With Philippine Air Force Phoenix tied against lowly Philippine Navy Redjuice on Saturday, Chieffy Caligdong curled a shot that hit the back of the net at the 64th minute to give his team the 2-1 victory.
It was yet another brilliant performance for Caligdong, who has been starring for the Air Force football club for the past 10 years.
However, his priorities may prevent him from suiting up again for the squad; the Philippine national team mainstay revealed he is planning to migrate abroad with his family.
“Opportunity yun para sa family ko,” said the 29-year-old Caligdong, whose wife, a registered nurse, has found employment in Texas. “I’ll grab the opportunity para sa kanila, para mabigyan ng magandang kinabukasan.”
Caligdong said that it was tough for him to leave football. But as a father of two, he made the decision to give his family a brighter future.
“Family yan eh, so kung opportunity na yun ay kukunin niya, susundin ko siya,” Caligdong said. “Magiging babysitter ako, sacrifice myself na lang kung anong mas maganda sa kanila.”
Fellow Azkal member and long-time teammate Ian Araneta said he understands the decision of his childhood friend.
“Yung football, ‘di naman pang-habambuhay yan,” said Araneta, who grew up playing football with Caligdong from their childhood days at Barotac Nuevo, Iloilo until their days in the Air Force. “Syempre, iniisp din niya yung future ng pamilya niya.”
Araneta added that Caligdong will be a big loss to the Air Force, which settled for a fifth-place finish this season after winning the first two UFL titles.
“Malaking kawalan sa ‘min si Chieffy lalo na sa left flank kasi dino-dominate niya yung depensa run,” Araneta said. “Pero para naman sa future niya yun, so suportado ko siya.”
Caligdong’s status with the Azkals remains doubtful, though he said he could still join the team while his family’s migration papers are being processed.
“Hindi pa ako makapag-decide kung mag-stop ako [from playing for the Azkals],” said Caligdong, who is best known for his sensational goal in the Azkals’ AFC Challenge Cup qualifying match in Panaad Stadium in Bacolod City last year.
Caligdong also carried the Azkals in the 2011 Long Teng Cup, hitting two goals to help the Philippines claw back from a 2-0 deficit and force a 3-3 draw against Hongkong. He duplicated his feat days after, also scoring two goals in their much-needed win over Macau. He won the tournament’s Golden Boot Award, while lifting the Azkals to a second-place finish.
Despite what he has achieved in the field, Caligdong does not regret his decision, as long as it is for his loved ones.
“Syempre uunahin ko family ko before football,” he said. “Hindi naman ako mag-de-decide kundi para sa kanila, lalo na sa dalawang anak ko.”