ITALY even if they didn’t make it? Brazil the old favorites? Argentina and Lionel Messi? England, the one that always loses in penalties? Who?
Everyone had an answer to that in 2018. Heck, almost everyone I know who hasn’t watched a football match suddenly knew Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo and Harry Kane. They even knew Neymar falls often at the slightest touch. They wore their favorite teams jerseys and marveled at how Japan cleaned up the locker room at the end of their campaign.
They had their profile pics changed to reflect their favorite teams or players. They did everything to get into the World Cup spirit. They shared stories and pictures and voted for the most likely team to win it all.
In the world cup.
It’s not just the fans. Even the officials got into it. There were live telecasts at the Cebu City Sports Center and in other areas around the country as well. The major TV stations, too, carried World Cup news, as well as the major print dailies.
In the Asian Cup, where the Philippines is actually a participant, they are nowhere to be seen. Have you seen a single fan wearing a Philippine jersey these days?
What’s the reason behind that?
Why are most Filipinos more interested in a Brazil game in the World Cup than actually watching the Philippines in the Asian Cup?
Should we blame them, deride them for being casual fans who become aware of football every four years? Or do we do something so that their casual appreciation of the sport becomes actual support for the sport?
Football in the country is at best a No. 3 sport, behind basketball and volleyball. At times, even a local tennis match gets more fans in the stands than football.
There are a myriad of factors for that, but at least the groundswell for support is changing. It’s just a matter of converting those Brazil, England and other World Cup team fans to Azkals fans.
I can never forget what a colleague told me the first time he saw an Azkals game live.
“Football is fun. In basketball, you cheer for the great shots, dunks or drives. But in football, you cheer for every attempt.”
Against South Korea, it was like that for the fans who watched, something the casual fans of the World Cup missed greatly. We were to face China last month, another David vs. Goliath match for us.
I hope more casual fans get into the act.