The good news, at least for South Asia, is that India has broken into the Top 100 in the latest football rankings by the beautiful sport’s governing body FIFA.
In these rankings, India is in a tie with Nicaragua, Lithuania and Estonia.
Apart from the Indian sub-continent, the other countries composing that region are Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka.
Still good news, at least for Southeast Asia and the Philippines, in particular, is that the country’s national football team Philippine Azkals had beaten or drawn with all of the South Asian states, except Bhutan, for the simple reason that the two sides are yet to meet at the regional or international level.
The Philippines, from 1971 to 1996 (pre-Azkal) and from 2012 to 2013 (Azkal years), has a 2-1-1 win-loss-draw record against India, a country that now has a population of over a billion.
Meanwhile, the Philippine Azkals are languishing with other “weaker” elevens ranked 101 and downward at 127, or lower than the People’s Democratic Republic of North Korea but higher than Thailand.
It is cold comfort that the Philippine national eleven is still the top Southeast Asia football nation.
Apparently the reason why the Azkals have not lived to their potential since 2010 when they famously beat Vietnam for the first time ever and eventually gaining a semifinals seat in the Suzuki Cup in that year is that they have not really gelled as a team.
Their latest victory was a 4-1 drubbing of Nepal in a qualifier for the 2019 Asian Cup last March at the Rizal Memorial Football Stadium in Manila.
The scoreline suggests that the Azkals overwhelmed the Nepali side when the case was the Philippine side showed overconfidence as the match neared its end.
The visitors should have not been able to send a goal at all to the back of the net and the Azkals should have piled up the points.
The Philippine Azkals also have not really been one football family because many of them are based overseas and come home only a few days before they are to meet here or fly to some distant capitals for a game and then go their separate ways.
Maybe that is why being members of a real football family who are all in one place whether they have a scheduled match works at the club level.
The best news from Philippine football this month is that Ceres Negros FC and Global FC—whose respective rosters include current members of the Philippine Azkals—have barged into the semifinals of the 2017 AFC Cup.
This is the first time for the Philippines to be in the Round of 4 in Southeast Asia’s premier club tournament, where it arguably is the new kid on the block.
Let Ceres Negros FC and Global FC’s unprecedented achievement inspire their kuya (Big Brothers) in the Philippine Azkals to be deserving role models for the country’s next generation of footballers.
The Azkals are reportedly facing China in a friendly next month.
They are capable of beating China, which this corner believes, is weighed down by the fact that the mainland side is composed of young millionaires who have little to lose especially when their football years are over.