After that memorable "Miracle of Hanoi" game against Vietnam at the My Dinh Stadium in 2008, the Philippine Azkals has become the emerging power in regional football especially in the AFF Suzuki Cup, However, the national team has yet to win the title despite being the highest rank team in the region (excluding the Australia, the Socceroos decided not to participate in this tournament. Powered mostly by Fil-Foreign players, the team has leapfrog the competition even though the Philippines has yet to meet the level of standards and competitions that major footballing countries like Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand and Vietnam has enjoyed.
We don't have gargantuan and cavernous football stadiums like the Sports Hub Stadium, the Rajamangala Stadium, the Gelora Bung Karno Stadium or the Shah Alam Stadium but we now have the largest football / athletics stadium in the country - the Philippine Sports Stadium. Built near the world's largest indoor arena - the Philippine Arena, this venue will host the home games of the Philippine football team. Talk about a major upgrade from the old Rizal Memorial Stadium or the UFL's Emperador Stadium, its about time that our team needs a big boost hometown support that our opponents already have.
Imagine 25,000 screaming fans crying their hearts out after a Phil Younghusband goal. A good home support will work wonders on a team that is still trying to win the hearts and minds of the predominantly basketball-loving country. With the 2016 AFF Suzuki Cup on the radar as host, the Philippine Sports Stadium will help fuel a football revolution in the country. It is also being eyed as venue for the 2016 Palarong Pambansa and the 2025 Southeast Asian Games.
Winning on a hostile turf can be difficult but having a good home stadium to fall back on can improve the chances of the Azkals winning the tournament. Whatever the results of the 2014 AFF Suzuki Cup, we have to look long term and hopefully, that new footballing venue will help jumpstart a solid grassroots football program so we can build a team for the future.
Photo Credits: Skyscrapercity