Friday, March 16, 2012

Of Cinderella, Football and March Madness

*Note: This post was written BEFORE the 2-0 defeat against Turkmenistan

Photo from PDI writer Cedelf Tupas' Twitter acct

It is March, said to be the most fascinating time of the year in sports. Frenetic and palpitating. Filled with  moments of magic.

In the realm of American college basketball, there is a realm called "March Madness." It is the mad dash towards the collegiate postseason, and the postseason itself, where 68 teams fight their way to be known as the best team that year. Where it is literally a life-or-death scenario, where a defeat will eliminate you and send you to obscurity and probable disappointment. People love that and it shows, especially now in the era of social media and its immediacy. This is where the concept of Cinderella in sport is best known, as some little-known school gets on a roll, beats a heavy favorite, goes on a run, gets wide appeal.

Well, in Kathmandu, a Cinderella campaign is at our midst, witnessed by millions around the world. The Philippine Men's National Football Team is about to face Turkmenistan in the AFC Challenge Cup Semifinals. The Philippines is the only one that had to go through the Pre-Qualifying stages amongst the 8 teams in the tournament. So far, we only had one defeat, but we have beaten everyone else that we have faced.

In other words, they played their way in, something that Virginia Commonwealth University pulled off last year. VCU's quality was questioned by all the experts immediately after Selection Sunday, got themselves into the Big Dance, and secured a Final Four run from the First Four, the first team to do it since the play-in games were introduced. Just like the Philippines.

The country's rekindled affair with the sport has always been prickly to some individuals. It feels kinda eerie that there is always something that somehow is what you can consider as a buzzkill every time they play. Even if they carry our nation's colors in competition, they always have their skeptics. That they have to prove themselves. And even if they do, they are still unconvinced.

With only a couple of hours left before game time, I say to them. Good luck and make us proud to be your fellow countrymen.

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