Lessons I Learned From the Azkals

We are a basketball-insane archipelago! We all know that so don’t argue. We claim that game as ours. It’s in our culture. A religion for hard-boiled disciples. But in 2010, a team called Azkals, purporting to be our men’s national football team, made us forget about slam dunks and three point shots for a moment and (from out-of-nowhere) created a one-of-a-kind football revolution. Since then, the team inspires more and more hoop zealots to follow the “beautiful game” as well.

But more than the inspiration and the pride, the Azkals taught me and continues to teach me sensible lessons in football and in life. And please allow me to share some.

1. Not all zeroes are as bad as it sounds. Following and watching the Azkals is for me like watching and awaiting the results of a Pacman match. The excitement. The intensity. The madness. The game is long because the struggle is hard. But never ever boring. Even a scoreless draw is full of excitement because passion and determination prevail. One goal would have the same effect as a 20-nil in the first quarter of a basketball game. And in a country weaned in instant gratification, we are starting to appreciate low scores earned with great difficulty.

2. It’s not how you fall. It’s how you bounce back. The Azkals’ pride to play is tarnished for it has felt defeat, not only once but many times. A nil score is part of our men’s national football team’s history. After all, a whipping boy is not a whipping boy if he always wins. But no matter how many 3-0s or 5-0s it suffers, it keeps on fighting. Despite the odds, it still manages to give good results and deodorizes whatever failures our government has had in many years. If determination has a face, we will surely find the Azkals next to it in the dictionary.

3. Not all bad seeds came from the same fruit. A Thai-Belgian blogger once argued that foreign-trained Filipino athletes played for the country mainly due to sponsorships. But the Azkal players beg to disagree. Considering that they have better paying jobs abroad, one would truly find it remarkable that the Azkal players choose to come home and wear the Philippine colors, even if the monthly allowance of our athletes is “barya-barya lang”. I read a comment someone posted on the Azkals’ fan page that said “sometimes those half-breeds love our country even more” and I agree.

4. Take chances. Remember, there is no harm in trying. Football is too short. In this game, nothing happens to a coward. Seize every moment, every opportunity. Don’t be afraid to take risks, chances. Don’t be afraid to fail because failure is inevitable throughout the game. We are humans, after all. Prone to errors; never exempt from failures. So when you meet shattering number of near-makes and misses, you are left with only two choices. It’s either you continue to strike for a goal, more driven than ever and discover how far your passion can take you or just fold and give up.

5. Sport unites. I am a sports fan. I know that sports unite us, with what Pacman has done for us over and over again. I know that sports can bring a divided nation together and can be a source of pride among us. I am so amused by the support and adoration the Azkals has been getting from the Filipinos – it is impassioned, it is amazing, it is crazy. Others have gone to the extent of professing their undying love to the players. And I have a feeling that such sentiment will truly last. Why not? The Azkals sparked a national bayanihan movement. You see not all national teams get the same level of adoration accorded to the Azkals. To get the love and support of a nation is like winning half the battle.

And the biggest lesson I learned (and the simplest actually) is…

6. Never doubt your own. As cheesy and mushy as it may sound, this is one simple lesson we deeply needed to relearn. Many times, we doubt our abilities as Filipinos. We became fearful and coward. And worse, we feel being inferior to somebody else. We always think of what we cannot do. Rather think of what we are capable of. The Azkals showed what Filipinos can offer the world – our talent, our passion, our determination, our heart and our soul. In the few months that we displayed our love and respect to the Azkals; we had also, unconsciously, displayed our love and respect to our country and its people.

I know the Philippines is broken-hearted. We have been dreaming of Brazil for days. We dream of cheering our own team from the stands of Maracana. It only took an opponent’s victory to author the death of our World Cup dream (at least for now). And it was enough to break our hearts. There are a lot of things I could say that would probably make me feel better. I could whine about how poor the Azkals’ offense was. I could whimper on how Etheridge seemed out of it. I could snivel on how Coach Weiss miscalculated everything. I could sulk in and sour grape for days. But to tell you, I won’t. Should the team apologize for not conquering Kuwait? Of course not.

I don’t defend them just because I'm a fan. I defend them because I'm Filipino. Maybe this is what I learned growing up cheering for and supporting teams which don’t win all the time. No matter how hard we wish, the Azkals can’t have it all. Sometimes we win, sometimes we lose. No matter how ready, no matter how competitive we are, if we are not destined to win, we will not. And that’s the bitter reality: aiming for things that seem too easy to achieve yet very difficult to pursue because it is not meant for us.

Though we didn’t soar as high as we wanted to, I cannot help but feel happy and proud of our football team. Why wouldn’t I? I witnessed how our boys shocked the field. How they jostled it out with the region’s best. How they turned skeptics into believers and believers into fans. How they earned the salutation of the opponents. And most importantly, how they united the country. And for me, that’s more than enough. Even if the Azkals lose, they sort of win.

When the dusts settle and the hullabaloo is gone, it’s easy to see who are the fair-weather friends among the die-hard fans. Because anyone can support a team that is winning - it takes no courage. But to stand behind a team, to defend a team when it is down and really needs you, that takes a lot of courage.


poot said...

Though we have to wait again for years to try again for the World Cup. I'm happy to report that our World Cup dream is not yet dead. Far from it. :D

Anonymous said...

Ditto, JUbert. Couldn't have said it any better myself.

We lost the match, we lost the opportunity to qualify for the prestigious World Cup.. That, we did. But the good thing about the team (and the Filipinos) is that, they believe .. WE BELIEVE.. that it's not a defeat. It's just delayed success.

Watching the last game gave me a sense of PRIDE. So proud, PILIPINAS.

Yes indeed, the World Cup dream is far from over.


poot said...

The thing I like the most is that, when you look at the game, it doesn't seem a match between the 96th and 162nd in the world.

Yes, we lost but we lost to a better team. There's no need to be bitter about that. Some Filipinos are just idiots to the bone. Tsk.

As for me, I'll be on the team not because they're winning but because they're trying really hard.


Malditang "Kura"cha said...

Very well said Enchong! What a comeback entry! I had a few goosebumps while reading it. Swear. And that's what I miss about you. Ayii! Kaw naman kasi.. ang tagal nawala ha. Hmp!

Honestly, I'm not a fan. Maybe because I don't know any rules on football kaya never ko siyang napanood. Ang loser ko lang. hahah! But I'm very much aware of what they did to our country. Even if they lose the battle, everyone is still proud of them. Ibang klase ang magic ng mga boylet na yan.

Hoobert the Awesome said...

That's what I felt when Schrock made that Pocket Schrocket: GOOSEBUMPS.

LOL. E kasi naman, tinatamad akong lumabas ng bahay. Look, 2 months walang connection kila Lola kaya ayun. LMAO. Anyway highway, nandito na ako, alive and kicking. :)))

Sana nga Ate Kura-ching proud lahat. Hay. Try to read some comments from Pinoys, it will piss you off talaga. Nakakainis. GRRR.

*breath in, breath out*

pusang kalye said...

you know waht.seeing this post of yours makes me very happy.very well said and I agree with you.yan din ang nasa puso ko.and I am an azkals supporter no matter what. natutuwa ako at dumadami ang mga bloggers na nakaka-appreciate ng sports.sabi ko nhga.its about time we have football here.and yeah---they need all the support they can get.we have to be there through thick and thin at di pag me hype lang. yun-----sa message mo sa blog ko---does it mean you are going back to manila?

do you tweet? find me in twitter ha. PUSANGKALYE22 . keep in touch.hehehe

Shey Malindog said...

Impressive..you always manage to impress me poot', you are blessed with substantial ideas and intellect. As for Azkals, the bf really watches the game though i only catch a game or two. But they really set the house on fire. And i agree with you, this game/event Pacman or not seem to silenced the nation -call it unity. And so to speak, we still have the spirit! And yes.. Delayed success! substantial ideas and intellect. As for Azkals, the bf really watches the game though i only catch a game or two. But they really set the house on fire. And i agree with you, this game/event Pacman or not seem to silenced the nation -call it unity. And so to speak, we still have the spirit! And yes.. Delayed success!

Dani said...

I'm not a big soccer fan but I am awed by national athletes. I mean, I could never believe that they do it all (or only) for sponsorship. So way to go, win or lose! :)

marxtermind said...

I tagged you sa 7LinksProject! :)

kg said...

love this post! the lessons are 100% correct! nice to know that you learn as much while watching them! :)

Hoobert the Awesome said...

Yes Kuya Anton. I am a big, big Azkals' fan. Well actually, not only the national football team but also our other national teams.

And we have to be behind them not because they are winning but because they are fighting 'til the end.

And yes, I am in Manila right now. :))) Oops sorry, I don't tweet. LMAO.

Hoobert the Awesome said...

Hello Shey! Thank you for the kind and awesome words. :) I feel so much loved. I would like to think that you're really a die-hard fan of mine. LMAO. I'm just kidding.

I haven't seen them on flesh yet. Maybe on their next home-game next year. *fingers crossed*

Hoobert the Awesome said...

That's also what I'm thinking Ate Dani. They are in good FCs abroad and to go home and play football for the country is really impressive and inspiring.

Aren't we the lucky ones?

krn said...

am starting to love Azkals. No, I indeed love Azkals. nalungkot talaga ko sa pagkatalo nila. gayunpaman, kudos pa rin to them! i certainly agree with you :D