THE Philippine men's football team left for Manila Friday afternoon more united, so inspired and rich in wonderful experience after holding a brief 10-day training camp in Davao City.
The team's newly-acquired British coach Simon Alexander Mcmenemy said his players had really changed a lot and he was just happy to have them practiced in Davao.
"It's been great. The players have become very responsible and the team had been very competitive in the past three friendly games we played against the local teams here," Mcmenemy said in an interview at the Stadium Buffet Restaurant and Sports Lounge Friday morning.
Aside from having a great training, McMenemy said the team had appreciated the warm welcome extended by the people, especially the football-playing children and their parents and friends.
"The friendliness of the people of Davao really helped the teams. There's been a fantastic reception wherever we go. Seeing a lot of children who welcomed us at Sakya Philippine Academy yesterday was very heartwarming. It was really a very good memory. With many enthusiasts and players here, football can really be very popular in this city," McMenemy said.
Filipino-British player James Joseph Younghusband echoed his coach, saying the Davao camp went very well.
"We're more bonded now. While before we just meet three to four times a week to train, spending 10 days with my teammates here helped us to know each other better. It's also amazing to see a lot of kids enthusiastic about football. I'm looking forward to come back," Yonghusband said.
His brother Philip James added, "It's been a good preparation we had here for our future international meet. We have become more united now as a team."
Philip also said the friendly matches also helped them in their preparations.
"I really didn't expect that the Davao teams we played here the past days were very competitive. I thought we would win against them with huge score difference but I was proven wrong. The Davao players are tough and they really work so hard, showing the real strength of the Filipinos," Philip Younghusband said.
"Davao has a lot of football enthusiasts including school kids. I think even my short times with them are my most memorable experience," he added.
Assistant coach Edwin Cabalida said he's happy that half-bred and Filipino players jelled together in an out of the field.
"We have been overwhelmed by the warm reception here as well. I've never been to a city where the national team would be mobbed for autographs and photo opportunities. We just experienced it here in Davao. Football is really popular here as it had been in Iloilo in the past," Cabalida said.
Team co-captain Emelio "Chipi" Caligdong said their games went well. "It was only the last game with Medvil though that we really played more intensely. Our experience here is a good preparation for our upcoming competition," he said.
"I've got to taste durian for the first time and I love it. It's so delicious. Tasting durian was my most memorable experience in Davao," Caligdong added.
Dipolog natives Jerry Barbaso and Michael Aubrey Atienza along with Iligan-born Kristopher John Relucio cited their zip line experience at Outland Adventure as unforgettable.
"It was our first zip line experience. It was so scary but we managed to cross and it was very fulfilling. In the hotel that we stayed, we were paired with half-bred Filipinos so we were able to bond more. It's been a great team building we have here in Davao," Barbaso said.
The team, managed by Dan Stephen Palami, is staying for five days in Manila before going to Taiwan for a series of friendly competitions. The nationals are preparing for their stint in the AFF Suzuki Cup Qualifiers in Vientiane, Laos on October 22 to 27.
Sun Star Davao