BEFORE the year ends, Emelio “Chieffy” Caligdong will say goodbye to the club team that nurtured his growth from an unknown to a high-flying winger of the popular Philippine Azkals.
Caligdong is just waiting to be discharged before he leaves the Philippine Air Force, a team he called his home for a decade. And the 29-year-old left winger has nothing but good memories to keep as he moves on to the next phase of his phenomenal career.
“Ten years din ako dun,” said Caligdong, who is set to be released in the first week of December. “Maganda ang naging samahan namin sa team.
“Masaya ako as [a member of the] Air Force. Part sila ng kung ano ako ngayon sa Azkals. Part sila ng buhay ko.”
With Sergeant Caligdong at the helm, Air Force captured consecutive UFL league titles in 2009-2010 and in 2010-2011. The Airmen also won two UFL Cup crowns, including a memorable victory over the Loyola Meralco Sparks last year.
With his impending departure, Caligdong has set his sights on the goals he has set for the final stretch of his career, where he intends to leave his mark on and off the field.
Recently named a sports ambassador of Globe, Caligdong said he wants to help kids by expanding the reach of his annual football festival in his hometown Barotac Nuevo in Iloilo.
“Gusto ko rin makatulong sa younger generation and share my talent,” said Caligdong, who plans to continue his playing career even after his family migrates to the United States.
“Mayroon akong Chieffy Caligdong Football Festival sa Barotac Nuevo. Gusto ko rin na hindi lang ‘yun sa Barotac kundi sa buong Pilipinas,” he added.
On the pitch, the most popular full-blooded Filipino in the Philippine team hopes to help the Azkals reach greater heights in the upcoming Asean Football Federation Cup.
Caligdong said he remains undaunted after the Azkals found themselves grouped with regional powers Thailand and Vietnam, the same team the Azkals defeated two years ago in a victory that sparked the Azkals craze.
“Nasa group of death din kami nung Challenge Cup eh,” said Caligdong when asked about the team’s chances in the AFF Cup.
“Sa akin challenge lang 'yan, siyempre takot din sila sa atin dahil malakas na ang team ngayon. Hindi lang tayo ang umiiwas, sila rin. Kaya kampante ako sa grupo natin.”