Villaflor: One

By: Noel S. Villaflor - @nsvillaflor

Thu. Dec. 13, 2012

Source: Sun Star Cebu

IT took one solid blow to knock Manny Pacquiao out with just one second remaining in the round.

Similarly, one goal conceded during one ugly moment of ball watching ended the Azkals’ AFF Suzuki Cup dream.

If the Philippines pulled just one goal back, none of us would be sulking right now. The score would have stood at 1-1, but that away goal would have sufficed.

The Azkals, our team, was just one goal shy of making an historic trip to the Asean football championship final.

That wasn’t meant to be.

As Philippine football fans sulk, the rest of Southeast Asia couldn’t care less with our departure, as they’d rather watch the more familiar sight of traditional powerhouses going at it for the region’s top prize.

The Philippine Men’s National team may have established itself as a regional powerhouse, but the old guard isn’t at all pleased with our presence, apparently.

Like it or not, the Azkals were regarded as outsiders throughout the tournament.

The makeup of the Philippine team that deprived Asean football behemoths Vietnam of a spot in the knockout rounds was always the target of snide remarks from one of the commentators who cannot seem to stand the idea of the Azkals appearing on regional TV, making life difficult for its foes.

It wouldn’t be a surprise for the ESPN Star Sports commentators to prefer watching the more familiar Big Five – Indonesia, Vietnam, Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand—at this level, but the bias was not lost on Filipino fans.

Some of them had to vent their frustration on the ESPN Star Sports Facebook page hours before the Singapore vs. Philippines semifinal second leg kickoff.

“Go Azkals! Hopefully, the commentators will NOT be biased this time!” posted Ralph Jayson Silang on the second leg thread.

Darryl Sonza singled out pundit Jamie Reeves for his glaring dislike for the Azkals.

“The whole panel has been objective so far except for one Jamie Reeves, who apparently hates the whole Philippine contingent,” wrote Sonza.

“Throughout the whole coverage from the group stages, he kept bringing up issues on the Philippine team’s foreign-based players, kept criticizing the Younghusband
brothers, the local league, etc. Lost respect for the guy,” Sonza added.

Allan Tangonan agreed with his fellow Pinoy fans.

“As I used to rate Jamie Reeves highly amongst the football panel, it was quite disappointing that he did show a rather obvious dislike of the Azkals,” Tangonan said.

Still, it is well within Reeves rights to express dislike for our team. The most we can do is to express that mutual feeling of disgust.

What is hard to accept, however, is when some from within the football community – many of them anonymous posters on forums – bash the Azkals’ every chance they get, this time for failing to make it to the finals.

It is true that the Azkals played poorly in the second leg: ball watching in a dangerous area to concede an early goal that changed the complexion of the game,
wasting simple passes, and looking pretty much disorganized for lack of communication.

The Azkals did make their presence felt in the latter part of the game, sending crosses from either flank, inching their way with short passes into the Lions’ box, winning corners, but none of these were enough.

Simply put, Singapore was the better team Wednesday night.

But in post-match comments following the 1-0 loss, these anonymous forumers make it appear that the 2012 Suzuki Cup campaign was a complete, inevitable disaster.

No assertion could be more outrageous.

Sure our team didn’t win the title, but what separated the Azkals from a trip to the finals was just one away goal in Jalan Besar Stadium.

Just one goal that would have meant everything but wasn’t meant to be.

Too bad, for some ridiculously hard-to-please fans, one goal not scored is one failure too many.

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