HIS international career may be over, but Chieffy Caligdong’s place in Philippine football is already secure.
That’s what his Azkals teammates assured after Caligdong announced his retirement from national team duty on Wednesday night.
“For me, he is Mr. Filipino football,” Rob Gier said. “He epitomizes what’s good about the team and he’s not only an inspiration to young kids and to fans, he’s an inspiration to his teammates as well and has been the last nine years, probably more.”
“He’s been a huge factor in the growth of Philippine football,” Phil Younghusband said. “We’ll always remember him for that. He’s someone we look up to and he’s our idol.”
Even before the Azkals rose to prominence, Caligdong was already there, having played for the national team since 2004.
“He is one of the foundation blocks on which this — the whole Azkals phenomenon — was built,” Gier said. “I can’t speak highly enough of him. He’s been an inspiration.”
“He’s been there for a long, long time,” Younghusband said. “He’s been through the thick and thin and roller-coaster ride of the Azkals.”
Younghusband, the Azkals’ leading scorer with 39 goals — ahead of Caligdong’s 16 strikes, believes his 32-year-old teammate retired young.
“He retired too early,” the Filipino-British striker said. “I’m sad that I won’t be able to play with him in the national team again.”
What Caligdong, the former Azkals skipper, has become is what current captain Gier is aspiring for.
“It’s been very difficult shoes to fill,” the Filipino-British defender said. “If I can be half an inspiration as he was, then I’ll be happy with that.”