The football-frenzy has finally hit the Philippines. After countless decades of basketball and boxing craze, the Filipinos have found a new sport to go crazy about. The Philippine’s stunning 2-0 win against the defending champion Vietnam in the AFF Suzuki Cup 2010 not only made headlines on Sports Illustrated, a US-based sports magazine, but also proved that the Filipinos can keep up with other international teams in other sports besides basketball. Gifted with excellent dexterity and speed due to their small stature, one cannot deny and imagine what amazing things Filipinos can do in the football field. Truly football is the sport fit for the Filipinos.
Football was first introduced to the Filipinos by English sportsmen who are members of the Manila club in the 1890’s during the Spanish colonial period. However, it was not easily accepted by society before, for it was played by half-mad foreigners. But due to curiosity and the highly imitative character of the young Filipinos, the game was soon played by the locals. Paulino Alcantara, a mestizo born and raised in Iloilo, played football for Joan Gamper’s FC Barcelona team in 1912 until 1927. He scored a total of 357 goals during his whole stay in the club and even earned the nickname El Rompe Redes meaning net breaker because of the force of his kicks. He was considered a great asset to the team and was deemed the greatest Filipino football player ever produced. (azkals-philippinefootball.com)
Football, however, was then overtaken by basketball and boxing a few decades later when the Spaniards left and the Americans came and took charge in colonizing the Philippines. Basketball became the new fever, the locals welcomed the newly introduced sport with open arms, and everybody wanted to be part of the hype. Although it didn’t quite suit the Filipinos because of their small stature, football was still ignored and later on forgotten by most of the Filipinos.
The Philippine National Football Team, more commonly known to the locals as the Azkals which was derived from the Filipino word “asong kalye” meaning stray dog in English, is the oldest national football team in Asia, however one of the most underfunded and underdeveloped ever since Philippine football took a back seat to Philippine basketball. Although the sport and the team has finally bounced back and gained fame all around the world, they have yet to be fully embraced by the basketball crazy nation as part of their culture. Support from the local government would surely boost the revival and preservation of football in the Philippines and other unsupported sports as well. Nonetheless, commercial offerings from different companies and sponsorship from wealthy businessmen and religious group have definitely helped in assuring the bright future for the team and sport in the Philippines.
Aside from being the oldest team in Asia, the Philippine National Football Team is also known for having the best looking players in the...