Sunday, April 15, 2012

Fair Play: Azkals, Little Azkals: On opposite ends

(This is the draft of my Fair Play column for Sun.Star Cebu on April 16)
OWING to the success of the men’s team in the AFC Challenge Cup, the Philippines is now at its highest in the world rankings at 148 during the latest release from Fifa.  We are at No. 22 in Asia, and third in Southeast Asia next to Vietnam (No. 97 n the world, 15th in Asia) and Thailand (141, 20).

I think, depending on the results of the friendlies for the rest of the year, we could go as high as second-best in Southeast Asia, which mean’s Dan Palami’s target of becoming one of the top-ranked teams in the region has been hit a mere 16 months since he announced his goals during the BOG meeting in Cebu last January, 2011.

With the national team fully utilizing the designated Fifa
internationals this year, we are sure to climb further as I’m not sure the rest of the Southeast Asian countries would as busy as us because that’s what the rankings is all about—if you have a game, you earn points. If not, you fall.

So, we’re No. 3 in Southeast Asia, but I don’t think it means we’re now the third-best team in Asia. When we meet traditional powerhouse teams like Malaysia and Indonesia, who are ranked lower than us, I still consider them the favorites.

However, aside from earning the much needed ranking points, I hope the coaching staff will use the friendlies to give the other players their much-needed exposure in the international game.

Because of the UFL, we’ve spotted a few other players who, it seems, are just waiting to get the chance and I hope they get theirs for the flag.

By the way, aside from the senior team friendlies, there’s an Under 22 tournament this June and I think the same squad that saw action in the U21 event in Brunei will be fielded, but who will be the coach?

Now that’s the interesting question.  Coach Zoran Dordevic handled the U21 but I’ve heard his contract ended last April and wasn’t renewed.

And there has been no word yet if there’s a replacement.

We will play Myanmar on June 23, Malaysia on June 25, Vietnam on June 28, South Korea on June 30 and Taiwan on July 3 and because this is the Under 22, we are the underdogs in all these matches.

The tournament is two months away and I hope the team will have ample preparation for it.  We don’t need another SEAG debacle.

I hope, with all the focus on the friendlies and the UFL, the U22 team won’t be overlooked. The PFF owes this team, especially the guys whose dedication to the country moved coach Zoran to tears, to give them the preparation they deserve.

Aside from the U22, there’s also the Little Azkals, who are joining a training camp in Italy.  But I’ve read some complaints in a  forum that some players couldn’t go because they couldn’t pay for their airfare?

I hope that isn’t true.  PFF got so much money these days that they could well enough afford to pay for this camp.  Besides, these guys are our future senior players, they represent the future of Philippine football and they should get the lion’s share of the support, too.

Besides, it’s not nice when you make the team only because you can afford your spot.

TENNIS. It’s April so it means Jun and April Toledo are back in Cebu for the Cebuana Lhuillier Men’s Open, which is one of my favorite tournaments.  Having grown up just a spit away from a tennis court, I spent most of my summer playing tennis and even dreamed of playing for the flag one day.

Back then, I’ve always wondered what would it be like to see the
country’s best players in action, and the Cebuana Lhuillier tournament gave me that chance, some 20 odd years later.  So if you’re a tennis fan, or even just a sports fan, head over to the Baseline tennis courts and watch Johnny Arcilla and the rest of the top players in the country in action.

I guarantee you, it’s the best free sports event you’d ever see.

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