AZKALS: Wearing Our Colors with Pride

The year 2011 has been quite a milestone for Philippine football. The achievements of the Azkals, Dan Palami’s tireless effort and dedication to the improvement of the men’s national football team, corporate sponsorship, higher media profile for the sport and its players, the growing interest in the UFL, regional and national tournaments, leadership change at the PFF, are some of the highlights for Philippine football in 2011. To sum it up, football has started to grow into the consciousness of Filipinos (really about time and long overdue :-D ) Philippine football has attracted a lot of attention and support for the sport is growing.

This year promises to be just as significant for Philippine football as well. Elections for the PFF leadership in November last year resulted in ensuring that initiatives started in 2011 are to be continued and followed through. The year will start with a charity match for the victims of typhoon Sendong between Azkals Alyansya and Spanish Tercera Division club, Internacional de Madrid. Our national teams, from the senior to the U-levels, will also be very busy this year. Every opportunity to play and compete, whether a friendly fixture or a regional or international tournament are being taken advantaged of in 2012. A good sign and the smart thing to do given the challenge we face in terms of catching up with teams in our region.

In addition to the fixtures for the Azkals and its junior teams, the UFL’s two divisions will also be starting its regular season. Now that’s a lot of football action for the supporters and fans to look forward to this year.

Of the various milestones and developments in Philippine football that I have been referring to in the preceding paragraphs, there is one common underlying thread that brings it all together – the supporters and the fans. Institutional reforms, improved training, better technical education, improved infrastructure, grassroots development, corporate sponsorship, media coverage, etc. are all essential elements for football’s growth and development in this country. However, the key to the sustainability and the driving force behind those elements are the fans and the supporters.

We, the supporters and fans, are vital to football’s growth. Our interest and avid support for the sport at all levels is what draws corporate sponsors to invest in its growth. For those of us with children, we have the opportunity to impart this passion into our kids. For some parents, it is what motivates us to support our children’s dreams and aspiration to participate and do well in the sport. For others, they are driven to help less privileged children learn the sport and provide them with an opportunity to play. If not to give them an opportunity to find a way out of their harsh situation, then at the very least to give them an opportunity to have time to enjoy being a kid and play a game of football with other kids. 

For the supporters and fans of Philippine football, 2011 had also been a milestone. We’ve worn the colors of the Azkals with pride. From places as remote as Mongolia to our home ground at the Rizal stadium, our colors were visibly on display. We even managed to turn an away friendly in Singapore into a home match.

More significantly, we have also started to understand and appreciate the game and our national team a bit better. It isn’t only about winning; our ability as supporters and fans to appreciate our team in defeat and realize the challenge that still lies ahead is a positive development that is good for football’s growth.

Special mention should go to Mr. Ebong Joson, the “Blue Haired Fanatic,” and the Kaholeros. They are showing us the way in this area. We Filipinos are new at this, we haven’t yet developed a football culture but signs indicate that we will get there and the Kaholeros are at the forefront of this evolution. How we eventually develop our own manner of stadium support is the least of our concerns.

Appreciating and supporting football is about passion and love for the beautiful game. While winning is a part of it, it isn’t the be all and end all for a true blooded football supporter. What is crucial now as we head into 2012 is that we continue to show up at the stadium to show our support and wear our colors or to watch the games on television, whether it is the national team or a UFL club. We can also take this further by becoming involved in the sport’s grassroots development. It can be as simple as giving your child an opportunity to learn and appreciate the sport. If he or she already plays the game, then this entails ensuring that he or she gets every opportunity to play the sport and train to become better at it. We can also choose to support initiatives of local communities and organizations that are using the sport as a means of reaching out and helping out less privileged children.

The year 2012 beckons at us with plenty of opportunities for us to manifest our support and love for the game of football. We all have our roles to play, from the players, their training staff, the PFF and us, the supporters and the fans. Let’s start this year with the same gusto and enthusiasm as we did in 2011 and embrace all these opportunities that lie ahead to show to one and all our strong desire and interest to see football grow in the Philippines. Let’s go out there and wear our colors with pride.

2012 Moira G Gallaga©