“LONG is the way, and hard, that out of Hell leads up to light” – John Milton, Paradise Lost
THE “We Believe” campaign, in its simplest terms, aims to make the public aware that the Azkals’ victory “is also the nation’s triumph,” apart from bringing the team closer to the fans.
The campaign, launched yesterday in Metro Manila, also has a vision: to uplift Filipino pride and “to inspire them to believe in what they can do for the country.”
“We Believe” makes for a good slogan, which happens to be a variation of earlier catchphrases from other campaigns of the same theme, such as “Posible,” “Yes we can,” “Kaya Natin,” etc. (It could also pass muster as a “meme,” the idea or belief that spreads within a culture from one person or another.)
But could this nationwide campaign be nothing more than mere feel-good sloganeering, or is it a sincere effort to build on the momentum of the Azkals phenomenon?
The campaign itself is the result of a “paradigm shift” that has given the Filipino football community a newfound sense of optimism. Thanks to the Azkals nearly improbable run during the 2010 Suzuki Cup finals in Vietnam, a story we know all too well.
While some are helplessly cynical and others warn football fans and stakeholders to proceed with caution, many more are just happy to be caught up in the Azkals frenzy. But definitely, there is no one more optimistic right now than Dan Palami, the standard bearer of the “We Believe” campaign.
In my column last Thursday (That World Cup dream), I sought to explain Palami’s blueprint for the Azkals’ 2018 World Cup qualification. I forgot to mention, however, what in the world made him believe it was possible to qualify for the globe’s most important sporting event in such a short time.
Before his stint with the seniors’ squad, Palami, a businessman, was appointed as manager of the Under-19 team only three weeks before they were to compete in China.
With so haphazard a preparation, the team was thrashed in all its games. It must have been embarrassing as hell for him as manager.
So when he was given the opportunity to manage the Philippine Men’s National Team, Palami also found the chance to redeem himself. But to do so required commitment: he had to pursue a comprehensive plan for the team, which also meant he had to spend his own fortune. (Last year, he spent “half of his income” in managing the team.)
So what’s the deal with the 2018 qualification?
“I had to set such a difficult goal so I would really push myself in managing the team,” Palami had told our small group—– Paulo Pascual’s father Joel, sports editor Mike Limpag and I—hours after he received the Sportswriters Association of Cebu Presidential Award last February.
In other words, the 2018 World Cup goal isn’t so much about qualifying as of setting up a system that would develop the most competitive squad possible, given the meager resources.
Having recalled this bit of information allows me to put into the proper context the most plausible motivation behind the “We Believe” campaign. It is not mere “mindless optimism” on the part of the Azkals management, but something more substantial.
“Our brains aren’t just stamped by the past,” says last week’s Time cover story about the science of optimism. “They are constantly being shaped by the future.”
The future that Palami sees for Philippine football, having emerged from its darkest days, is a bright one. But getting there will be hard, so having a catchy slogan and getting everyone else to say it might just help.
“We Believe.” Say it. Spread the word. It’s not that hard.
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