WITH still eight months to go before the next big tournament, the Philippine national team will be busy joining pocket tournaments and is also eyeing a friendly against a team of football legends next month.
During the post-match party at the Diamond Hotel after the Azkals lost their home leg match to Kuwait in the Fifa 2014 World Cup qualifiers, Philippine Football Federation president Mariano Araneta announced they have confirmed the Philippines’ entry in the Long Teng Cup this September.
Last year, the Azkals joined the tournament with host Chinese Taipei, Macau and Hong Kong’s 23-Under team to prepare for the qualifying round of the Suzuki CUp. Hong Kong topped the event with seven points, while the host got second with five. The Philippines took third place with four points.
After the Long Teng Cup, the PFF is also planning the Manila Beer Cup, a four-team tournament in Manila this October that could involve Southeast Asian giants Malaysia and Singapore.
Aside from that, Dan Palami also told ABS-CBN that he’s looking at arranging a friendly match between the Azkals and former World Footballer of the Year Zinedine Zidane of France.
“We’re working right now on playing against very strong legends of the game. There’s a team that’s composed of Zidane and the rest of the players who are household names in football,” Palami said in an interview with ANC’s The Rundown.
Palami said all these friendlies and tournaments are part of the buildup for the team in their next major event--the AFC Challenge, where the Philippines qualified for the first time in three tries.
The AFC has deferred the selection of the host for the 2012 tournament pending its visit to Palestine, which is bidding for the tournament along with Maldives and Nepal.
Coach Hans Michael Weiss also said the team will be returning to Bahrain—where they held their camp prior to the second round match against Kuwait—for a four-team tournament after the officials there were overwhelmed by the support the team got from Filipinos in the Middle East country.
Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on July 31, 2011.