OUTSIDE of Bacolod, Cebu was one of the cities to embrace the Azkals and to host a friendly between the team and a selection of local players.
Fans who saw the game didn’t go home disappointed, as the Azkals won by a mile, 6-0, on a hat trick by Phil Younghusband and they were able to interact with the players after the match.
The team returned to Cebu for a friendly of sorts last year—at the USC SVD center field against a team of expat-volunteers—with only the opposing team, friends and kids as the audience.
Dan Palami, who was also in that friendly, told me he wouldn’t mind returning to those roots—playing in small friendly games—but I doubt if it would happen.
Not that I doubt Sir Dan’s words, I simply think that if the Azkals play at the USC SVD center again, there would be too many fans there won’t be enough space to play on.
But wouldn’t it be great for Cebuanos to see the team in action in Cebu? It would be a great reward for fan loyalty and for—in Dan’s words—“embracing the team before the rest of the country did.”
Dan, the players who were here last summer, and even Coach Michael Weiss, all want to return to Cebu for training and even a friendly.
But, as Dan said last summer, “I can’t believe there’s no stadium in Cebu.”
Of course we have the Cebu City Sports Center but you’d have to be nuts to suggest the team play there and I didn’t suggest it.
That will all change in a few months—November to be exact according to Ricky Ballesteros.
The football field—or the Abellana Dust Bowl as Graeme Mackinnon calls it---will get a makeover, one befitting a football field that is inside a sports complex.
And what’s the better way to open a rehabilitated football field than to host an Azkal match against Cebu’s best players?
The idea isn’t mine.
“I want to invite the Azkals for a tuneup game. Maybe even the Under 23 team since they are preparing for the SEA Games,” CCSC manager Ricky Ballesteros told me last week.
I hope it pushes through because when fans flock to the CCSC, the PFF and Azkals management won’t be just thinking of Bacolod and Manila when the country hosts a game.
“Why not Cebu? They got a nice stadium,” I can almost hear them say.
And, as an added incentive, we’re going to give “them scalpers” free orange suits and let them dance Michael Jackson’s Thriller if they dare show up.
Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on July 21, 2011.