Just a day removed since Emelio “Chieffy” Caligdong announced that he would hang up his boots from international play, his former teammates in the Philippines men’s national football team showered the veteran with praises following his exit.
Brothers Phil and James Younghusband, who were with the team together since Philippine football suffered during its doldrum years in the mid-2000s, said that Chieffy was responsible to make them feel welcome when they first arrived to the team.
“It’s a celebration of everything he’s done for the national team. He’s a legend, he’s our idol, he’s someone we look up to and respect. At first, we were very, very sad that he retired, but I still feel he’s good enough to play for the national team,” said Phil Younghusband.
“I always remember when Phil and I joined the Under-23 national team in 2005. He was very welcoming, a very inspirational leader. He actually made the connection between us and the locals when we first came and helped us settled in and made everything more cozy for us,” remarked James.
“He’s a big personality, a great leader and very inspirational. We’re going to miss him,” James added.
Current captain Rob Gier admitted that despite earning the right to wear the captain’s armband, he has big shoes to fill vacated by the man that he says is the personification of Philippine football.
“It’s a disappointment to us all. Chieffy was here long before the other guys were here,” said Gier. ”To be honest, Chieffy is not only an inspiration to a lot of young kids and a lot of fans, but to a lot of players as well.”
“He shows what can be achieved just by sheer determination, talent, and hard work. I’ve been lucky to take over the [captain’s] armband, but those are big shoes to fill because Chieffy to me is Filipino football,” he added.
“It’s a sad, sad day, but it’s time to celebrate his involvement in the national team. We should celebrate what he has done for the country and just say thanks to him.”
The trio unanimously agreed that they will most remember jersey number 13 for his amazing goals, most notably his volley shot against Mongolia during the team’s first home game in the 2011 Asian Football Confederation Challenge Cup qualifier at Panaad Stadium in Bacolod.
“I think the goal he will be most remembered for is the one in Bacolod, after all the success we had in 2010 and come back to play some games in the Philippines where the crowd was unbelievable time and with memories we’ll never forget,” noted Gier.
“For him to score that goal and in the manner he scored it, it wasn’t just a scrappy five-yard tap-in, it was a goal filled with a lot of skill. And it was fitting that he got that goal.”
“Bacolod immediately comes to mind when we think of Chieffy. That’s when Philippine football was really on the rise. We had lots of people coming to our games. Philippines was on the map as a national team,” James Younghusband said.
“When he lifted that ball over the Mongolian player’s head and just volleyed it, the players errupted. It was a great, great moment for Chieffy Caligdong.”
Phil, on the other hand, will always remember how Chieffy would go and celebrate his goal with a sprint towards the opposite direction.
“When he scores, he runs off quick and he runs off celebrating and it’s hard to catch him when you’re tired from the game and he makes a lap of the field with his arms out. I try to tell him to slow down. But we have seen him score so many important goals for the Philippines and we’ll miss that,” said Phil.
A former serviceman for the Philippine Air Force, the 32-year old hailing from Barotac Nuevo amassed 16 international goals during his ten-year international career for the Philippines.