(This is my Fair Play column for SunStar Cebu’s July 18 edition. This was written before the final)
My friend and kababayan Mark, who once spent his birthday flying to Manila to watch an Azkals game, watched the Malditas for the first time against Thailand on Tuesday.
Now based in Canada, it was understandable why he missed the first four wins. And of course, being a PHL football fan, he couldn’t stay away for the Thailand game.
We all know what happened in that game.
As one of those breeds of football fans who have superstitious beliefs—me being one of them—Mark associated his watching the Malditas with them losing. So, while we were at first talking about where to get a live stream, Mark said he wouldn’t watch the game.
Of course being of a similar mind, I told him not to.
When we were up, 1-0, I sent a message in our group chat, “If you’re not watching, stay away, we’re up, 1-0.”
I sent the same message two and three goals after.
I’m mentioning that little tidbit because last Friday against mighty Vietnam, everyone was like Mark, they did what they could to help the team, even if it means not watching the team. From the fans who stayed up late several time zones from us, from the fans who made sure those who wanted to go had tickets. Heck, the movement wasn’t even limited to the football community–fan pages of the basketball and volleyball communities were encouraging their followers to be in Rizal.
I’ve been a sportswriter since 1997, I’ve covered PHL football since 1999 and in 2005, I was part of that small group that came up with the Azkals nickname. Heck, based on my recollection, I came up with the Azkals’ nickname.
But I have never seen this movement, this level of support for the Malditas. For the Filipinas.
Yes, they haven’t seen a full-packed Rizal, but remember the rules governing Fifa matches now was different in the Azkals heyday.
I have never seen fans get so involved the way they did with the Malditas.
And the Filipinas are returning the favor.
The basketball community, so divided by Gilas and Chot Reyes is encouraging its members to troop to Rizal. One cheeky basketball fan even posted that thanks to Chot Reyes, the embattled Gilas coach, he got to know about the Philippine women’s football team.
Of course, this is not to further the basketball-football divide. For me, that shouldn’t exist. A fan of Philippine football can also be a fan of Philippine basketball.
What I’m driving at is that this Philippine women’s team achievement is so great, they pierced the basketball bubble and the basketball fans are happy that they did it.
That is nothing short of remarkable.