Doha, Qatar—When the Philippine Azkals go up against an unpredictable Yemen tonight at the Al Wakra Stadium there will be a 12th man on their side: the thousands of Overseas Filipino Workers.
Despite the week day game schedule, many Filipinos are expected to come and show their support to the men’s national football team as it aims to book a historic ticket to the 2019 Asian Cup in UAE.
Seeing the Azkals live in the flesh has so much pride to Filipinos who are employed in various capacities—from architects, accountants, engineers, hotel staff, VIP drivers and many more—in this Gulf state.
“Ako po naoverwhelm ako kasi first time ko sila nakita. Narinig ko before na andito sila last year pero di ko sila nakita ngayon ako pa mismo sumalubong sa kanila. Mababait sila. Wala silang ere. Sobrang saya po,” says Shiela Sanchez.
Sanchez has been in Doha for the last 11 years.
Just like Sanchez, Mariam Palomares went out of her way to greet the team. And to see her favorite Azkal and the next generation of Pinoy football players made all her efforts worthy.
“Natutuwa ako kasi I’m very proud of them. To see them na ganito up close and personal. Lalo na si James (Younghusband) nakakatuwa na tingnan,” Mariam Palomares added.
Due to the overwhelming show of support and appreciation, Azkals team manager Dan Palami says they are dedicating the game against Yemen to the hundreds of thousands of OFWs here.
“The hunger and motivation to show what they can do sa mga kababayan natin ay makakadagdag ng kumpiyansa and energy to get us through this game,” Palami said.
“Pag nanalo tayo pasok na tayo sa Asian Cup and it would be great to accomplish that in front of them here in Doha.”
The Philippine Azkals have won all the three games they have played in Qatar.
More than anything else, the OFWs here and the team itself would like to see the winning streak to continue.
Photo and Article by Erel Cabatbat