Limpag: The Azkals lost but everything seems alright

Fair Play

The Azkals, the team whose new manager wants it to be known simply as the PMNT, lost again at home. After an impressive showing in Iraq, where they conceded only a goal, the Azkals got on the wrong end of a 5-0 rout, showing how huge a gap the team has to conquer if it wants to play with the Big Boys in Asia.

But despite the loss, the men’s national team seems headed in the right direction, both on and off the court.

First, there was that huge crowd, the third straight time the home crowd breached 10,000. It’s not an impressive number for our Southeast Asian neighbors but for the Philippines, it is. The new PFF admin also used the 10K-strong campaign of the previous one, a good indication that it doesn’t care who started what practice, it will adopt them.

Then there was the nice team and fan interaction at the end, which was quite a change when Neil Etheridge was seen yelling at the fans in the last home game.

I remember before he left for Barca, Sandro Reyes showed a picture of how he was just a face in the crowd and I’m hopeful that eight or 10 years from now, one future Azkal will post a similar pic, of how he was just a face in the crowd.

Tom Saintfiet, the Belgian manager appointed last month to take over the squad, also is saying the right things.

“My apologies to the 10,000 fans who were in the stadium, but also to people who were watching at home. My apologies for the big defeat. The negatives, I would talk inside doors with people responsible for that. With staff and players, we will discuss what went wrong. Santi Rublico had two good actions with shots. I saw a lot of good players, Santi is one of them, but also later Pocholo [Bugas], and Mark Swainston coming very good in,” ABS-CBN quoted him in a post-match report.

I think it’s the first time a PMNT coach has apologized for a loss.

We still have games against Indonesia and Vietnam in the World Cup qualifiers, and while Saintfiet and the team management are still looking at the World Cup, I think they’ll also use the two to gauge the team’s chances in the 2024 Mitsubishi Cup since both teams are perennial favorites.

Sure it’s nice to go deep into the World Cup qualifiers but realistically, winning the AFF Championship is a goal that can be achieved in our lifetime and I have a feeling that it is something the new coach can deliver.

We’ve made the semifinals before with squads that were ill-prepared and I’m confident that’s a mistake that will not be repeated.

Imagine the Philippines winning the Asean Championships, aside from pissing off our neighbors, that’s going to be a milestone and no matter by what name you call the team, it will simply be remembered as the squad who won our first major title.

So yeah, despite that awful 5-0 loss by the Azkals, things are looking good for the PMNT, thanks to the people and staff who work silently behind the squad.


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