Thursday, 10 February 2011

The Final Score: Azkals fever is a nation's puppy love

Posted by chardyboy on Thursday, February 10, 2011 0 comments

source: By MICO HALILI

I stayed in Manila. But many didn't. They flew to Bacolod. They skipped class, work. They felt Azkals were reunited Eraserheads in football kits. Philippines versus Mongolia was a must-watch. Maybe they can spawn Azkal tourism. Maybe they can spread football's newest craze. You heard it. I heard the shrieks on television too. It was the soundtrack of the night. That shrill sound of happiness. South Africa had Vuvuzelas. Panaad had shriekers. God bless them.

The fever has come to this. Chieffy Caligdong may not be blessed with Euro-demigod flair, but he has the humor of a stand-up comic, originality of an artisan and imagination of a seven-year old playing "sipa" on school grounds. To him, "sipa" and football are one and the same. To his defender, it was spontaneity which couldn't be stifled. The man with the best name, always armed with the funniest jokes, struck the first serious blow. I wish I was there to start the chant, "CHIE-FFY! CHIE-FFY! CHIE-FFY!"

A lifetime of football later, Phil Younghusband, chased all week by Azkaladies, shadowed all night by Mongolia's finest, decided he couldn't dare disappoint his army of Phil Youngwives. Not when a nation tuned in to see him reign. He spanked a last-minute goal, a pahabol-special, set the shriek-o-meter on fire and nearly tore the pitch off Panaad with the celebration he caused. Phil wanted to set things straight. If Chieffy's the artist, he's the swashbuckler. The ladies need not be confused.

Yet it is a bit confusing. We're still in the BETA stage of this hysteria. Players are coping with the hype. Fans are getting used to a winning national football team. Media is scampering to figure out the best way to play with this new toy. And when faux-football-experts tried to pass themselves off as real football experts online, it looked awkward at best. Because we're all new to this. Even the previously long-suffering Azkals devotees, whether they admit or not, are also trying to get the hang of their heroes' new-found success.

Holy kamote, what is this?! There is no mainstream tradition, built with decades of deliriously watching Azkals football. Not yet. Not even years of watching the English Premiere League, El Clasico, UEFA or even the Copa Libertadores can substitute for legit experience. Maybe those magical days during the 2005 Southeast Asian Games served as the Genesis or Big Bang of today's delirium. Or maybe not. But Azkals fever, fueled by rockstar charm and fireworks to end games, is a new-born animal. Are there long lists of Azkals Mania veterans and experts? My hunch is we're mostly rookies in this new sphere. Not yet saddled with political baggage or jaded by disappointment. 


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