Sunday, August 21, 2011

The National team bandwagon fiesta: The worst in a Filipino Sports Fan

                                                                                                                                                                 The Prototypical Image of a Pinoy Bandwagoner
Pinoys love hype. 
Every time we see something monumental and out of the blue, we turn around and appreciate it for what it's worth, and once they served its purpose, we spit them out like gum.
Late 2010, 2 major events occured in the Philippine sporting world. Our Football team, known as the Azkals, won against a perennial Southeast asian football nation Vietnam at the group stages of the AFF Suzuki Cup., reporters, casual bloggers and other pundits start celebrating and rejoicing after the Azkal's Monumental victory.  The team went on to the semifinals but was no match for Indonesia as they went down 0-2 on aggregate score. 
The Azkals, were crowned as the countries' darling underdogs, With the PFF leadership row in dispute, The team was short in funds, with the Martinez faction being investigated for missing funds, the team claiming not to receive a single centavo from it and instead is being supported by its manager, Dan Palami. The "Surviving on their own" underdog story of the Azkals caused them to earn more love and sympathy from the general public. Even though the Azkals were pwned by the Indonesians, there was a "We're not Prepared, we'll get them next time" feel to them.
On the other hand, Like the prototypical Filipino soap opera, there had to be a villain, and it has to be rich and popular. 
Smart Gilas Pilipinas, The national team representing the country on its most popular and most lucrative sport, Basketball went to compete in the Asian Games, a tournament where it has always ended at the top 4 spot for the last 40 years. Like the azkals, they had problems of their own, Their Naturalized center, Marcus Douthit, did not make the cut in the lineup due to his naturalization papers still being processed. Days before the start of the tournament, Slotman Japeth Aguilar got himself injured and missed the tournament. The Country faced a narrow 2 point loss to Japan which relegated them to an early quarterfinals meeting with powerhouse Korea. The end result was a 6th place finished, tying the Philippines' worst ever finish in the 60s.
Bandwagon fans clearly jumped on football. Sensationalist reporters, wanting to join the hype started to give the team unrealistic notions of being world cup contenders.The Azkals were the darlings of the media especially since they had good looking meztisos to be the banner boys. Endorsements, Merchandise and more donations are now coming its way. While it was great to finally see the football team, setting the public the mentality of raising the bar too high is dangerous for any team.
Add to that, media has to create a controversy. Reporters hurrying to jump on the bandwagon were questioning why Filipinos are still playing basketball, Back then, every time you tune into the nightly news the main anchors are all praises on the azkals and all negativity on basketball. Then flame wars, debates and attacks started happening in message boards, twitter and facebook.
Come 2011 Gilas gained a bit more respect. Placing 2nd in the Dubai tournament, 3rd at the PBA Comissioner's cup, 3rd at the Jones Cup, 4th at the Fiba Asia Champions cup, 1st in Seaba and a narrow 9 point loss against an NBA squad led by Kobe Bryant, Derrick Rose, Kevin Durant and Chris Paul. But even then, It never gained enough media mileage as the Azkals were. 
The Azkals now is being treated as "THE" National team. Upgraded with a more experienced coach, better Filipino-European players in the roster and a ton load of monetary support due to advertisements. Their games are now covered live complete with long commericals and a pregame show that takes nearly as long as the game itself. With everyone's support they started doing good. The team started their 2011 conquest by demolishing mongolia at the panaad stadium. BBC covered it and concluded it to be a turning point where the country finally embracing football as a sport. 
From February to early July, the team had a great run. They were either drawing teams or winning on aggregate. However they were fighting against lesser teams, teams ranked way below them. Teams like Mongolia, Bangladesh, Palestine, Sri Lanka and Myanmar. The fans just went high with especially with the 4-0 demolition of Sri Lanka at the world cup preliminary qualifiers. It felt like the start of Rocky 3 with Balboa off to a win streak before he met Clubber Lang. Having beaten/drawn a lot of weak opponents to give the bandwagoners a false sense of security.
And the Azkal's Clubber lang was the Kuwaiti football team. 
After the Azkals' loss to Kuwait, the bandwagon fans started blaming everything. From coach  Weiss to the players and the endorsements. Those fans dropped the support like a hot potato.
A few weeks after the Azkals lost, The Philippine Dragon boat team started winning gold medals. The Dragon Warriors ended with 5 gold medals. Like the pre-December 2010 Azkals, the Dragon warriors now face problems with their NSA, The PSC and the POC. Bandwagon fans who got disappointed with the Azkals quickly jumped ship to the Dragonboat warriors. While what our paddlers had done was remarkable and splendid at the very least. Bandwagon fans now have to place a villain to compare them to, a villain to make them reek of envy. 
And that villain is the same team they "supported" the past few months, The Azkals.
In Conclusion, It is nice for the sport of football to grow. It would be great if middle class elementary and secondary schools, as well as inter baranggays would take a look at a secondary or tertiary team sport to hold a tournament such as Futsal or Rowing. It would help the youth lacking in height or basketball skills still enjoy sport. But bashing one team after the other simply isn't the way to do it.

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