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What does FIFA World Cup mean to us Filipinos?

“Knowing what to say, in the right way – at the perfect moment – can mean the difference between a world-class life and an average one.”
–Robin S. Sharma

By Alex P. Vidal

ARLINGTON, Virginia — Filipinos are not part of the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia in terms of actual participation, but we are very much involved in many practical and historical reasons and circumstances.
By virtue of our being part of the global sports fraternity; in terms of the spirit of Olympism; and because we have been inflicted, in one way or the other, with a soccer mania since time immemorial, we are within the parameters of the World Cup village.
What does it mean to be part of the World Cup?

It means we need to further improve our sports program, not just in soccer but also in other events with global impact–Olympic events that will bring us in the threshold of world class competition.

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We must show that we belong not only in words but also in drawing inspiration from extra-ordinary performances of these incredible players and their teams and use this inspiration to improve our own standards even in regional competitions like the Southeast (SEA) Games and Asian Games.
We breath, cheer, discuss, argue, monitor, broadcast and write about World Cup but we don’t and can’t have a team in the elite competition.
We root for certain teams like Spain, Brazil, Argentina, Portugal, final qualifier France, but we aren’t there physically to savor the prestige and actual excitement felt by competitors watched and cheered by billions of fans all over the planet.
We need to review and upgrade our sports facilities, as well, and send our athletes in tough competitions abroad.
We can’t afford to be obscured in the doldrums or be lagged behind and remain as kibitzers for life just because we are a Third World country.
Supremacy in sports translates into supremacy in economy, but we can always pull the rug from under and walk extra mile to show the world that the Filipinos can also become world class athletes even if we are a struggling economy.

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France has booked the first slot in the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia finals by virture of its 1-0 conquest of stubborn Belgium in one of the all-European semifinals.
The descendants of Voltaire, King Louis, Marat and other precursors of the French Revolution will wait for the result of the other semifinal shootout between Croatia and England.
England is near the hearts of many Filipino soccer fans but we love to see Croatia reaching in the championship level for the very first time and win this year’s World Cup.
The world has always been crazy if it’s a World Cup and is getting crazier as the showdown for the finals approaches this Sunday.

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Posted by on July 11, 2018 in SPORTS

 

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‘Do we have a Pinoy team in the World Cup?’

“The World Cup experience is more than just the game of soccer. It’s an event. And it will fly by faster than you think. It will end and you’ll be saying, ‘Wow, it’s over already?’ You have to remember to take it all in and enjoy it.”
–Cobi Jones

By Alex P. Vidal

NEW YORK CITY –– A lot of Filipinos not necessarily soccer fans have been asking me in person and through the Facebook messenger these past two weeks: “Do we have a team in the World Cup?”
We all know, of course, that we don’t have.
We never had a chance.
We have the Azkals (Street Dogs), our national football team that regularly competes in international football, but it did not–and could not–play in the World Cup.
Not even in 2022 Qatar, with due respect to our national players and the coaching staff.

The reason is because the Philippines has never qualified for the World Cup.
The farthest that the RP national football team has achieved, so far, was having been qualified in the AFC Asian Cup in 2019.
Its best trophy in a major tournament was second place to Palestine at the 2014 AFC Challenge Cup.
The Filipinos can’t even dominate its rivals in the Southeast Asian (SEA Games) and Asian Games.
There’s a drought of gold medal for the Philippine football team even in the regional invitational games.

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Without the Filipino-European and Filipino-American booters in Azkals, we can hardly beat Myanmar, Singapore, Vietnam, Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia.
It was not too long ago when we were once the veritable “whipping boy” in the region.
Not anymore when the Azkals, now coached by Terry Butcher, was formed.
Even if we don’t play in the World Cup, our football has developed by leaps and bounds and our team is no longer a pushover.
Even before Uruguay became the first country in history to win the FIFA World Cup in 1930, the Philippines was already playing at the international level in 1913.
After 78 years, only seven countries, the so-called “Elite Seven”, have won the World Cup in 18 stagings: Brazil (five times); Italy (four times); Germany (three times); Uruguay (two times); Argentina (two times); England (once); and France (once).

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In the ongoing 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia, two of the four semifinalists (France, England, Croatia, Belgium) could join the Elite Seven.
If Belgium will beat France on July 10 and Croatia will defeat England on July 11, it will be a Belgium versus Croatia match in the championship.
Either Belgium or Croatia could become the eight country in history to bring home the World Cup.
But first they must hurdle their semifinal assignments.
If France and England will clash in the finals, one of them could win the World Cup only for the second time in history.
As we have been saying in the past weeks, the world is going crazy now that the final two teams are about to be unveiled this week.

 
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Posted by on July 11, 2018 in SPORTS

 

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2018 FIFA World Cup: Goodbye, Brazil!

By Alex P. Vidal
Belgium bombed out Brazil in the quaterfinals, 2-1, at Kazan Arena in Kazan, Russia Friday to barge into the seminfinals versus France, which ousted Uruguay, 2-0, in the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia.

“There were incredible hearts out there. Sometimes you have to accept that Brazil have so much finesse and quality that they’re going to break you down. But we didn’t accept it. Not for one minute did they give up,”
Belgium coach Roberto Martinez said.
“This was something special. These boys deserve to be very special people back in Belgium. I hope everybody back in Belgium is very proud. The execution of the tactics was magnificent.”
Martinez added: “In two days they changed their tactical disposition, I couldn’t be prouder. We cannot let people down. We need to enjoy beating Brazil in the knockout phase, treasure it, and pass it down the generations. But we need more energy for the next game. We will be as good as we can be in the semi-final.”
Brazil advanced to the quarterfinals after beating Mexico in the Round of 16, while Belgium advanced to the quarterfinals after ousting Japan in an exciting Round of 16 game.
The highest scoring side at the 2018 World Cup, Belgium seemed to come out of the blocks slower than Brazil who created a flurry of chances but failed to convert any of them early on.
Soon enough Belgium grew into the game with power, pace and exquisite passing which caught Brazil napping. The Belgians went onto register an emphatic 2-1 win to set-up a semi-final clash against France.
 
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Posted by on July 11, 2018 in SPORTS

 

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Imagine if Filipinos were the ones who upset Germany

“The first World Cup I remember was in the 1950 when I was 9 or 10 years old. My father was a soccer player, and there was a big party, and when Brazil lost to Uruguay, I saw my father crying.”
–PELE
By Alex P. Vidal

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NEW YORK CITY — Imagine if it were the Filipino soccer players who pulled the rug from under the 2018 FIFA World Cup defending champion Germany in the group stage opener on Saturday morning (June 17) in Moscow, Russia.
“Dutertards” and “Yellowtards” would have instantly halted their mudslinging activity; Filipino Facebook, Twitter and Instagram pages would have been inundated with soccer melodrama; and delirious Filipino fans would have caused not only a minor but major “earthquake” simultaneously in Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao like what happened in Mexico when the underdog Mexicans upset the mighty Germans, 1-0, courtesy of Hirving Lozano.
Some of the heroic Pinoy soccer players would easily be clinching elective positions in the next elections.
A soccer player would likely be the next Senate President or House Speaker. Only in the Philippines.
Any win registered by any country in a World Cup match actually becomes a national festival even if it isn’t a championship; the booters are considered as real celebrities and heroes.
Soccer itself is a mystical sport. FIFA World Cup is the biggest and most popular outdoor sporting event known in the universe.

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If the Philippines did it, offices and classes would be suspended; traffic would be halted; politics would be thrown in the backseat; stock exchange trading would be held in abeyance, crimes would deteriorate; malls would be abandoned as the entire nation celebrated the World Cup stunner.
The Filipinos would have rejoiced like they won their first Olympic gold.
But I’m sorry to cut short this fantasy and vainglory.
Winning against a powerhouse team like Germany is like bordering on megalomania.
In the first place, the Philippines can’t play against any soccer superpower in America and Europe in a World Cup match for the simple reason that the national team has never been qualified for FIFA World Cup despite its reputation as one of the oldest national teams in Asia.
The Philippines has been playing at the international level since 1913, but the farthest that it has achieved, so far, was having been qualified in the AFC Asian Cup in 2019.

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The Filipinos’ best finish in a major tournament was second place to Palestine at the 2014 AFC Challenge Cup.
We can only share the great moments with the Mexicans who resemble like Filipinos in height, talent and other physical features.
It was only Mexico’s second win against Germany in 12 World Cup matches since 1968.
The Germans bundled them out six times and drawn their matches four times.
It’s a long way to go and Germany can either bounce back and win its second title or Mexico will continue its giant killing spree or even pocket its first World Cup crown.
Or both of them will be eliminated.
Let’s continue to enjoy watching more explosive World Cup matches.

 
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Posted by on June 19, 2018 in SPORTS

 

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A draw that meant ‘victory’

“Football is like life – it requires perseverance, self-denial, hard work, sacrifice, dedication and respect for authority.” Vince Lombardi

By Alex P. Vidal

THERE was a time when Singapore, Malaysia, and Vietnam wouldn’t be satisfied even after blanking the Philippines in men’s football in the Southeast Asian (SEA) Games.
Indonesia was not happy either even if it bundled out the Philippines, 7-0.
The Indons wanted a humiliating 11-0 or even 17-0 (that’s too much insult to bear for the Filipinos).
Those were the years when the Azkals XI wasn’t yet organized.
With most national team members are now naturalized citizens–half British and half Filipino like the Younghusband brothers, among other foreign recruits with Filipino blood, the Philippines, otherwise known as “Azkals”, has ceased to become a David in the field of Goliaths.
Against the amazing Thailand, a scoreless draw can be considered as a “victory” for the Philippines’ Azkals XI in the first leg of their AFF Suzuki Cup semifinals clash at the Rizal Memorial Stadium in Manila on Saturday (November 6, 2014).
Currently ranked 144th in the Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA), the Thailand national football team, entered in the tournament as “Thailand War Elephants”, is the No. 1 football team in the Southeast Asia (SEA) region.

NEVER WON

The Philippines has never won a match in its last 14 international encounters with the Thais.
Since 1972, our national booters have been the Thais’ favorite whipping boys.
The Azkals XI, in fact, was lucky to escape defeat after Thai forward Adisak Kraisorn was sent off in the final 21 minutes of the match.
Kraisorn received a red card when he appeared to catch Azklas XI defender Amani Aguinaldo with an elbow to the face after an altercation between the pair in the centre circle.
“However, the hosts failed to capitalize on having an extra man, leaving both teams with all to play for in the return match at Bangkok’s Rajamangala Stadium on Wednesday. The winner of the tie will face either Vietnam or Malaysia in the final later this month,” reported the FIFA.
FIFA described the opening half of Saturday’s semi-final as “a disappointment with neither side able to carve out a clear cut opportunity.”
The match came to life after the interval with Perapat Notechaiya firing narrowly wide for the visitors from a tight angle, while the hosts felt aggrieved when Phil Younghusband was unable to get a clear shot on goal after losing his footing following a Suttinun Phukhom challenge.

CLOSEST

Thailand went closest to breaking the deadlock in the 55th minute as Charyl Chappuis burst into the Azkals box and saw his shot run across the face of the Philippines’ goalmouth Sarawut Masuk just failing to make contact with the ball at the unguarded far post.
“The feisty encounter boiled over in the 69th minute when Adisak was dismissed but the hosts could not make the most of the extra man with Younghusband going closest with a shot from the edge of the box that was easily stopped by Thai goalkeeper Kawin Thammasatchanan,” FIFA reported.
The match began around two hours before typhoon Ruby or Hagupit made landfall in the Philippines.
It went ahead despite tournament organizers warning it could be cancelled in the event of severe weather.
PAGASA confirmed storm Ruby crashed into the eastern part of the country with gusts of 210 kilometers (130 miles) an hour, while also bringing heavy rain to the densely populated capital of Manila to the north.

 
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Posted by on December 8, 2014 in SPORTS

 

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FIFA, Azkals can’t snatch away Ilonggos’ madness with NBA

“When you can do the common things of life in an uncommon way, you will command the attention of the world.” George Washington Carver

By Alex P. Vidal

Ask any Ilonggo sports fan—young and old– in the street about the National Basketball Association (NBA) nowadays and he can tell us lengthily about LeBron James, Blake Griffin, Kobe Bryant, Marc Gasol, Derrick Rose, and Russell Westbrook – all NBA leading superstars in this generation.

Ilonggo sports enthusiasts are not only familiar with James Yap, Asi Taulava, Jun Mar Fajardo, Jason Castro, Jayve Casio, among other top PBA cagers today, but can also recite statistics about NBA’s Dwight Howard, Kevin Durant, LaMarcus Aldridge, Stephen Curry, and Paul Millsap,  to mention a few.

Basketball is arguably the No. 1 sport of the Ilonggos and Filipinos in general, including those living in other countries exposed to other outdoor and indoor sports. Next to politics, basketball is the country’s national passion. In between is Manny Pacquiao’s KO demonstrations.

Ask the same fan (unless, of course, he is a true-blue sportswriter) if he knows Zinedine Zidane, Thiago Silva, Lionel Messi, Ronaldo, Paulinho, Roberto Baggio, Fernando Hierro, and David Villa– all FIFA World Cup legends, and he will surely pause for a while before giving us a blank stare. FIFA World Cup is the world’s most popular sporting event next only to the World Summer Olympic Games, but Ilonggos or Filipino fans for that matter, remember FIFA World Cup only when media start to make a noise and flood the sports pages and internet with news about how rich countries in Europe and Africa treat the event as a global phenomenon. FIFA World Cup enters into an Ilonggo fan’s imagination as soon as he sees a football field in the newspapers and TV clips; as soon as front pages drumbeat the huge event that it is now “FIFA World Cup time!”

YOUNGHUSBANDS

Ilonggo fans, of course, know James and Phil Younghusband as Akzals brother heartthrobs like they know their kindergarten classmates, but they can hardly recall with complete familiarization other prominent booters in the team that recently made waves in the AFC Challenge Cup in Maldives. Without the presence of the handsome Filipino-British football players, Ilonggos can remember only their very own Ian Araneta and Chieffy Caligdong, both of Barotac Nuevo, Iloilo. 

Several days from now, the 2014 FIFA World Cup will unfold in Brazil. The Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) event has triggered a global frenzy, and fans are already agog over the sophistication and hoopla that attended the preparation stages arranged by gigantic sponsors. Yet, Ilonggos are still enmeshed on the suspense and thriller whipped up by the NBA play-offs in both the Eastern and Western conferences among San Antonio Spurs, Oklahoma Thunder, Miami Heat, and Indiana Pacers. Many of them don’t give a hoot about the pre-tournament predictions that Brazil would steamroll Argentina in the finals. Too early to speculate for those oddsmakers.

In the early 70s, a Chinese karate instructor ushered us to Golden Theater, a downtown moviehouse in Iloilo City, to watch “Game of Death” starring Bruce Lee, known as “Hai Tien” in the film. Tien was a retired champion martial artist who was confronted by the Korean underworld gangs.

Our Chinese karate instructor wanted us to study the movements of Bruce Lee and how he defeated in the Pagoda tournament Filipino Eskrima master Dan Inosanto and Korean Hapkido master Ji Han Jae. As elementary pupils, we actually knew little things about the legendary Bruce Lee and the karate styles he was employing to outwit his rivals.

What caught our attention was the very tall bemoustached black man, who engaged Bruce Lee in a bloody and full-contact karate showdown that had the audience on the edge of their seats.  He was Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, who fought with a free and fluid style mirroring Lee’s Jeet Kune Do. Because Abdul-Jabbar’s character has great size and strength in addition to a fighting style as potent as Lee’s, he could only be defeated once Bruce Lee or Hai recognized that an unusually high sensitivity to light was his greatest weakness. Ergo, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar became the man of the hour.

FIGHTS

Instead of focusing on Bruce Lee’s fights, everyone was now talking about Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (born Ferdinand Lewis Alcindor, Jr. ) and how he acquired the Muslim name after piloting the Milwaukee Bucks in his first NBA title in 1971 at age 24. If Jabbar were a candidate for a national office in the Philippines, he would be a sure winner given his tremendous popularity that skyrocketed further after the Game of Death film.

Even in the sixties and seventies, NBA was very popular among Filipino cage fans. During the martial law years when cable TV and internet were not yet around, Filipinos were already infatuated with the NBA even at the height of the PBA Crispa Redmanizer vs Toyota rivalry in the 70’s.

Only Manny Pacquiao’s fight can rival the best-of-seven series between two NBA teams. When the NBA finals unwrap several days from now in time for the opening of the FIFA World Cup in Brazil, we will know which event will get the immediate attention of Ilonggo fans.

 
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Posted by on May 30, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

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