• Iceland (350K people); PH (4.7M drug users)



    There is an estimated total drug market of 4.7 million drug users in the country, according to Isidro Lapeña, former director-general of the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA).

    Lapena, now Bureau of Customs chief, made the estimate on June 14 this year during the 15th anniversary of the PDEA.

    President Rodrigo Duterte recently ordered the agency to lead his administration’s war on illegal drugs.

    The figure (4.7 million) cited by Lapena is almost half of the total population of 10.36 million of Iceland, 350,000; Jamaica, 2.89 million; Northern Ireland, 1.85 million; Slovenia, 2.8 million; Trinidad and Tobago, 1.37 million; and Wales, 3.1 million.

    These six countries are the smallest to have made it to the World Cup: Wales, 1958; Trinidad and Tobago, 2006; Slovenia, 2002 and 2010; Northern Ireland, 1958, 1982, 1986 and, possibly, 2018; Jamaica, 1998; and Iceland, 2018.

    In the qualifiers for next year’s quadrennial competition in Russia, the Azkals, the Philippine national team, fell short of moving to Round 2 after clashes with Bahrain, People’s Democratic Republic of Korea, Uzbekistan and Yemen in its group.

    The Philippines has a population of 100 million plus as of 2017.

    It could have easily formed from the 4.7 million drug users alone a highly competitive 11-man squad to battle it out with footballing countries for the Jules Rimet Trophy.

    Of course, that is not going to happen, but maybe we can get lucky with the remaining 99 million or so Filipinos who are not drug users but people who love themselves, their country or even the beautiful game who would not hang their heads in front of 350,000 Icelanders, who will make their debut on football’s biggest stage.

    Size does not matter, if we go by the World Cup achievements of Iceland, Jamaica, Northern Ireland, Slovenia, Trinidad and Tobago and Wales.

    In all six countries, there is as much support from the people for the javelin throw as there is for the giant slalom, even basketball.

    Smallness not being a big deal from Reykjavik to Cardiff contrasts with the irony of the bigness of China (population: more than one billion) and the United States (population: more than 300 million) not being a factor in these two countries’ bid for a spot in the 2018 World Cup—they failed to qualify.

    In make-or break clashes, the US lost to Trinidad and Tobago, 2-0, this month and China lost to Iran, 1-0, in March, to miss the boat to Russia.

    Iceland also this month beat Kosovo, 2-0, to punch a Russian ticket.

    If it is any consolation, Chile, the South American champion, was also eliminated, and so was the once-mighty Dutch national team.

    See you in Russia.


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