Limpag: Not the finish we wanted, but still...

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Sunday, June 1, 2014


THERE are going to be so many heartbreaks. That’s what happens in sports and for sports fans.

Real life isn’t reel life. There are no last-minute goals or last-second dunks.

There are no—cue in the background music and slow mo)—last minute heroics where the team you root for come from behind to win against the villainous team.

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It’s real life. Sometimes, the breaks don’t go our way and we just have to admit we lost.

For Lakers fans, it’s not a new feeling. For England fans, it’s sort of something they renew every World Cup.

And for fans of the Philippine national team—the Azkals—last Friday night’s loss to Palestine was stinging.

We could have won it and we should have won it.

That’s what then national team coach Aris Caslib told me when, a few hours after losing to Malaysia in the 2005 Southeast Asian games, we got to talk over beer.

“It was a great effort,” I said.

“No! Sayang! We should have won it!” he said, ruing the chance to make it to the semis for the first time in 14 years.

I have to admit, that’s what I thought minutes after the final whistle in the AFC Challenge Cup.

It was our best chance to make it to the Asian Cup, we should have won it! Not a few fans thought that way too.

But, just as Cebuanos explain it when things don’t go our way, “Dili gyud to para sa ato.”

It wasn’t meant for us.

Some fans have even taken solace that at least our loss meant one war-torn nation has found a reason to unite and celebrate.

I have to admit, I had high expectations of the team. After that close loss to Azerbaijan, when the team played brilliantly in the second half, I secretly thought this team will win the AFC Challenge Cup. But that’s something you don’t say out loud, lest you jinx the squad.

I began to have doubts at the start of the first half in the final, with our midfield losing control and Palestine poking holes. If not for Roland Muller, we would have been down, but our hopes were rekindled when we began fighting back and Phil got the chance of a lifetime.

But then the second half happened and late in the match, the man who brought Philippine football back on track—Dan Palami—got sent off.

If you want analysis on what the team could have done better, you won’t find it here. You can find it in some posts online, some even suggested that we get David Alaba, go figure.

What I just like to point out though is what Thomas Dooley said. The future is bright for the Philippines because of guys like Daisuke Sato and Amani Aguinaldo. Both 19, one learned his football in Japan, the other in Davao and I dare say future national teams will be anchored on them.

Did I say they’re just 19 and that we have other guys barely off their teens like OJ Porteria and Kenshiro Daniels? Of course, every time fans refer to their age is a nod against the powers that be in Philippine sports who decides who gets to compete or not in the Southeast Asian Games.

If we send one next year, we are probably going to fall short, too, and end up disappointed. Or perhaps, just like in this Challenge Cup, we’d make it all the way to the finals.

We can’t really know because that’s sports, right Mr. Chariman?

After all those disappointments, the what-could-have-beens, the we-should-have-won-that, we’d still be there in the next whistle. Break our hearts once, and you won’t get to do it again. That doesn’t apply in sports. Go ask the Lakers or England fans, or even the Kevin Durant fans.

Yes, it was a disappointing end to our AFC Challenge Cup but the boys didn’t disappoint and one sequence always come to mind; with Muller beaten, Aguinaldo, stepped in, and when he was beaten, the ageless Rob Gier risked life and limb to stop a shot. The guys gave it all—plus the neighbor’s kitchen sink.

It just wasn’t meant for us.

So the journey continues. And the disappointed and heart-broken fans will be along with the team for the whole ride.

(www.cebufootball.blogspot.com)

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on June 02, 2014.

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