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December 5, 2011

Witness To History

Last December 3, 2011, I sat down on the bleachers beside the corner of the Rizal football field to witness what seemed to be a history for Philippine sport. A football icon, David Beckham, visited the country and together with his L.A. Galaxies, played against our national football team, the popular Philippine Azkals. When I first heard about the scheduled game and being aware that I would be in Manila on that day, I was toying with the idea that I had to watch this historic event. For me, it would be the first. My first to watch a sporting event in the historic Rizal Memorial Stadium. My first to watch an Azkal match. And definitely, my first time to see the legend David Beckham himself, together with the other superstars of the L.A. Galaxies who were the recently crowned MLS Champions. I hesitated though when I heard about the price. The cheapest ticket was being sold at 2,000 pesos or roughly 47 US Dollars. However, I decided to watch the game live thinking that this would be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity so I splurged. On the day of the game, I was already out lining up at the Vito Cruz entrance of the Stadium at around 5:30pm. Watching the crowd gathering outside of the stadium, patiently waiting for their return, one could feel the electricity running through the fanatics. From all ages, people were coming to the venue, wearing jerseys and scarfs of the two teams. Some even had their faces painted with the colors of the Philippine flag.

The ushers and security team were very organized. People were made to enter the Rizal Memorial Stadium grounds in batches. Umbrellas were not allowed nor were the DSLR cameras and other sharp objects. I did not bring anything except my regular digicam which later on became my biggest regret and some batteries I bought earlier at the nearby Harrison Plaza.

I was able to get in the bleachers at around 6:15 p.m. I was able to visit the SMART booths and after loading 100 pesos to my Smart Sim, I was given free clappers and a Vuvuzela. There were a lot of food stalls outside selling reasonably cheap burgers and soft drinks.

It was an amazing feeling to be seated at the Rizal Stadium. This has been the site of the SEA Games and the Asian Games in the 1950's when the Philippines hosted the events. It also hosted the Beatles' Concert in 1966 when the popular band visited the Philippines. It was said to be their second biggest concert ever with 80,000 in attendance.

At around 6:30 p.m. the players in both teams went out of the field to do their warm up. The bleachers started filling up as well. It was not as filled up as the usual matches of the Azkals but the unoccupied gaps were forgivable considering the price of the tickets.

At around 7:30 p.m., the game started after the usual ceremonial entrance and singing of the national anthem. It was an exciting match and at first I though it would be a tight fight too especially after Phil Younghusband scored the first (and only) goal for the Azkals during the first half. But the Galaxies showed why they were champions and increased their score to 6-1.

After the game the crowd was appreciative of both teams. For the fans who were there, it was definitely a moment to remember, watching these football stars, especially Beckham, play the game in front of them. No one expected that this would happen. For a basketball-crazy country, the attention being given to football is definitely beyond the extraordinary.

So even if the Azkals did not win (as expected), the fans were happy and were still proud of the Azkals. Because of their past efforts, they were now being acknowledged and are being recognized by other international teams like Beckham's. I do hope that the attention and support we are giving to football will soon bear fruit. Who knows, maybe Real Madrid or Barcelona will come over to play yet another friendly with out National team. Who knows, right?

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