Azkals fan groups issue call for help as pathetic turnout mars Suzuki Cup matches
The 20,00-capacity Philippine Sports Stadium was almost bare for the Azkals' match against Indonesia in the Suzuki Cup on Wednesday. Jaime Campos

ONE of the Philippine Azkals' biggest fan groups has called on fans to troop to the Philippine Sports Stadium and support the national team’s campaign in its make-or-break match against defending champion Thailand in the AFF Suzuki Cup on Friday.

Ultras Filipinas leaders admitted they were saddened by the pathetic turnout during the Azkals' thrilling 2-2 draw with Indonesia on Tuesday, where home fans were even outnumbered by the Indons' travelling supporters inside the Bulacan, Arena. 

“Matagal na namin gusto ‘yung ganitong atmosphere na merong parang World Cup ng Southeast Asia. At the same time, malungkot dahil hindi ganoon karami ang nanonood,” said Leo Salayo, one of the leaders of Ultras Filipinas.

“Sana sa Friday, marami. Hindi natin alam kung anong susunod dito. Mabubuhay pa ba ang football o mamamatay? ‘Yun ang feeling namin,” he added.

On Tuesday, declared attendance was a paltry 2,068 spectators, just half of the turnout for the opening match against Singapore.

Indonesian fans occupied one area of the stadium and even unfurled a giant flag in support of their team.

“Of course, on our part, parang sampal din sa amin ‘yun,” said Salayo.

“Nakakalungkot lang dahil konti talaga,” said another leader of the Ultras Filipinas, Jerry Valecruz.

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The location of the Philippine Sports Stadium, around 20 kilometers away from Metro Manila, has been blamed for the poor turnout.

Located at the Ciudad de Victoria, the Iglesia Ni Cristo-owned venue is not accessible by public transportation, although the Philippine Football Federation (PFF), anticipating the problem, provide service buses for fans.

The PFF explained it initially proposed Rizal Memorial Stadium in Manila to be the main venue of the Suzuki Cup preliminaries, with the Philippine Sports Stadium as the secondary venue.

But organizer Lagardere Sports nixed the Rizal Stadium in favor of the 20,000-seater Philippine Sports Stadium, the PFF added.

Still, the Ultras are doing everything to make their presence felt in the Bocaue venue. On Tuesday, they were joined by drummers of University of Santo Tomas to cheer on the Azkals.

“Kami talaga, kung sino ‘yung puwedeng tumulong sa amin, nag-iinvite din kami."

With the all-important match against Thailand set on Friday,  members of the Ultras are confident more fans with show up to cheer on the Azkals against a team they have yet to beat in the 20-year history of the tournament.

“We are calling everybody to come. Mag-leave na, mag-half day na, support lang. Everybody is welcome to join the Ultras. Dikit lang sa amin. Para sa bayan,” said Valecruz.

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