Unsung Heroes of Philippine Football

The recent convincing win of the Philippine Azkals against the Sri Lanka Brave Reds brought to fore the once forgotten Rizal Memorial Stadium. The whole country saw on national television, the dramatic transformation of the stadium. It does not come as a surprise therefore that Rizal Stadium became one of the top trending topics that day on Twitter.

Before the Azkals-Brave Reds game, it was a pity that the stadium couldn’t even be a venue for a collegiate football game. It was used as site for track and field events which resulted to its deterioration. The renovation of the stadium was very much-needed. Thanks to the Philippine Sports Commission and its private partner, De La Salle University, it became a reality.

The PSC and the De La Salle Brothers, led by its then President and now Department of Education Secretary, Br. Armin Luistro and Vice Chancellor Br. Bernie Oca discussed about the proposed renovation of the Rizal Memorial Stadium. The La Salle Brothers were thinking of ways to contribute to national sports development and consequently, have a relevant celebration of its centennial the following year. What better way to do this but to start in its own backyard, literally.

Thus, DLSU and the PSC, represented by Harry Angping, a Lasalle alumnus, entered into an agreement in early 2010 which included among others, the renovation of the 76-year old stadium. There were some bumps along the way, with the partnership being questioned by some sectors. Doubts were raised. Eventually, misconceptions were corrected and differences sorted out, and the renovation went underway. The renovation was completed early this year, perfectly in time for the World Cup first round qualifier.

A year after that agreement was signed, the country is reaping the benefits. Without question, the skills of the Azkals and the strategies of the coaching staff were key to the team’s victory. But, the rehabilitation and “revival” of the football field, greatly contributed to that overwhelming win of the celebrated men’s national football team.

Coach Hans Michael Weiss credited the pitch for the smooth execution of the plays by his players. “The pitch was perfect,” Coach Weiss was quoted. Spectators and football aficionados agree. The field’s surface allowed the booters to make the passes that created opportunities for scoring, as evident in the goal scored by Fil-Spanish Angel Guirado Aldeguer.

Now, we can look forward to more exciting football games in the stadium, and we cannot thank DLSU enough for having the will and determination to see the renovation come to fruition.

Interestingly, the same memorandum of agreement also included the creation of a sports academy which aims to supplement the education and training of national athletes to help prepare them for a career outside of sports. Last month, the academy produced its first batch of students. Like, the Rizal Stadium, it should not be long till we see the results.

Goal achieved …for God and Country.

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