It was at the 85th minutes of the regulation when Filipino footballer Emelio ‘Chieffy’ Caligdong hit two birds with a single stone — he scored a much-needed goal through a pass from Angel Guirado, and at the same time, raised the hopes of Filipino fans for the team to advance again in the semifinals. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, you’re probably not following the 2012 AFF Suzuki Cup, OR you are not a big fan of football.
Prior to the game last Tuesday night, November 27, the Philippine national football team, better known as the Azkals, succumbed to the War Elephants of Thailand with a final score of 1-2. It was a bloodied feast – literally and figuratively. Four players were booked with a yellow card. Some were treated during the game due to several unanticipated collisions. Even head coach Hans-Michael Weiss, who lobbied a ball at an injured Thai player, was sent off during the game, automatically suspending him for the rest of the group stage matches. On a positive note, it was a call for celebration for the lone scorer, 31 year-old Filipino international Paul Mulders, as this was his first goal for the national football team.
So what’s up with this recap of Tuesday night’s game? Isn’t this for the fun of the Filipino football fans only? Well actually, no. Is this for the sake of writing something for my regular Thursday night entry? Again, no. I am writing this to express my admiration of how far they’ve gone for the past two years. The Azkals, the team that represents our country, whether they are foreign-based or home-grown. I am sharing this as a fan of football and as a Tourism student who sees football and other sporting events as another type or tourism that can be introduced in the country.
Last 2010, the then-underdog Azkals made it to the semis, but weren’t able to play at home because of poor field conditions. Unfortunately, the Rizal Memorial Stadium in Manila or the Panaad Stadium in Bacolod City didn’t pass AFF standards, hence both legs were hosted by the opposing team Indonesia. Eventually, our representatives lost both games. So what if one game was hosted here? I’m pretty sure it would have made a big difference.
So now, in the event that our team makes it to the semis, it would definitely be a different scenario. With the improved facilities and football pitch, we could now host a home game unlike two years ago. Fans of whichever team we might face would come over here to watch the game. Not only that, the country could even bid to host the next (or the one after that) Suzuki Cup. Instead of us going to our neighboring countries, why not have it here? Yes, these are just my personal thought and opinions.
If we look closely at the National Tourism Development Plan (NTDP), Sports Tourism is not even part of the nine tourism products (reference http://asiapacific.unwto.org/sites/all/files/pdf/philippines_5.pdf) our country prioritizes. Sports Tourism is not yet a popular thing here in the Philippines, unlike in other countries like China, Japan, Korea, Spain, Germany, etc., although we have already hosted two SEA Games (1981 and 2005), one Asian Games (1954), and a couple of regional tournaments in different sports. Probably if we hosted a Pacquiao vs. whoever match again here in Manila, or (if we really dream big) the Olympics, then it would make more sense to consider including Sports Tourism as the tenth tourism product in the NTDP.
Tomorrow, November 30, the team will go head-to-head (or foot-to-foot, for that matter) against Myanmar in a do-or-die, all-or-nothing match. This could be a make-or-break situation, not only for the football team but also for the future of Sports Tourism in the country. – Alethea Bravo