BY PATRICK SALOMON
THE Philippines' men's national soccer team, more popularly known as the "Azkals", are set to visit Bahrain next month for a week-long training camp.
This was revealed to the GDN last night by a high-ranking source at the Bahrain Football Association (BFA), who asked not to be named.
The BFA executive said that all negotiations for the Filipino team's visit are complete. They are now only awaiting a letter of approval from the Philippine Football Federation to make it official.
"It is 90 per cent done," the source told the GDN. "We have finished our negotiations, and their visit is now on our timetable.
"When we receive the letter we are waiting for, which we expect to get on Monday, we will formally announce their camp and begin to promote it."
The "Azkals" are scheduled to be in Bahrain between July 12 and 17. During their stay, they will play two friendly matches against Bahrain's under-23 Olympic soccer team.
The first tune-up will be held on July 14, to be followed by the other two days later. The venue for the games have yet to be confirmed.
"We at the BFA are very happy to be welcoming the 'Azkals' to the kingdom," the source said. "We know how popular they are in the Philippines, and we understand that interest in the game of soccer is growing rapidly because of them.
"While we expect to have two very competitive friendly matches against them, their visit also gives us a chance to further strengthen our relations with the Filipino community here in Bahrain."
The "Azkals" nickname is derived from the Filipino word "askal", which means "street dog".
Several players on the Philippine team's roster have been, or are presently, members of top clubs in Europe. Among them are James and Phil Younghusband, who were youth and reserve team players at English Premier League side Chelsea; and goalkeeper Neil Etheridge, who is currently a reserve team member of English club Fulham.
There are others who are also playing for clubs in Spain, Germany, Denmark and Norway, as well as in the US.
The "Azkals" are constantly improving on the international stage. They are presently ranked 156th on the Fifa World Rankings. The team is also tremendously popular in the Philippines for reasons off the soccer pitch.
Gulf Daily News (Bahrain)