THERE will be no celebrations when Emelio 'Chieffy' Caligdong ends his playing career with Philippine Air Force.
In Caligdong’s second-to-the-last game before being honorably discharged from the Air Force in December, the Airmen bowed out of contention in the United Football League Cup following a 1-5 loss to Stallion on Tuesday night at the University of Makati pitch.
“Ginawa na namin yung makakaya namin kaso dominated yung game,” Caligdong, one of the country’s most recognized homegrown booters who rose to prominence as the top gun of the Air Force team.
“Meron kaming mga chances sa first half, hindi lang na-convert . May mga lapses and errors sa depensa kaya yun siguro ang naging main problem namin,” the 30-year-old Azkals co-captain added.
Failing to reach the quarterfinals is simply unacceptable for the Airmen, who, since the Cup’s inception in 2009, won the title twice and bagged runner-up honors in between.
“Masakit para sa team,” Caligdong said. “Madaming umaasa na makapasok kami sa semifinals at finals, pero yung ibang team talaga nag-improve and kumuha sila ng top level na players.”
Against Stallion, the all-Filipino Airmen had to contend with two prolific Spanish strikers in Rufo Sanchez and Joaco Cañas. Sanchez scored the first two goals for Stallion in the first half, before Cañas found the mark in the 56th minute.
Ian Araneta, Caligdong’s teammate both in the national team and Air Force, scored the consolation goal for his squad when he converted on a free-kick late in the match.
Stallion coach Ernie Nierras admitted having two prolific foreign recruits was a boost to his team.
“Obviously, malaking tulong yung dalawang players namin," he said. "Si Joaco nakita niyo naman yung quality of finishing."
Despite the blowout victory, Nierras, also the coach of the Philippine Malditas women's football team, does not believe it is the end of the Airmen's era.
“We have a lot of respect for them. The score didn’t reflect how close the game was.”
Caligdong plays his farewell game with the Airmen against Sta. Lucia on Nov. 4, but that game will have no bearing anymore.
“Meron pa namang chances sa ibang leagues at tournaments. So step by step yan,” Caligdong said.
Unfortunately, the Airmen will have to do it without their top gun.