The Azkals may have lost their opening match in the Asian Cup, but they’ve won hearts by leaving their locker room clean and tidy.
The team also left a note, thanking the host nation Dubai after their 1-0 defeat by South Korea yesterday (Monday, January 7).
The note left in the locker room at Al Nasr Club’s Maktoum Stadium read: “Thank you Dubai. From Team Philippines, the Azkals.”
The team’s growing fanbase in the Philippines — where basketball remains far and away the most popular sport — have been swift to commend the sportsmen.
Comments left on Twitter included:
What a beautiful gesture, it’s the perfect way to represent your country.
Filipinos are the best and finest people in the world.
Thank you for keeping such high morale.
Despite their opening loss, the team has its collective head held high as it prepares to meet the People’s Republic of China in Abu Dhabi on Friday (January 11).
Despite being widely tipped to dominate the match yesterday, the Koreans were forced to pull out all the stops to secure their single goal in the 67th minute.
Coach Sven-Goran Eriksson believes the fighting spirit showed by the underdogs — ‘Azkals’ actually means ‘street mutt’ — has caught the attention of football fans around the world.
Speaking to AFC today, the ex-England manager said: “The Koreans played well, they won and we cannot complain too much about that, but anyhow, I am proud of the team we had out there.
“I think we stood up to them. They had the ball much more than we had, but we created some chances, and with a little bit of luck we could have had a different result for sure.
“I think we showed the people here in the stadium, in front of the television that this country can play football, because I think we did a lot of good things.”
Although the Azkals are currently at the bottom of their Group C table, Erikkson believes they could still turn things around when they meet China and then Kyrgyzstan.
“I think we played one of the best teams in this tournament tonight and we created chances against them, so that gives us hope for the next two games in this group that we can do something even better,” he said.
“Even after we lost, the confidence went up. I spoke briefly with the players in the dressing room and the mood is good even though we lost the game. They know they did a good job.
“I want to see that we dominate and keep the ball better against China. We created some good chances against Korea, and I’m sure we can do that against China as well, but we must keep the ball a little more than today.
“Good for the heart of the coach too.”