Azkals say loss to Thailand underlines importance of crowd support
Azkals fans filled the Rizal Memorial Football stadium, which can seat around 13,000, in an AFF semifinal leg. But top Southeast Asian teams can draw twice, thrice as much even to less important matches. Jaime Campos

QUALITY and quantity are what Philippine football needs to make a bigger mark in the Southeast Asian map of the sport.

As the quality of play leaves a lot to be desired, the quantity of the fans who watch home games has also been a far cry compared to those in other Asean footballing nations.

The Philippine men’s football team bowed to Thailand, 3-0, on Wednesday in their Asean Football Federation Suzuki Cup second leg matchup that underlined the importance of crowd support.

[See Azkals fall short again as 3-0 shutout against Thailand deny them of berth in AFF Suzuki Cup finals]

Roughly 50,000 fans at the humongous Rajamangala Stadium screamed and cheered for the Thais, who dominated the Azkals on the way to the shutout victory and the first finals berth.

“I wish we could have a home advantage like that one day,” Azkals goalkeeper Patrick Deyto said. “Credit to the fans of Thailand for supporting their team and making it really difficult for us. That’s what home advantage is all about.”

Team manager Dan Palami admitted a standing in the stadium with 50,000 Thais was unnerving for the handful of Azkals players and crew.

“I hope the people in the Philippines were watching so then they could see that the twelfth man is a really a factor,” team manager Dan Palami said. “From the first touch they had, it was intimidating for us and it took awhile before you get settled.”

Proving the point, the almost 13,000-seat Rizal Memorial Stadium was nearly filled in the first leg where the Azkals held the mighty Thais to notable scoreless draw.

What if home fans can occupy the 25,000-seat Philippine Stadium to the rafters?

“But teams like Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia, and Vietnam can fill a stadium of fifty thousand,” striker Phil Younghusband said.

“They’ve got full attendance in their league games and we’re nowhere near there yet. I think the competition shows the infrastructure and how big football is in their countries."

[See Kaholeros' dogged determination: Azkals' travelling fans make presence felt in enemy territory]

Getting used to pressure in front of that many fans is what Azkals coach Thomas Dooley believes his players need to achieve in big games.

“But you don’t have pressure in the UFL playing in front of a hundred people,” the veteran World Cup campaigner said. “If you play here in front of 40,000 people, that’s the experience you have to have to go to the next level.”


“Before we start dreaming of championships, maybe we could also start dreaming about the fans really showing up for big games,” Palami said.

Follow the writer on Twitter: @KarloSacamos