The final whistle has sounded. It’s official — the Philippine Azkals lost to Kuwait, 1-5 on aggregate, ending the Philippine bid to qualify for the 2014 Brazil FIFA World Cup. For a country passionately rooting for the Azkals to win, the loss is heartbreaking, but it was a great run.
Team Manager Dan Palami said the team needs a miracle to overcome the 3-point deficit from the first leg in Kuwait. We all know it was an uphill battle. Yet the Azkals came out to play their hearts out. The fans came out to scream their lungs out. The miracle didn’t come. We still believed.
The Azkals won against Asian powerhouse teams, which shows that the team is playing well. The Azkals didn’t play terribly against the well-oil Kuwait (pun intended). The Kuwaiti team simply played really well, from ball handling to goal attacking. Kuwait ranks more than a hundred in the world. It’s no surprise that Kuwait won.
Losing to a better team is not something to be ashamed of – it’s a challenge to work harder. Now we know that we have lightyears to go before we acquire the set of skills and players to receive the baton from the current Azkals, who would probably be too old for the chase to the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia. The Pilipinas futbol program should be pursued with zeal into the next generation. A winner never quits and a quitter never wins, we were always reminded when we were young. Back to the drawing board. The chance to compete in the international stage against elite teams is always a welcome opportunity.
The Azkals has done a lot to fire up national interest in the international sport of football. Filipinos by blood, in the Philippines or abroad, found interest and pride in trying out for the team. For a country that was far from futbol-crazy, the army of cheering fans is a sight to behold. Rain or shine, abroad or in the Philippines, the Filipinos came and cheered the team. The Philippine flag was proudly waived or gamely emblazoned on cheeks and faces. The Philippines cheered as a country. It’s “us” versus “them”, not Filipinos against Filipinos. One Team. One Country. That, in my book, is something to be happy about.