I KNOW there are some Azkals fans who are secretly celebrating ABS-CBN’s demise because they somehow get perverse pleasure in other people’s misery, but the network had a huge role in spreading the team’s -- and the sport’s popularity.
In 2010, when it seemed only the guy in Malacañang lacked empathy, ABS-CBN was the first network to interview the Azkals. I think that was in the morning after the Vietnam game and the players and the team got introduced to mainstream media courtesy of ANC. I think Ces Drilon was the anchor and I think she had the players taking turns in front of the webcam so they could greet their fans. That was the first time I learned one of the foreign-based players, Ray Jonsson, was a Cebuano when he greeted, “Maayong buntag.”
Since then, the Azkals were a regular fixture’s in the network’s news programs whenever anything newsworthy came along. GMA, on the other hand, always late to jump into the sports bandwagon, had a woeful stint that time. I remember, one of their scoops was a laughable story of how the Younghusband brothers, born in the UK and playing for the Philippines, were set to represent Indonesia next. The Kapuso network finally got their sports stories right when they signed up Chino Trinidad to counter Dyan Castillejo.
Two years later, ABS-CBN signed a four-year deal with the Philippine Football Federation, ushering the golden age of Philippine football in mainstream media. Sure, there were some cringe-worthy moments, especially when the network tried their showbiz-type reports. But then again, all of that just added to the team’s popularity, which in turn led to jampacked crowds at the Rizal Memorial Stadium.
The deal eventually ended, but ABS-CBN’s coverage of the team, and of football, did not. Collegiate football got TV mileage, international matches and friendlies got air time on TV Patrol and team development got ample space in their web stories.
So yes, ABS-CBN had a huge role in football, just one of many the network now much hated by a strange segment of society, a segment which like the man in charge in 2010 lacks empathy. Aside from football, the network changed the path of volleyball in the country and created an atmosphere where two pro leagues thrived.
Now it is gone and some sports fans who think it’s unsportsmanlike to celebrate a team’s loss are celebrating. Strange the times we live in now. But I hope, just as Philippine football had a series of ups and downs and managed to climbed to its highest with an Asian Cup stint, the network will somehow recover from this down and return to one of its many beloved roles.
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