Why the Azkals are named as one of the 10 History Makers of 2018

Azkals AFC Asian Cup Qualifying Celebration

The Philippine Azkals has been named as one of the 10 History Makers of 2018 along with familiar names, mostly coming from the entertainment industry. 

A lot were surprised that the Azkals has been shortlisted in the history awards when it was revealed in social media – most of the netizens even wondered what remarkable thing did these boys from the football pitch do to even earn the citation, as some are not aware of it. There were some who would even wonder why them when there are other athletes who deserve the recognition more than the Azkals.

But our National Football Team earned the recognition the hard way. They had to play against teams that tested their physicality, their fighting spirit and their will to give glory to the flag that they represent. They had to take countless of airplane rides that drained their energies but would still manage to report for training the following day because they don’t have much time to do so ahead of a given fixture. The Azkals endured all of these, with the country’s first ever qualification at the Asian Cup – the continent’s most prestigious football meet, as the sweetest reward.

That in itself is a feat worth the recognition.

The Asian Cup qualification also pushed the Azkals to their all-time highest FIFA world ranking at 111. From being at the lowest at about 192 or so, being the laughing stock of our neighbours in the region to emerging as one of the tough teams and being South East Asia’s second best team to date, all of these contributed to the criteria why they were shortlisted along with the likes of veteran newscaster Jessica Soho, multi-awarded theatre actress Lea Salonga and construction mogul Victor Consunji.

Perhaps it is safe to say that the individual achievements of the members of the Azkals, particularly that of skipper Phil Younghusband and Neil Etheridge can also be a factor for such recognition.

Younghusband scored the winning goal that earned our Asian Cup qualification, that same goal also happened to be his 50th international goal. Such number of goals linked his name with the likes of international players with World Cup experience such like Japan’s Shinji Okazaki, Australia’s Tim Cahill, Mexico’s Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez and The Nethelands’ Robin van Persie. The Azkals skipper is just fifteen goals shy from one of the world’s greatest football player – Lionel Messi in terms of scoring international goals.

We are going up… say…

A post shared by Neil Etheridge (@neil38etheridge) on May 6, 2018 at 9:25am PDT

Finally, more than the fact that he is South East Asia’s number one goalkeeper, Neil Etheridge will boost the Azkals all the more by being the first ever Filipino [and South East Asian] to possibly play at the world’s most popular football league – the Premiere League of the United Kingdom as his club, Cardiff City earned the promotion to the league from the English Football League Championship. Etheridge’s success also reflects that of the Philippines since he is bannering the country’s colours loud and proud. He leads the rallies of all of the Filipino football players making waves in other leagues in foreign soil, proving that the Philippines can produce world class footballers.

All of these reasons happened on the same year – when we are barely halfway through 2018. The success of the Philippine Azkals in the international scene is a feat for every single Filipino on eart and for the flag it represents.