Football brings people together - at least thats what advertisements have you believe. Since starting this blog we got to know what that really meant. We've gotten in touch with journalists and fellow bloggers and fans from all over the world. Sure its nice, and a little surreal to see Football Palestine mentioned in major publications every now and then, but my favorite interactions have to be with fellow fans.
We started this as an outlet to reach out to Palestinian football fans globally - who appreciate our English medium and continue to follow up with us. Of course we have also gotten in touch with fans from all over the world. I attended a Palestine home match with a couple of Londoners who I wouldn't have met if it wasn't for our twitter exchanges.
And naturally, when Palestine plays any team we would get the occasional exchanges with their fans. But nothing compares to our connection with fans of the Philippines National Team (who affectionately know them as the 'Azkals'). It all started last year during the qualifiers for the current AFC Challenge Cup. We were grouped along with Myanmar, the Philippines and Bangladesh.
We had a particular interest in the Philippines in our postings because they reminded us of ourselves as the underdog with a lot of potential. Other similarities included:
- the integration of players who were not "fully Filipino" - like we did with our Chilean based players to bolster our squad back when the local league wasnt as developed (there is controversy in the Philippines now over the derogatory comments of a tv presenter about this subject)
- The Super-Goalie: Neil Etheridge is to the Philippines what Ramzi Saleh is to Palestine
The Azkals - no longer minnows
We had a whole bunch of new followers on twitter during qualifiers last year and now that we both qualified to the semi-finals of the competition, we had another surge of Pinoy followers. It probably comes down to the fact that Filipinos are awesome friendly people (all the ones I've met are!). We were thrilled when the Philippines beat Tajikistan, the team has really reached new heights..
Both the Philippines and Palestine are the underdogs in tomorrows matches. Palestine is facing a high-scoring North Korean side while the Philippines go up against traditionally favored Turkmenistan.
After the display against Tajikistan, I think the Azkals will be able to overcome the Green Men - it will be a tight match. We'll be rooting for them!