REMEMBER THE DATE. November 29, 2019, the day when the Rizal Memorial Stadium came back into life thanks to the Philippine Azkals U-22.
It was quite a long time ago when the Rizal Memorial Stadium was filled to the rafters. If I remembered it correctly, it was during the 2014 AFF Suzuki Cup semi-finals first leg against Thailand where we held the eventual finalists then to a nil-nil draw.
Despite the result that day, everyone were still jubilant and were hopeful that we can make it to the final for the first time in the history of the tournament but after a three-nil defeat in Thailand, the fans started to turn their back on the squad.
For more years to come since 2014, the attendance be it in the Rizal Memorial Stadium or wherever the Azkals play seems to be declining.
The only time the attendance of an Azkals match went over 5,000 was when the philippines won three goals to two over north Korea back in 2016.
The importance of the match between the Young Azkals and Malaysia was evident as over 6,500 fans flocked the historic Rizal Memorial Stadium to help the home side.
People from different parts of the country came together and chanted for the entire match and witnessed how the Young Azkals relived the spirit of the 1991 SEA Games.
Flashback to November 28, 1991, Norman Fegidero of the Philippines scored the winner against Malaysia on the 84th minute of their encounter which sent the fans at the Rizal Stadium in absolute pandemonium.
Fast forward to November 29, 2019, team captain Stephan Schröck scored a screamer from an unchartered territory on the 74th minute of the match sending 6,500 people jumping up and down, screaming and even crying as they just witnessed how the Young Azkals replicated history.
Seeing the packed Rizal Stadium coming into life, especially from the stands, was just something magical. I’ve witnessed many games of the Azkals in this stadium but today was something special.
Not only does the Young Azkals kept their fighting chance to progress to the semifinals of the 2019 Southeast Asian Games, this match also served as a time machine for those who were not around when the Philippines dealt Malaysia a 1-nil loss in the 1991 SEA Games.
This win could be considered as one of the biggest wins for Philippine Football not because we’ve beaten Malaysia after 28 years of waiting, but because it reignited the support from each and every one of us.
Over the last five years, it’s been difficult to ask the fans to come down to the stadium and watch the games of not only the Azkals but also the Philippines Football League. With this win, we hope the fans will continue to support Philippine Football by watching the remaining games of the Philippines be it the Azkals or their counterparts the women’s team who just booked their semifinals ticket after a five-nil thrashing of Malaysia at the Biñan Football stadium on the same day the Young Azkals repeated the glory of 1991.
We also encourage the fans to watch the upcoming league matches next year as 2020 will serve as the biggest year for Philippine Football. The introduction of Qatar Airways as the title sponsor for the next three seasons of the PFL should bring league football closer to the masses as well as to bring in more sponsors that will help the league flourish.
Let’s just hope that through this win, football fans here in the country will go out more to watch the games live and have a taste of great football action.
Photo by: Ultras Filipinas