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We heard the booming roar from the Rizal Memorial Stadium as we alighted from the cab. We were running late (as usual) and the painfully long line of Azkals fanatics snaking up to the stadium entrance at the Philippine Sports Commission was adding up to our frustration.

Scalpers littered the road to the stadium offering tickets at skyhigh prices. Another enterprising Pinoy selling Azkals merchandise caught our attention. He was sporting a face paint of the Philippine flag. I asked his permission to get his photo and he gamely said “sige, basta i-tag mo lang ako.” 

The burly and towering security guards at the gates stopped us on our tracks. “No large backpacks and DLSR cameras allowed inside” they barked. I turned around and cursed them under my breath.  My brother’s car was parked several blocks away from the grandstand. Surely, I don’t have to walk that distance just to store my things? I had no choice, I was told. I cursed them some more.

And then it started to pour. And I mean POUR. We waited a few minutes for it to stop but the heavy rains showed no sign of letting up. While all of this was going on, we can hear the roars of the crowd inside the stadium growing louder.

Braving the rain was the easiest decision I made that day.

The crowd apparently shared the same sentiment. I was told that very few budged from their position even when the heavens were dumping buckets on the stadium.

I’m not a big Azkal fan (Ok, this was before the game. I’m a big convert now.) but I’m a sucker for that palpable energy and excitement that course through the crowd in big sporting events such as this. You can’t help but join the crowd in chanting “Ole, Ole”  and screaming “Pilipinas”  everytime the Azkals get position of the ball.

The Azkals fed off the energy of the crowd and reciprocated by not allowing the Sri Lankan Team to score even one goal. It was pure Azkal domination!

The crowd went wild when the 90-minute game ended with a 4-o score in favor of the Azkals. Our officials from the DFA must be turning green with envy, I told myself. I mean, not even the Chinese bullying in the West Philippine Sea could whip up this kind of nationalistic fervor!

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