Last year, we had the one big chance to flirt with history and destiny, a shot to advance to the third round of the World Cup Qualifiers. To some it was already a lost cause as we were 3-0 down on aggregate against a Kuwait side that has destroyed us in the first leg, to others, they had hoped we could have fought and possibly overturned the tie.
Then Stephan Schrock happened.
Heading into halftime at 0-0 with Kuwait having the 3-0 aggregate lead, Chieffy Caligdong, the first goalscorer at the Rizal Memorial Stadium against Sri Lanka a month before, slid a pass to Schrock who latched on a long range effort from 35 yards to put the ball past the back of the net.
For the 13,000 or so in attendance in the stadium then, the reaction was nerve wracking. With all hope being lost, Schrock’s goal gave everyone in the stadium that slight glimmer of hope, that one chance with history.
And although we would see our World Cup dreams fade away after Kuwait grabbed two goals in the second half for the 2-1 victory, it was not a finished story as after that fateful night, Philippine football was indeed here to stay, or to say, reached even greater heights.
Where have we exactly gone after that exit from the World Cup? A second place finish in the Long Teng Cup, a series of friendly against Singapore and Nepal, David Beckham, Landon Donovan and the rest of the Los Angeles Galaxy coming to the country, drawing Malaysia (twice), Indonesia, a win against Guam, and of course who would not forget, a third place finished in the AFC Challenge Cup where Phil Younghusband bagged the Golden Boot award.
That’s just the national team. The local scene also has been brewing a lot of programs such as the grassroots program in the Philippine Football Federation’s Kasibulan project, the Under-14 team having a successful campaign overseas, the United Football League coming in full swing with an official broadcaster, several clubs beefing up financially as well as creating their own identity to the fans, a mouth watering season that saw Global FC edge the entire competition in the final day, and to everyone’s surprise a Philippine club in Loyola Meralco Sparks FC participating in an international competition in the Singapore Cup where they are to face S.League’s reigning champions Tampines Rovers in the semifinals, and did I forget, a Filipino was accepted to FC Barcelona’s Escola.
Looking forward, there’s just this one competition that everyone has already been talking about, it’s the AFF Suzuki Cup once again this coming November. Last time out, the Philippines were just deemed to be cannon fodder to the competition, but not until they drew Singapore and made the biggest upset in the competition by defeating then champions Vietnam.
It will not be smooth sailing this time again, but again, it gives us that glimmer of hope that we had last year against Kuwait all over again.