As I followed match updates beginning at seven a.m. this morning on the Suzuki Cup's website and through Ricky Olivares (Bleacher's Brew) twitter feed, the fact that I was now on pins and needles about a football match in Asia involving the Philippines continued to amaze me. Whatever the Azkals achieved on the pitch was surpassed by the cultural and historical significance of getting Filipinos around the world interested in the national football team.
Although I've read a few critical opinions questioning whether a team filled with players from outside the Philippines' national borders merits widespread adulation, this appears to be a minority viewpoint. And for the few detractors who voice such a complaint, it is worth emphasizing that the two goals that knocked the Philippines out of the Suzuki Cup were scored by the erstwhile Uruguayan, Cristian Gonzales ("El Loco"), who was given an Indonesian passport on November 3rd. This observation is not intended to imply that Indonesia was somehow skirting rules -- although not Indonesian by blood, Gonzales has lived for a considerable time in the county and has built a life for himself on the islands indistinguishable from other Indonesians. But just as pinoys have swooned for the Azkals, El Loco and the Indons appear to have similarly captured the imaginations of a vast and dispersed population.
Following the Azkals has been an absolute blast, particularly because of the work of Olivares on Bleacher's Brew. Olivares tweeted the following after the game:
I just checked Brew's stats for Dec1-19: 35,308 hits, 47,166 page views, 15,051 unique visitors, and average time on site 7mins 36 secs
That's well-deserved. Both the written content and the video clips were fantastic. Before the game this morning, my wife and I watched the video shot of Indonesian reaction to the Filipino team and were amazed by the numbers of people that turned up to watch practice.
We are looking forward to following those from the team that return stateside to play this summer. This run has been a very welcome winter treat.
In return, from this lonely outpost, we send our fondest good wishes to all involved. Maligayang Pasko.