Villaflor: Forgetting the Azkals

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Thursday, April 24, 2014


IN A time where attention spans are getting shorter by the minute, more things are taken for granted.

Take football, for instance. The milestones reached in a short period of time now seem like a distant memory.

A decade ago, who would think that this country could produce a national team that could stand shoulder to shoulder with Southeast Asia’s powerhouses?

Then in 2010, after half a dozen years of buildup, the breakthrough in Vietnam took place.

The impossible happened, the Azkals became a household name, and football regained its spot in the national consciousness.

Every game of the national team was met with excitement. Fans flocked the stadiums to support the team during home matches, watched on TV, or followed tweets or live streams online, whether during friendlies or competitive matches.

At the same time, stories surrounding the lives of players who were now worshipped like matinee idols reached sensational proportions. Once in a while, some of these players got involved in scandals, real or imagined.

In short, football in the Philippines got really popular.

Those who grew up longing for football to become part of the sports mainstream never imagined all these happening in their lifetime. But it did. Never mind the negative stories, it’s all part of this popularity game. Besides, there is no such thing as negative publicity, right?

Yet somewhere along the way, interest in football and the Azkals somewhat waned.

Unimpressive results and unmet expectations, coupled with the public’s short attention span, must have contributed to what might be called a tapering of sorts. Some unwanted baggage got unloaded from the football bandwagon, a process that nobody, not even the crabs, noticed. If somebody did, his short attention span might have gotten the better of him.

Eventually, reception to forthcoming Azkals games became lukewarm. This coming friendly against Malaysia in Cebu City is of no exception.

Fans need to be repeatedly reminded of how crucial this match is even if it’s a friendly, of what sort of world-class football they’ll be missing if they miss the match. They need to be reminded of a similar game in Cebu two years ago – Nov. 15, 2012 to be exact – and how exhilarating that was.

Seeing the Azkals beat the Singapore Lions 1-0 – how priceless is that?

A short memory and an even short attention span make for an ugly combination. Good thing forgetful fans aren’t such a hopeless case.

(nsvillaflor@gmail.com)

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on April 25, 2014.

Sports

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