THE Philippines’ most renowned homegrown football player has decided to end his international career.
Emelio 'Chieffy' Caligdong has retired from the Azkals, ending a memorable decade-long career with the national team that made him among the most popular figures in the game's revival in the Philippines.
The 32-year-old pride of Barotac Nuevo, Iloilo announced his decision on his Facebook account late Wednesday.
“To all my supporters and fans, family and friends, Philippine Azkals supporters, and management thank you to all of you. To my teammates, coaching staff, and management, thank you for the unforgettable memories. It will always be in my heart,” he posted.
“Even though I will not be playing anymore, my heart, prayers, and support are always with the team.”
The 5-foot-5 Caligdong has always stood tall when he was on the field, and scored some important goals for the Azkals, including the winner in their 1-0 win over Vietnam in the group stage of the Asean Football Federation Suzuki Cup in 2012.
Caligdong was last called up in the friendly against Papua New Guinea last month, but has never seen ample action since last year. A fractured right foot that sidelined him for over two months and an early return this year also didn’t do him any good.
“To the present players, future, and next generation of Azkals, may you play with all your heart, and wear the flag with honor and pride,” said Caligdong, a two-time Mr. Football awardee of the Philippine Sportswriters Association.
“Let’s all support Philippine football as it continues to flourish in our country. God bless Philippine football,” added the former Air Force sergeant and current Green Archers United mainstay.
Caligdong later posted on his Twitter account that he will head a ceremonial kickoff with Philippine Football Federation president Nonong Araneta during halftime of the Azkals’ friendly against Cambodia on Friday.