THE Philippine football team, known as the Azkals, will have a busy 2011 seeing action in several international tournaments, including the World Cup qualifying tournament.
Fresh from their historic achievement in the AFF Suzuki Cup, the Filipino booters, together with newly recognized Philippine Football Federation president Mariano `Nonong’ Araneta, graced the Philippine Sportswriters Association Forum yesterday at Shakey’s UN Avenue and reflected on their recent campaign which ended with a semifinal defeat to Indonesia.
“It was a culmination of a very nice run for us,” said team manager Dan Palami. “We never expected us to be there in the semifinals and the 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.”
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.
Araneta also announced during the same forum supported by Outlast Battery, Philippine Amusements and Gaming Corp. and Shakey’s, that he finally got the recognition of the FIFA early Tuesday morning, certifying his election as president during the PFF Congress last month.
Araneta assured transparency as he serves out the remainder of the term of Jose Mari Martinez, who was ousted during the same PFF Congress. He vowed an all-out support for the team.
“He has the right to appeal (Martinez). But as far as we’re concerned, it’s already a closed matter,” said Araneta. “FIFA has accepted our legality and it has accepted our Congress.”
“I am glad sponsors are coming in,” added the PFF chief. “We can assure you of transparency with our governance and that the money will be spent for where it’s supposed to be spent.”
Araneta also promised to revive youth competitions and the national open tournament to discover new talents.
The PH booters 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 results catapulted the Azkals to stardom, which skipper Aly Borromeo said they never imagined.
“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.
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.
If they beat Mongolia, the PH booters will move on to the qualifying event in a group which includes Myanmar, Palestine and Bangladesh.
Araneta said they have already expressed their intention of having the two legs against Mongolia in the Philippines to avoid playing in near-freezing conditions.
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 in the squad.”
Friday, 24 December 2010