The Philippines seeks to duplicate the achievement it made back in 2007 when it sends a 12-man team to the AFC Futsal Championship 2010 Qualifiers-ASEAN Zone from February 20 to 25 in Jakarta, Indonesia.
“This team is determined to do well. The players practice Monday to Saturday and with some luck, we will be able to advance into the tournament proper," said RP coach Esmaeil Mahmound Sedigh, an Iranian who has been in the country for the last 14 years.
Sedigh himself called the shots in 2007 and will bring back three players from that team in Ariel Zerrudo Jr., Fil-Iranian Peyman Cabarrus Nejadsavi and Ali Bernard Rojas Go.
Zerrudo was the hero in the 2007 standoff with Tajikistan as he accounted for all the goals scored, helping the nationals fight back from a 0-2 halftime deficit.
Sedigh said this team has the potential to excel in the tournament in which the top three teams will advance into the 16-team tournament proper.
“This team played in the last ASEAN Futsal Championship and we finished fourth overall. We were beaten by just one goal by Indonesia (4-3) in our battle for third place," beamed Sedigh who also handles the futsal development program of the Philippine Football Federation.
Completing the RP team to the ASEAN Zone Qualifying are Misagh Medina Bahadoran, Ricardo Batayola Bacite III, Bongbong Roxy Vestidas Dorlas, Alexander Elnar, Hamidreza Geshniziani, Jay-Ar Inventor, Navid Khorasani, Jerome Stefan Leung and Edward Mallari.
The team departs for Jakarta on February 18 and will plunge into action two days later against Malaysia.
Bracketed in Group A, the nationals next take on Vietnam on the 21st before winding up their elimination campaign against Cambodia on the 22nd.
Group B is made up of Australia, Indonesia and Myanmar.
The top two teams in their respective groups will advance to the crossover semifinals. The two finalists will earn berths to the AFC meet while the semis losers will fight for third place and the last ticket to Uzbekistan.
The RP futsal team is competing in the qualifiers not only to land a place in the AFC tourney but also to earn a possible ticket to the 16th Asian Games in Guangzhou, China.
“We have all the chances to win in the Asian Games. We just have to give this team the chance to compete," said Sedigh, whose wards earlier failed to convince the Philippine Olympic Committee (POC) to let them carry the country’s colors in last year’s Southeast Asian Games in Laos. -