By Cedelf P. Tupas
Philippine Daily Inquirer
MANILA—The chairman of the Philippine Olympic Committee Thursday assured that the men’s football team has a spot in the Philippine delegation for the Southeast Asian Games slated in November in Indonesia.
POC chairman Monico Puentevella made the assurance after Philippine Football Federation president Mariano “Nonong” Araneta expressed concern that the Olympic body had reportedly put a “conditional” status on football’s stint in the biennial meet.
“As far as we are concerned, we see no reason why football will not be included in our SEA Games lineup,” said Puentevella. “We don’t know where that rumor (that football will be excluded) is coming from.”
Araneta said they should be informed early if their participation will not be approved by the POC.
“We are trying our best to form a competitive team,” Araneta told the Inquirer, pointing out that the PFF has even scheduled a camp in Japan in October just to prepare the squad. “We are spending money to prepare the team.”
Meanwhile, Phil and James Younghusband are expected to be back in training next week after a short bereavement leave, following the death of their mother, Susan, last Saturday.
Azkals coach Michael Weiss said he is actually leaving it up to the Younghusbands to decide when they return for training or whether or not they will see action in the Long Teng Cup.
“The final decision will come from them,” said Weiss, known to be strict on attendance in Azkals training, at the close of their week-long camp in Bacolod City.
“We understand that they are in a period of mourning and the team is one with them. Although I expect them to be back with the team as soon as possible and join us in Taiwan, it will be there choice.”
The Younghusbands’ mother, Susan, died of massive heart attack Saturday night. She was 49.
Cathy Rivilla, the Younghusbands’ business manager, said Phil and James are keen on joining training next week and beef up the squad for the Taiwan tournament.
“They know that their mom would want them to play on,” Rivilla said.
The Azkals are preparing for the Long Teng Cup in Kauhsiung, Taiwan from September 28 to October 4 and friendlies against Singapore on October 7 and Nepal on October 11.
They won their two matches in Bacolod, prevailing via 3-1 scorelines against UFL side Global FC and Ceres-Negros, the core of which was composed of players from the Suzuki Cup Under-23 champion team.
Although the Azkals missed standouts like Aly Borromeo, Anton del Rosario, Chieffy Caligdong and Jason Sabio in the camp, Weiss said there were plenty of positives that came out from the Bacolod matches.
For one, Mark Hartmann, the 19-year-old Fil-British midfielder, showcased superb form, firing a hat-trick against Global and two more goals against Ceres in a match sponsored by Suzuki.
“The camp was fantastic,” said Weiss. “We worked very hard in training. The players were focused and it showed in the good results against strong teams.”
Weiss has tipped Hartmann to be the cornerstone of the Under-23 squad bound for the Southeast Asian Games.
“He can be a future player for the seniors team,” Weiss said of the Loyola Meralco Sparks standout.
“He will control the style of play for the Under-23 team. But he needs to work more defensively. But his vision and perspective on the game is fantastic.”
Weiss revealed that Borromeo, Del Rosario, Sabio and Caligdong were left out from the Bacolod camp because they “extended their holidays.”