By Michael Angelo S. Murillo, Senior Reporter
SPENT two decades playing the Beautiful Game, former national team player Emilio “Chieffy” Caligdong shared that now in retirement he looks back at his playing career with much satisfaction, happy and thankful that he was able to do something to help the development of the sport in the country for others to build on.
Speaking at Tiebreaker Vods’ Crossover podcast where he was the guest on Aug. 1, Mr. Caligdong, 37, who is now based in Canada, said his football journey was an eventful one and that he is glad he left the football scene here in way better shape than when he first found it.
Iloilo-based Caligdong was a long time member of the national team and part of a group of footballers who inspired the renaissance of the sport in the Philippines at the early part of the last decade.
He also made his mark in local club tournaments, inspiring many young players along the way and enhancing his standing as the “face of homegrown players.”
“At least on our part we were able to achieve some milestones and achieve history,” said Mr. Caligdong in Filipino, referring to the last 10 years where Philippine football achieved so many things, including competing in international tournaments which were acknowledged to be a long shot to happen in the past.
The most recent is the Philippine Azkals’ participation in the Asian Cup in 2019 where the country competed for the first time in history.
Mr. Caligdong said it was a proud moment for him even if he was no longer part of the squad, seeing it as an extension of what he and his contemporaries were able to do when they were donning the national colors.
“I was very happy [with the Philippines reaching the Asian Cup]. My support for Philippine football is always 100%. The success we had and what we went through in the past, the current players are experiencing right now. I’m just proud that we were able to put the country on the football map. The Azkals have new faces now but the growth continues,” he said.
But while his playing career is now over, Mr. Caligdong is still involved in football as an assistant coach for the North Mississauga Soccer club in Ontario and head coach for the Ontario Development League Boys Under-15 team.
He said the transition to coaching is not too much of a stretch for him as apart from his vast experience as a player he already dipped his hands in coaching even before he and his family decided to migrate to Canada in 2018.
Following his career as a player, Mr. Caligdong had stints as coach of Green Archers United, Philippine youth team and University of Perpetual Help.
In coaching Mr. Caligdong said he gets a different satisfaction as he is able to give back to the sport that has given him a lot.