Football, sport preferences, and public support

By Joshua Corcuera

The Philippine Azkals, the national football team of the country, has recently finished its three matches against Yemen, Mongolia, and Palestine in an attempt to qualify for the 2023 AFC Asian Cup. Our team is not in a good position.

On June 8, the Azkals settled for a scoreless draw against Yemen. The national team recovered on June 11 with a 1-0 victory against Mongolia, the hosts of the four-team group. However, the Azkals suffered a 0-4 defeat from Palestine this Tuesday. I watched the first half of the game against Palestine but went to do some important things after half-time instead.

With this, the Azkals is currently second in the group with 4 points and a goal difference of -3 as of Tuesday, June 14, 4:30 PM. Yemen and Mongolia would play at 5 PM on the same date, but assuming that the Philippines end second in the group, our chances of qualifying for the prestigious continental tournament remains to be slim. This is because only 5 out of the 6 runner-up teams per group will advance to the Asian Cup. As I write this, I hope that our country will advance further.

Based on what has been said, several thoughts came to mind as far as Philippine sports in general is concerned. First, there is a need to share several other sports to Filipinos, especially the youth. Our country remains basketball-centric to this day, there is no problem with loving basketball, but I hope that other sports will receive similar attention especially if our national team is playing. Aside from basketball, volleyball, boxing, and billiards, sports entered by the national team of our country do not seem to enjoy enormous support. In fact, despite the importance of the recent matches of the Azkals, they have not trended in social media which is saddening to hear.

Second, it is imperative for schools to adopt more sports in their physical education program. When I was in grade school and high school, basketball and volleyball would be the only sports where many students join. There are other sports like badminton and chess, but only with a few participants. Around the country, most schools would have a similar experience. The disadvantage of focusing with only a few sports is that some people with potential on less popular sports will not be able to maximize their potential for their benefit and the benefit of the country. For instance, weightlifting and gymnastics are not very popular in the Philippines, yet our first Olympic gold came from Hidilyn Diaz, a weightlifter while Carlos Yulo brought pride to our country with gymnastics. Not surprisingly, support for and attraction to Diaz and Yulo have increased—and rightfully so. Other athletes, however, also deserve the same kind of support, morally and financially.

Altogether, there might be a need to try new sports, to appreciate more sports instead of one, and more importantly support our athletes in whatever game they chose to represent us. I have not mentioned yet that football is actually considered the world’s most popular sport, especially in Europe, Africa, Latin America, and most of Asia. Yet I barely see people playing that sport in the streets of Manila.