This appears on abs-cbnnews.com
A trophy of dreams
by rick olivares
The Suzuki Cup trophy measures a little over two feet tall and is bedecked with eight colored ribbons representing the eight finalists out of the 11 competing nations for Southeast Asian football supremacy. On the right side of the base of the trophy are the names of the past nine champions of which come from only four nations – Thailand, Singapore, Vietnam, and Malaysia.
And it is hoped by the 2014 Suzuki Cup’s conclusion on December 20, the Philippines will not only hoist the coveted trophy but will also be added to the honor roll.
The Suzuki Cup trophy will be on display for the whole day this coming November 17 at the atrium of Market! Market! at Bonifacio Global City, Taguig, to bolster interest among Filipinos with the tournament barely two weeks away before kick-off. The Philippine Men’s National Team will also be on hand for a press conference and a meet and greet with fans late in the afternoon of that day.
“It is not only important to Filipino fans and supporters but also equally important to AFF and WSG the holder’s rights to the competition,” explained Philippine Football Federation General-Secretary Atty. Edwin Gastanes. “This trophy tour is the first time they are doing this. And we are one of six countries who are a part of the tour. This is to show off the tournament sponsors and what the tournament does for football for the region.”
How massive is this for the region?
Since the Asean football championship was first played in 1996, it has become the region’s most important sporting event. The 2010 edition, bolstered by the finals between Malaysia and Indonesia as well as the strong showing of the Philippines, drew a record 192 million viewers and 800,000 paying fans to venues.
With the addition of Australia to the Asean Football Federation competition by 2016, expect the number of viewers and stadium paying patrons to rise spectacularly.
“We hope (the trophy tour) can generate more interest among Filipinos since we have a very good chance to win it,” said Gastanes. “We already have strong support among the football community. We want others to rally to the national team’s cause.”
Gastanes also cleared up the matter regarding Suzuki Cup matches having bearing on FIFA rankings.
“All matches in Suzuki Cup that fall on the FIFA international window are considered international friendlies and are considered for rankings,” clarified the PFF official. “Matches played outside the FIFA international window but authorized by FIFA and AFC and involve eight teams are considered for FIFA rankings.”
The Philippines is currently ranked #129 in the world and are favorites to win the tournament on the strength of its last two competition showings as well as the recent AFC Challenge Cup where the PMNT fell to Palestine in the Finals.
“The last two editions of the competition (2010 and 2012), we have made the semifinals,” said Gastanes. “This time it is crucial that fulfill our aspirations.”
For his part, PMNT head coach Thomas Dooley embraced the favorite’s tag. “When there’s pressure, it only means that you are on your way to something higher or better. I think every country that competes in the tournament wants to win it. No one says, I just hope to finish third or fourth. What is the point of competing?”
The PFF’s General Secretary also bared that aside from the trophy display, members of the Philippine Men’s National Team as well as its coaching staff and management will be on hand to meet that fans.