick counters via route one. This time around, the Azkals played at a less frenetic pace and tempo, and did so with more composure and purpose. I could tell because my husband was a bit calmer watching the match – hardly any swearing or abuse being hurled at the referee.

This was an enjoyable match to watch. To me, teams were evenly matched, it was quite an open game in various periods and control of the match would shift back and forth. It was nice to relish the ebb and flows of the match. Of course, the fact that we were doing very well against the Malaysians further adds to the satisfaction. Being objective about it, the draw was a fair outcome. The Azkals showed that their neighbors in the region should start viewing them more seriously and the Malaysians worked for their equalizer.

Photo courtesy of www.sktdigital.com.ph

Most of all, I enjoyed those little moments that make football such a beautiful game. I agree with my husband that aside from the strategies, skills, techniques, and the tactics, football is also a game of inches and moments of team or individual brilliance that can make a significant impact in a match. A matter of inches to the left, to the right, higher or lower, and that’s the difference that could spell the outcome of a match. A brief moment of instant and almost telepathic connection between players in a team that result in a mesmerizing move and interplay with the ball can likewise determine the outcome of a match, not to mention leaving you standing there with your jaw almost hitting the ground in awe. Then of course let’s not forget the moments of individual brilliance and genius of the players. This is what football is about, and the match had its share of those little moments.

Angel Guirado hitting the post was one of those moments. A few inches to the left and that would have gone in and we’d have been 2 goals up. Not to mention that the shot was made possible by a pretty nifty bit of skill by Angel to get him just that little amount of space to make that shot. Inches and a moment of brilliance, and we were so close to causing an upset. Of course, it also was a moment of brilliance for the Malaysians that got them back in the match and salvaged some pride for their side. A skillful change of direction that took out Jason Sabio and gave the Malaysian player just that little bit of space to place a shot just beyond the reach of Neil Etheridge. A moment of brilliance and a few extra precious inches of space, they were so close to losing and we were so close to winning. Kind of felt sorry for Jason Sabio there as he was playing very well in that match, solid in defense for most of the match. But as they say, “es futbol,” and that’s why I really love this game.

So, honors even between the Philippines and Malaysia on the 29th of February 2012, not bad Azkals, not bad at all. We were so close to causing an upset. While there is a common phrase that goes “so close, yet so far,” in this case, viewing it from a footballing perspective and where the Azkals stand in terms of Southeast Asian football, it’s more like “so close, and no longer so far away.” Congratulations Azkals and once again you give us all reason to continue believing.

2012 Moira G Gallaga©