BY BONG PEDRALVEZ
THE national Under-23 squad to the 26th Indonesia Southeast Asian Games will have a lot of cramming to do.
Games organizers have been informed by the Indonesian Football Association the football tournament will kick-off on Nov. 3 instead of Nov. 7, the Asean Football Federation website reported yesterday.
The website reported that Indonesian Football Association secretary-general Tri Goestoro has formally notified Indonesian SEA Games Organizing Committee deputy chairman Joko Pramono of the change in date via fax.
Although the Games formally open on Nov. 11 yet, the football tournament traditionally begins ahead.
The competition was originally set to be held in Jakarta and the South Sumatran provincial capital of Palembang, the other SEA Games hub, but organizers decided to move it entirely to the former because the Palembang venue, the Jakabaring Stadium, would be closed in preparation for the opening ceremonies of the meet.
The website also reported the draw will be held on Oct. 18 "at a yet to be announced venue."
National Under-23 team coordinator Jogie Ronda said the change in schedule has put a wrinkle in the national squad’s preparations for the tourney.
Ronda said the Filipino booters had planned to leave for a training camp in Japan on Oct. 24 and fly to Jakarta two days before the original starting date.
"The Japan training camp is where the other European-based players would be joining the team since they have not been together for so long," Ronda said. "With the early schedule this will now be difficult."
Among those considered as shoo-ins for the national side, to be coached by German Michael Weiss, are Fil-Spanish defender Carlos Alberto de Murga, Fil-German goalkeeper Roland Mueller, Fil- Belgian Jeffrey Christaens, Fil-Brit midfielder Matt Hartmann, and locals Neckson Leonora and Reymark Fernandez, who all saw action in the recent Taiwan Long Teng Cup.