Football Fever

A soccer ball
A soccer ball (Photo credit: Kate_Lokteva)

If there’s one thing in this world that I know quite impossible for me to manage, it’s playing any kind of sports. It’s not that I don’t want to. I’m just physically lame. I easily run out of breath, and worse, asthma attacks when I was in grade school. It’s a shame. My sister is the sporty one, and I’m the bookworm.

Oh, well.

I’m not really fond of sports, unless we’re talking about football. I just love it. Actually, it’s the  only sport I can tolerate.

Our country is a big fan of basketball. You’d be amazed how many basketball courts we have here all over the archipelago, and people of varying ages take part in the said sport.

But despite all of that, I’m always drawn to football.

Maybe, it’s because I grew up in a province where football is a more popular sport. Iloilo, after all, is the football capital of the Philippines. I can remember my elementary days where the cool guys join the football team, and it’s the most awaited event during sports fest. Or maybe it was the influence of one of my older male cousins. He had a VHS collection of Man U’s games during Beckham’s days. I can still imagine how fascinated I was while watching them, even though we’re asking to watch cartoons and fairy tales instead.

But sometimes, I say it’s the sheer magic of the game. True, many would argue that it’s boring. For ninety minutes, all the players do is run back and forth, trying to get the ball into the back of the net. The goals are rare, compared to basketball. Sometimes, it takes forever for them to get a ball through and score.

You see, it’s the best thing about the game, at least for me. Every goal is more precious since it doesn’t come in abundance. When the players celebrate their goals, it always make me smile. They are so exuberant in their gestures. There’s a flood of hugging, back-slapping, head-patting, and sometimes, to the point of players piling into the ground.

I particularly love the Italians on those occasions, but I won’t elaborate why. *winks*

It doesn’t even matter if they score or not. I love seeing the action in the pitch. The players look like Greek Gods (Or Norse, I prefer them, after all.) while they wrestle for the ball with their feet. I also have a soft spot for the goalkeepers. (Gianluigi Buffon, hands down. I love Iker too!)

Every layer is crucial to the outcome of the game. It’s a team effort all the time. Though, the forwards always have a distinct recognition, and they enjoy the most fame.

Football for most, especially the people who really love the game, is more than just a sport. It can unite a nation. It can inspire camaraderie. It takes hard work, determination and patience. It requires sportsmanship and fair play. Most of all, it needs passion.

Most of the football player I admire have that great passion for the sport. Cristiano Ronaldo, Lionel Messi,  Fabio Cannavaro and Kaká. There’s also Zidane, Beckham, Cantona, Ronaldo, Ronaldinho, Pelé and Maradona. They have all lived their dreams, or are still living their dreams, and it takes more than talent, skills and hard work to achieve what they had.

I just can’t explain what I feel every time I watch a football match.

I cheer, I shout, I scream, I swear. I bite my lips, I chew my nails, I thump my fists in the air, I join in their victory dance.

And it’s all done in front of a television.

I always have this funny sensation in my stomach every time the team I support lost a chance to score a goal. That mini heart attack is always present when they are nearly there, and yes, I shamelessly cheer when the ball hit the back of a net.

And though I go gaga over football players all over the world, (honestly, what girl wouldn’t? I mean, sorry if this sounds so shallow, but there’s just something wickedly hot about football players, in or out the pitch.) it wasn’t until five years ago when I seriously tried to really understand the game. The rules are not that hard to grasp, but it does help  when you keep on watching football matches all the time. I don’t claim to be an expert, hell no. But I can appreciate a good game.

Several years ago, Filipinos started to notice the sport. There are always football fans in our country, but compared to basketball-loving people, they are not that noticeable.

If we go back in history, at the time of the Spanish colonization, football was the popular sport. We even have a legendary footballer-Paulino Alcántara, who is still FC Barcelona’s all-time top-scorer (I wish Lionel Messi won’t have to break that record yet.)  and the first Asian to play in a European club. He also set an astounding record for the Philippines in an international match when he helped the country defeat Japan, 15-2 during the Far Eastern Championship Games in Tokyo. It was the biggest victory of the country to date in International football. And the most interesting thing is, he retired from football at a young age of 31 to become a doctor.

Since the Americans took over the country from the Spaniards, football has died down. It was replaced by basketball.

Only a few notable developments could be remembered since those once-glorious days.

But thanks to the  2010 AFF Suzuki Cup, public’s interest is now revived. I guess, we owe it to the country’s  current football team. Most of the players are half-Europeans and have experience in international football clubs. And it doesn’t hurt that most of them will pass as models. (Girls like that tidbit.)

Last Sunday, they made a remarkable record by defeating Cambodia and scoring 8-0, the second biggest victory in Philippine football history. And tonight, they dominated Turkmenistan by 1-0, a great revenge if I must add, which sealed the ticket for the team to proceed to the 2014 AFC Challenge Cup in Maldives.

I’m just so happy that Phil Younghusband showed once again that he’s more than just a pretty face.

The country has still a long way to go, but there’s hope. If it’s not too much to ask, I wish that the Philippine team will at least be able to qualify to the FIFA World Cup in the next nine years.

Aw. So much for a short post.

There goes my babbling about the only sport I love in the world- football, fútbol, soccer or whatever you may call it.

‘Till then, fellas! I have to go and see Cristiano Ronaldo in dreamland.

Cristiano Ronaldo during the friendly match Po...
Cristiano Ronaldo during the friendly match Portugal-Argentina, in Geneva, (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

PS: This day is simply filled with amazing football matches between many countries: Japan vs. Jordan, Spain vs. France, Italy vs. Malta, Argentina vs. Bolivia, Portugal vs. Azerbaijan and many, many more. Argh. I wish I can watch them all.

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