“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.
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.
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.