MANILA, Philippines—National athletes deal with tremendous pressure when wearing the Philippine colors, but for Chieffy Caligdong there was much more.
Caligdong was the face of homegrown players who suited for the Philippine Azkals during the late 2000s and early 2010s, which was an added source of pressure for the prolific striker.
In an interview with the Crossover Podcast, Caligdong said that he always walked with high regard for himself as he was not only playing for the Philippines he was also the role model of a younger generation who plans to one day become an Azkal.
“There was so much pressure because you have to be on a high level every time you play, every time you train and you have to be at your best during competitions,” said Caligdong in English.
“Of course, my attitude when I’m out in public and with my club should be at a high standard because I’m a role model. People will look at my attitude or at me and see if I’ve changed.”
Caligdong, who is now the head coach of the Ontario Development League Boys under-15 team in Canada, wore the no.13 shirt for the Azkals with pride as he shared the field with the likes of Phil and James Younghusband, Aly Borromeo, and Juani Guirado.
His play on the field, which saw him net 16 international goals, and off-the-field character eventually earned Caligdong the Azkals’ captaincy.
“The pressure was always there even in training so you have to be consistently at the top of your game,” said Caligdong. “I never let pressure get the best of me.”
Maintaining that high standard, however, will take a toll on anyone and Caligdong was not an exception.
He admitted that he was afraid to make mistakes and that drove him to keep his physique at a top shape, but the mental struggle was the one that nearly took him down.
Fortunately for him, his family life with wife Nene and his children was what kept him in balance.
“It was really the mental health that took a hit so what I do is just think about my family. I was physically stronger when I did that and I kept telling myself that I should always have good vibes with me.”
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