It is disappointing that up to this day--eight years after they caught the world’s attention in Hanoi--some in Southeast Asia’s football community still question the identity of our football team.
Just because countries like Indonesia and Singapore fielded naturalized players in the past doesn’t mean that our football team’s lineup is composed of naturalized players.
They are not. These are the sons of the Filipinos who went abroad in search for better fortunes in the mid 70s. They are as Filipino as the sons and daughters of your friends, brothers, sisters, uncles or other relatives who went to work abroad and eventually settled there.
The Azkals aren’t the first products of the diaspora who have played for the flag nor will they be the last. I remember interviewing a kid who was with the youth academy of Atletico Madrid a few years back. A few years from now, he could be in the national team’s radar.
I guess, some of our Southeast Asian neighbors just can’t accept the fact that we’ve narrowed the gap--and overtaken them in the rankings--ever since that Hanoi Miracle and they love to throw that half-blood or naturalized players stick at us.
Well, you know what happens if you keep throwing a stick at a street dog. At one point, he’d be fed up and you’d end up in the wrong end of a nasty growl.
When they started, there was some grudging resentment from other sectors of the Philippines, but it’s largely gone now and the team has been accepted once it was pointed out to the haters that the players are sons of OFWs.
As for Asean neighbors, I hope they stop this line of thought. There’s no naturalized player in the lineup and we have no need for one, thanks to the Filipino diaspora.
The Philippines will play Vietnam again tonight and fans now know all the scenarios that we need. We need to win 2-0 to advance to the finals since we lost the first leg, 2-1.
The last time we beat Vietnam in their own court was in 2010, the so-called Miracle in Hanoi. In a country that loves sequels in film festivals, we are going for a sequel in football.
Miracle in Hanoi 2.0 they are calling it and Azkals fans all over the world are saying an extra prayer or two to make sure that it happens.