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Wednesday, April 1, 2020
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China has fallen

MONICO PUENTEVELLA

If the country is now celebrating the new medal potentials for the forthcoming SEA Games and Tokyo Olympics, here’s another big one.

Who would believe that our very own Azkals would draw the most frustrated eleven in the World Cup. China has been doing everything all these last 50 years to qualify for prestigious FIFA World Cup. Japan and South Korea have always been in the WC, so China just can’t understand why they can’t make to the most popular sporting event in the world.


They have all the unlimited budget, even making a shifty Brazilian also a naturalized citizen to add more power to the team. With more than a billion population to choose from. But all for NADA up to now.

If the brave Hong Kong democrats can spell big trouble for the giant China, so have the Azkals in football. Hong Kong must have been cheering for us that night. Let’s hear it for our goalkeeper Neil Etheridge. I’ve been lucky to be with the Azkals under team manager Dan Palami for many years now, even in the early years, as FIFA Director for Marketing and TV, and saw the starting years of this young, tall, and well built keeper.

But now, after playing against the best in England these last few years, Neil has come home a super keeper. China couldn’t penetrate the Great Wall of the Azkals. Calm and full of confidence, they couldn’t beat Captain Marvel, who’s now playing up there in England.

Bombardments, one after another, couldn’t go through. The whole of China and Asia couldn’t believe this night. A hundred years ago, we beat China 2-1 for the last time. A century ago, guys. Kudos to our Coach Steve Cooper for the brilliant defensive plays and even for several attempts that almost penetrated the real Great Wall, whose taller guys went home crying. With this performance, they knew they can’t join the World Cup in Qatar three years from now.

At least, in football, we don’t bow down to these communists turned capitalists. Hehe.

What a week!
How about that? Two golds in one day! Hallelujah brother! To Caloy Yulo for winning gold in the floor exercise of the 49th FIG Artistic Gymnastics World Championships in Germany and to Nesthy Petecio for winning another big one in the AIBA Women’s Boxing World Championships in Russia last weekend. A very first for gymnastics.

Congratulations for making this a super sports month for our medal-hungry Filipinos. But with all due respect and just for clarification, I thought AIBA or the International Boxing Association has already been banned or not recognized by the International Olympic Committee? So what is this for?

While Yulo is a cinch already for the Tokyo Olympics, what about Boxer Nesthy? And boxer Marcial last month? Are they already qualified for the Olympics or what?

Although I just heard that the qualifying competitions for boxing will be held early next year yet just before the Big Games in Tokyo. But this surprising and welcome news will make the Tokyo Olympics quite interesting for us.

If Lady Luck joins us, we’ll be cheering for Yulo, Petecio, Diaz, Obiena, Marcial, and hopefully some more from our weightlifting event or even skate boarding and golf? Let’s hope we’ll get some more from athletics, and swimming too, which are compulsory events and given two athletes each by the IOC Charter.

However, let’s be honest about it. It’s awesome to be an Olympic qualifier, but it’s a dream to be an Olympic medalist. But let’s look at the bottom line. For qualifying, they are all from individual events, not team events. And they are the unheralded priority sports too. Except for boxing, which has been our banner sport all these years, weightlifting and gymnastics are unheard of.

What about archery? Or tae kwon do? Or judo? And if you want another common denominator for these new Pinoy heroes, they all come from humble beginnings. All of them are HUNGRY for a better life, a better home, and a brighter future ahead of them.

This is what drives them for that elusive Gold. And except for boxing, they are all under foreign coaches. Our Hidilyn works hard in Taipei and China with Coach Kaiwen Gao from China, while Caloy trains in Japan under Coach Munehiro Kugimiya. Although Hidilyn was nurtured by Pinoy national Coach Tony Agustin when she was still eleven years old competing in our grass roots program “Batang Pinoy” till she performed as a wild card in the Beijing Olympics at 16yrs., and qualified as a bonafide Olympian in London, aside from being the flag bearer.

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