If not for the workers adding the final touches, the Panaad Stadium in Bacolod City was largely empty last Monday afternoon. When we went there, the grass was just painted and the signboard was finally updated with the countries that would be competing for the Asian Football Cup.
There were no Azkals, or the Philippine Football Team in sight as well. (We later learned that they were scheduled to practice a few hours after we left the sports facility in Negros Occidental). Yes, we do have a national team for a sport that has gained an unprecedented following only in recent months. Never mind too if most of the girls only knew the Younghusbands from this year’s promising roster.
But things would change a few more hours from now. It is said that tickets to the matches were sold out before they were even printed. This means that the empty benches would be filled to its full capacity by football enthusiasts, shrieking fans and even by those who were just dragged by the first two groups.
Everyone in Bacolod today can smile from ear to ear as their beautiful city hosts this historical event. It would also be a moment of pride for every Filipino as the games would hopefully place the Philippines in the football map.
Unfortunately, I could not be in Panaad today to watch the qualification matches. But may I wish the stray dogs all they need to put up a beautiful fight tonight. Play your hearts out Team Philippines. Go Azkals!