By DING T. MARCELOJune 8, 2011, 12:10am
MANILA, Philippines — The shock defeat of the Philippine Football team has left not only its coach and team officials disappointed, it also upset one of the Azkals’ major backers in a different sort of way.
Mizuno, which has supported the Azkals “when they were nothing,” said it was deeply hurt when the team played against a United Football League selection without wearing the company’s jerseys.
Benny Gopez, whose company Mastersports is the sole distributor of Mizuno products for nearly 30 years, said that by using another jersey, the Azkals may have violated a contract it had signed with Mizuno in which the team agreed to use its jerseys in both local and international competitions.
“We love the Azkals,” Gopez said, “what we can’t understand is why it suddenly decided not to use our jerseys.”
Gopez, former president of the golf and volleyball associations, recalled that when the Azkals were the team Filipinos knew nothing about, and they went around looking for sponsors who mostly rejected them, Mizuno offered to support them “not for personal gain but because we have faith in them and that football needed all the help it can get.”
“Now that they are big and popular,” Gopez said, “they apparently have forgotten who helped them when they were nothing.”
Azkals team manager Dan Palami, in explaining the switch, said it was not their deliberate intention not to use Mizuno jerseys.
The jerseys, he said, arrived late and they didn’t have time to put in the names of the other sponsors on the shirts.
“Had we been given the uniforms in time to print our other sponsors, we would have gladly worn it,” Palami said.
He also said the team did not wear a competing brand, what they wore was a backup practice jersey. He added that they always wore Mizuno shirts but the Sunday game was only a practice and exhibition match.
He recognized Mizuno’s contribution to the national team.
“Indeed Mizuno was there before the Azkals made their name, and for that, despite better offers from competitors, we extended their lapsed contract for one more year,” Palami said.
Gopez admitted they are not really big sponsors, only suppliers of the team’s apparel, but he said the Azkals management should not forget those who supported them in their hour of need.
Following unprecedented success in international campaign, the Azkals have become the newests darlings of Philippine sports, their top players matching the celebrity status of the country’s more popular basketball players.
“But they have to return to their beginnings,” said Gopez.
He wryly noted that the team that beat the Azkals, the UFL selection, during their exhibition game last Sunday, wore Mizuno jerseys.
“Isn’t that poetic justice,” Gopez said. “Our jerseys also bring luck.”