Azkals nearly bite the Tigers

Ricky Dakay’s birthday is this Friday. It should have been celebrated last Sunday with thousands serenading “Happy Birthday” as gratitude to the president of the Cebu Football Association.

Thanks to Engr. Dakay and his dynamic and relentless CFA team, Cebuanos were treated once more to international-caliber football.

The crowd gathered inside the Cebu City Sports Center was huge — though not as full-capacity as Face Off 1 when the Azkals played the Singapore Lions two Novembers ago. Still, the full stretch of the grandstand teemed with fans, screaming… HA-PIT NA! HA-PIT NA! This chant reverberated throughout the stadium. Chance after chance, near-goal after near-goal, our Pinoys fired and fired.


We scored! Almost. Kicks would sail just inches outside the rectangle — as if a magnet propelled it away. Shots boomeranged against the post. A perfect center strike by Nate Burkey skirted upwards by inches. HAPIT NA! was replayed like a tape recorder with a rewind button.

In the first half (45 minutes), the “Stray Dogs” dominated the Tigers. In ball possession, we must have controlled the offense 70 percent of the time. Sadly, there’s no score for “ball possession.” By half-time, the giant scoreboard across the field had zero movement; the numbers read, “0-0.”

Our Pinoy squad, wearing all blue including knee-high blue socks, commanded the field as if to say, “This is our home!” James Younghusband, wearing No. 7, stood ready at the right wing. He’d receive a pass, kick the ball up the middle, a teammate would shoot — but, no… no score!

During the lull moments when the ball exchanged feet at the center, the crowd went silent. But when the ball would gallop closer towards the enemy’s pit, an excitement not experienced in other sports — with 15,000 people yelling and standing together — enveloped the arena. Still, no good, no goal.

HAPIT NA! soon became “hapit na ma hu-man ang game” (almost finished). While we dictated the offense for the first 80 minutes, the last few moments of the game was chilling.

Malaysia, wearing yellow-and-black, grew desperate and, a couple of times, nearly shot the ball into the net. The most spine-chilling part: Just a few minutes before game’s end, just when CCSC was about to go quiet with a zero-all draw, a free kick ensued… for Malaysia! The audience was in disbelief. What? How did that happen? We can’t lose this way! After wasting so many chances?

But as yesterday’s headline proclaimed, “Deyto saves Azkals,” as our goalie Patrick Deyto jumped left to foil what could have been an agonizing ending. Moments later, the whistle was blown and it was another scoreless 90 minutes.

OBSERVATIONS. Upon my arrival, I saw Nimrod Quiñones, the CFA board member, giving strict instructions to the ushers. With Nimrod at the helm, crowd control was excellent.

The CCSC grass was as green as La Salle; as pristine as a golf course. The flood lights, as bright as noon.


The extended bleachers (constructed by Dakay Construction, I’m sure) were a big help. Those with front-row seats included Basti and Aina Lacson with their son.

I’m not as big a football fan as my SunStar pals Mike L. or Noel V. but here are some questions:

Why don’t players have their family names placed on the back? Given the 22 players on field, this would make it easier, especially to the casual fan, to find out who is who.

No timer? I’m not sure if this was unique to CCSC but a big digital clock would help us monitor the game clock.

No regular “voice over” messages unlike basketball. I guess this is the norm for soccer. But wouldn’t it be nice to hear a semi blow-by-blow account from Jiggy Jr.?

Giant-size TV. I know this is asking too much but this is often the “problem” with live games. (This isn’t limited to soccer.) We’re so used to watching replays and slow-motion action that they’ve become a TV habit. In many live sporting events, we don’t have this. How we wish, at times, to see that replay!

Categorized as Azkals
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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