By Olmin Leyba
The Philippine Azkals will no longer get to play Serbian powerhouse FK Partizan Belgrade in their 12-day training camp next month in the UAE after the reigning Serbian SuperLiga champions called off their Dubai sortie.
“The Azkals’ match with Partizan that’s supposed to be held on Feb. 6 will not push through anymore apparently because of visa problems on their part,” confirmed Philippine Football Federation (PFF) president Nonong Araneta yesterday.
Multi-titled Partizan is under a new coach in Avram Grant, an Israeli. In their website, “The Black and Whites” announced that after the cancellation of their preparation in Dubai, the team is searching for opponents in Israel instead for a planned trip from Jan. 25 to Feb. 8.
The Azkals will hold camp in the UAE and Qatar from Feb. 5-17 as a crucial part of their buildup for the AFC Challenge Cup in March in Nepal.
With the showdown against the top-flight Serbian club now off, the Azkals will be left with three tune-up matches.
Araneta said so far, only Al Ahli Sports Club has confirmed for the Feb. 13 match in Doha, Qatar while negotiations are ongoing for a Feb. 16 duel with the Australian U-23 side in Dubai. The Azkals also are looking for an opponent for a Feb. 10 match in Dubai.
While the Azkals hone their skills abroad, the PFF will kick off its grassroots program at home via the “Asian Football Development Program” on Feb. 10-11 in Calamba, Laguna.