Graeme, Max, Mike and Noel on ‘ASKALS’

After Donaire and Pacquiao, it’s football as our men’s team are the latest sports heroes. Want to know how our squad got its nickname, ASKALS?

Max Limpag, the ultra-marathon man who ran 50K the other Saturday, was a former soccer fanatic. Here’s his story…

“In July 2005, I got into a discussion with former FC Korsaaven (that’s the name of our college team in UP Diliman) football teammate Noel Villaflor and former Sun.Star Cebu sports reporter Glenn Michelina on the moniker for the Philippine football team.

“In an online forum on football, someone suggested calling them askals. We laughed at first but then thought it could be a good moniker. I said we were askals because we lack football pedigree. I think it was Noel who said it’s also a good play on Calle Azul because the Philippine team color is blue. We were also askals in a way because the team was abandoned by government and lacked needed support.

“Glenn Michelina then did a quick drawing of a logo of a fierce-looking dog with the country’s colors. Noel submitted it to the forum and I blogged about it in my site. I didn’t know the moniker would stick after all these years. But one that didn’t stick was “irbogs” for irong buang, which we proposed to call people like ourselves, rabid die-hard fans.”

The brother of Max—our sports editor, Mike Limpag—wrote an expanded version of the ASKALS story five years ago. “Fans want RP booters to be named ‘Askals,’” here’s Mike’s article…

“THE Netherlands has the Orangemen, France is Les Bleus, and Italy has the Azures. Philippine football fans want to call their national team Askals.

“The menacing street dog has just been elevated to national icon status after a few fans threw around an idea on what to call the national team in an Internet forum dedicated to Philippine football.

“Names like Tamaraws and Eagles came up first before the fans agreed on Askal, short for asong kalye or street dog.

“The idea started after national coach Aries Caslib appealed for more fan participation in the 23rd Southeast Asian Games (Seag), where the country will try to win its first medal in football.

“Caslib appealed for vocal support after seeing how the other countries supported their teams in last year’s Tiger Cup.

“One fan has come up with an Askal logo, and plans to have it reproduced on shirts and flags are being discussed by regular posters Graeme Mackinnon, Paul Weiler and others.

“Even coach Caslib is on with the idea: “I want to know if the design for the Askal is final because we might help in producing the shirts,” he told Sun.Star Cebu in an earlier interview.

“As to whether the national team will be as menacing as the street dog is left to be seen as they are still to test their readiness in a pre-Seag tournament in Vietnam before leaving for a month-long training in China.”

Thanks Max and Mike. More on the football hysteria, I sought the commentary of Graeme Mackinnon. Australian-born but—after 14 years here—Cebuano by heart, Graeme had this reaction:

“One win and the Philippines has woken up to football. Such is the impact of that historic win by the AZKALS 2-0 over highly-fancied Vietnam. We are still in the group stage and hopefully overnight the AZKALS have booked their place in the semi-finals of the AFF Suzuki Cup. There has been a tsunami-like groundswell of support for the AZKALS. The country is experiencing international football fever the likes of which we haven’t seen before. There are new AZKAL logos, musical anthems on YouTube and AZKAL tributes on Facebook. Facebook is in meltdown. There are just so many people talking about the team.

“AZKAL coach Simon McMenemy was criticized by Vietnam’s coach Henrique Calisto for his tactics. McMenemy’s tactics were correct. He knows the strengths and weaknesses of his team and set his tactics accordingly. His foundation for the win was the defense. If they don’t score then the AZKALS don’t lose. As the highly-favoured Vietnamese became more frustrated, the AZKAL counterattacks took advantage of the holes in the Vietnamese defense. Calisto had no answer to the AZKAL tactics and so his criticism smacks of sour grapes. So fire the bark up and be loud and proud of the Philippine AZKALS football team!”

MORE. Read the blog of Rick Olivares at

Categorized as Football
John Pages

By John Pages

I've been a sports columnist since 1994. First, in The Freeman newspaper under "Tennis Is My Game." Then, starting in 2003, with Sun.Star Cebu under the name "Match Point." Happy reading!


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