As you may know I am currently residing in the Philippines. In the last twelve months something very strange has happened here sportswise. This country is basketball mad due to the influence of the USA, it is the only country in this part of Asia that is not soccer mad or should I say was not soccer mad until about 8 months ago. During late December and early January there was an international soccer tournament called the AFC Suzuki Cup, this tourney is for the lower ranked Asian countries. To everyones surprise the Philippines national team reached the semi finals by beating local soccer super power Vietnam. In the semi final the Philippines were up against another power house in Indonesia, the semi was supposed to be played home and away, but due to the ongoing reconstruction of the Filipino stadium both games were played in Indonesia. Sadly the Philippines lost both games 1-0 to exit the competition.
The country was finally taking notice that they had a halfway decent soccer team. The next set of games were world cup qualifiers against Mongolia (hands up those of you who knew Mongolia had a soccer team). By now the team was known by it's nickname The Azkals which is Filipino slang for street dog. The Azkals brushed aside the Mongol hordes 3-2 on aggregate to progress to the next phase. The next phase was on Wednesday when the Azkals travelled to Sri Lanka for the first leg. Although they played very poorly they escaped with a 1-1 tie and vital away goal. Everyone here is getting very excited as on Sunday the Azkals play leg two at home in Manila. To be brutally honest the Azkals have no chance of getting to the finals in Brazil,but to see a country become soccer mad virtually overnight is really cool. So next time you watch Brazil or Spain just remember on the other side of the world there are low ranked teams living the soccer dream.
I hope the soccer bug stays with Filipinos,the biggest fear is that as soon as they have a bad run all the good work will be forgotten. Maraming Salamat Po!!!!!