MEMBERS of the men’s national team are hoping the football fever does not break anytime soon.
A surprise semifinal run in the Asean Football Federation Suzuki Cup brought football interest in the country to new heights and although the nationals were thwarted in the two semifinals legs by Indonesia, Azkals skipper Aly Borromeo is hoping the renewed enthusiasm in the sport will help them eventually take the top spot.
“We don’t want to make all of this for nothing. The country has a lot of potential to be very good in football,” said Borromeo during the Philippine Sportswiters Association Forum on Tuesday at Shakey’s United Nations Avenue.
The Azkals salvaged a dramatic draw with Singapore, 1-1, on an injury-time equalizer by Chris Greatwich, who also scored in the 2-0 victory over Vietnam, which was considered as the upset of the tournament.
The nationals fell short against the Indonesians, but before that, fan interest has improved especially with the matches shown on free TV, and now according to Philippine Football Federation chief Mariano Araneta, “sponsors are coming in.”
Araneta also said youth competitions and the national open will be revived to discover new talents.
“We never expected us to be there in the semifinals and credit has to be given to the players for playing their hearts out. Our campaign was a reflection of the Filipino spirit of never backing down,” said team manager Dan Palami during the forum supported by Outlast Battery, Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp. and Shakey’s
“It [semifinals] was a culmination of a very nice run for us.”
Palami, who has bankrolled the squad since late last year, said the team is now looking forward to several international tournaments next year, starting with the Asian Football Confederation Challenge Cup qualifying tournament.
The Azkals will face Mongolia in a home-and-away AFC Challenge Cup qualifying tie in February with the home game expected to be played at the Panaad Stadium in Bacolod City.
If they beat Mongolia, the Nationals will move on to the qualifying event in a group which includes Myanmar, Palestine and Bangladesh.
Palami said they will hold open tryouts to get the best available talent for the next tournaments.
“It doesn’t matter if you’re a local or a Fil-foreigner,” said Palami. “There will be an equal chance for everyone to compete for slots on the squad.”
Friday, 24 December 2010