MANILA, Philippines (July 3, 2011) - President Benigno C. Aquino III joins the nation in celebrating this afternoon's shut out victory of the Azkals over Sri Lanka, finding time to issue a congratulatory message to the national football team that brings the country together.
"I join our people in celebrating their 5-1 aggregate win over Sri Lanka," the president said in a prepared statement.
"To the Philippine Azkals, may the teamwork you displayed today on both sides of the pitch lead to more than just future victories; may you continue to inspire our youth to pursue teamwork, and the true spirit of sportsmanship that, win or lose, inspires excellence on and off the field—for if the Filipino people can work together, and if we can make the most of our inherent creativity and skill, then our victories as a country can extend far beyond the football pitch," said the president.
The president also recognized the role of the home-town crowd in Azkals' inspired game. "Truly, there is no place like home, as those gathered at the Rizal Memorial and who gathered before their TV sets today experienced," he said.
This afternoon Chieffy Caligdong drew first blood when he nailed a goal in the 19th minute that sent the crowd at the Rizal Memorial Football Stadium roaring wildly. Then a succession of goals came from Phil Younghusband at the 43rd minute and Angel Guirado Aldeguer at the 50th minute. Phil Younghusband capped Azkals scoring frenzy by nailing a penalty kick at the 57th minute, putting the game out of reach.
With the 4-0 victory, Azkals move on to the second round of the FIFA 2014 World Cup Qualifiers. This is the highest achievement in football for the Philippines, a country that for decades has been more passionate about basketball and boxing.
They play against the higher-ranked Kuwaiti team, which is considered a tough opponent for the Philippines, on July 23 and 28.
Kuwait is home to many football clubs and has a long history of exposure in international football. They were the champions of the 1980 AFC Asian Cup, runners- up of the 1976 AFC Asian Cup, and placed third in the 1984 AFC Asian Cup. Kuwait also been to one World Cup, in 1982, where they didn't win a single match, managing only to draw with Czechoslovakia, 1-1.
To the Azkals the president said: "I urge you to continue to bring our countrymen together and give them even more things to be proud of. I wish you the best of luck against Kuwait!" (From philstar.com, Vox Bikol)