Tuesday, July 5, 2011

One with the (Kaholero) Force!

Who cares if the Philippines is currently 159th in the FIFA World Rankings? This I can tell you, as a living witness to the home leg of the Philippines vs Sri Lanka home game on July 3, 2011 at the Rizal Memorial Stadium, no one can contest now that we're right up there with Brazil, Spain or any other nation for that matter, when it comes to fervor and passion for football.

(photo courtesy of Mylene Sermonia)
I won't be writing how the Azkals made history, becoming the first Philippine team to move past the first round of a World Cup Qualifier by defeating Sri Lanka in dominating fashion, 4-nil. I'll leave the stats and recaps to the sports pros. Instead, I will recount how a merry band of footie fanatics pumped up the crowd 13,000-16,000 strong and powered up the Azkals' adrenaline.

This is my day with the Kaholeros.

(photo courtesy of Mylene Sermonia)

Coming off a company team building from Friday to Saturday, I hardly slept and woke up early Sunday morning, just to make it to the 8am Kaholero call time at McDonald's Adriatico. I brought along my "Aquadrum" (a 5 gallon Wilkins mineral water bottle), the Kaholeros' "weapon" of choice, and borrowed drumsticks from my son's toy drum set.

After meeting up with the group, we proceeded to the Rizal Memorial Stadium White Bleachers, the designated area for Kaholeros. There we met the organizers (led by Ebong "the Blue Haired Fanatic", Mary Anne Ingua, Ria De Leon, Aracelli Socorro and Craig Burrows among others),  had a briefing and got our official Kaholero uniforms (free, courtesy of the Philippine Football Federation) and IDs. Tricolors were naturally the dominant scheme of our face painting sessions

(photo courtesy of Alan TriƱanes)

(photo courtesy of Marion Breezly)


Despite the scorching heat, led by drum master Paul Zialcita we practiced our beats, chants and hexes without complaint. This was our version of fun in sun!

(photo courtesy of Mylene Sermonia)

(photo courtesy of Mylene Sermonia)

At 11am the gates were opened to the paying public and slowly, fans from all walks of life, some even from the provinces and abroad, began to fill Rizal Memorial Stadium.

(photo courtesy of Mylene Sermonia)

The crowd erupted when the Azkals took the pitch to warm-up. Feeding off the energy of their home stadium, the guys had an extra spring to their steps and you could see the fire in their eyes. Calling each of the player's names out, the Kaholeros gave the Azkals some lovin'!

(photo courtesy of Mylene Sermonia)

At 3:30 pm, the moment was finally at hand and it was electrifying. Never did I sing the "Lupang Hinirang" with such nationalistic pride in my heart, complemented by the unfurling of the giant Philippine flag.

(photo courtesy of Mylene Sermonia)

(photo courtesy of Marion Breezly)


(photo courtesy of Mylene Sermonia)


And just as the kick-off whistle sounded, the rain poured like a blessing from heaven! Soaked to my toes like the rest of the Kaholeros and fans on the bleachers, the shower didn't dampen my spirit one bit. We clapped, stomped and banged away on our Aquadrums as one. Each beat quickened with every Azkal foray into Sri Lankan territory. It also served as Neil Etheridge's force field each time a Brave Red came dangerously close to the Azkal stronghold. When Chieffy Caligdong's shot finally found the back of the net, 1-0, it was our sweet reward and we knew it was a portent of more great goals to come. Before the first 45' ended, Phil Younghusband made it 2-0 just as the "Mexican Wave" was almost at the back of the Sri Lankan goal.

(photo courtesy of Mylene Sermonia)

Angel Guirado made it 3-0 with a brilliant run off a James Younghusband pass, and Phil's second goal via a well placed penalty kick sealed the outcome of the match at 4-0.

(photo courtesy of Alan Trinanes)

When the South Korean referee blew the final whistle, the whole nation celebrated with thunderous applause. The victorious Azkals, grateful of the home crowd's support, went around the stadium to wave and give their love back. They stopped for quite some time in front of the Kaholeros. The smile on their faces said it all. We did our job. We did it magnificently.

(photo courtesy of Mylene Sermonia)


I played football back in high school and college and always had dreams of representing the country in an international sporting event. But I was never physically gifted as an athlete and at best, I was only your average football player. Being a Kaholero for a day finally gave me the chance to play for flag and country, albeit in a different way.

I went home sunburnt and still soaking wet, cracked Aquadrum in tow. I also forgot to wipe off traces of facepaint washed off by the rain. People on the bus and the jeepneys that I rode stared at me, but I hardly noticed them. I was on football cloud nine and I was already looking forward to Kuwait.

4 comments:

Karla said...

I can feed off the energy in Rizal Memorial Stadium looking at your pics alone! :D It must be a great feeling to be part of it. Great job sir for supporting not only the Azkals but our country as well. ^__^

jedi_randy said...

Thanks Karla, it was a remarkable experience, something that I will remember for the rest of my life :)

H0KAGE said...

It's been quite some time since I visited your blog Master Jedi. The shots at the stadium are fantastic. Not really a fan of football but I do love your all-out support for our nation's team. Kudos! =)

jedi_randy said...

I haven't posted much the past two months, thank you Hokage for dropping by :) Go Azkals go!

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