By Mike T. Limpag
Monday, January 30, 2012
IT WASN’T only former PH Under 23 team captain Matt Hartman who got suspended by the Philippine Football Federation (PFF) Disciplinary Committee but also team manager Dan Palami himself.
“I was also suspended from all football-related activities,” Palami told Sun.Star Cebu yesterday.
Fortunately for Palami, his suspension was lifted after just one day.
The team manager’s suspension stemmed from his failure to answer allegations raised by Hartmann when the Disciplinary Committee conducted its investigation on the former captain leaving the team mid-way into the Southeast Asian (SEA) Games last year.
“I was handed a letter that I was supposed to answer within 24 hours, but when our office got it, I was out of the country, so I was not able to send my reply,” said Palami.
The allegations were related to the room assignment of Azkal supporters and family members in the SEA Games.
Palami’s suspension was to last until he could answer the allegations raised by Hartmann, which he did, so he can now concentrate on the Azkals activities, which include looking at a possible training camp, or even international friendly, in Cebu later this year.
“It (suspension) lasted for about a day,” said Palami, who will be leaving with the senior team for a training camp in Dubai.
As to the former team captain, who is banned from both the national team and all football-related activities in the country, Palami said he can still file an appeal.
Meanwhile Palami said Fulham third-choice goalkeeper Neil Etheridge will likely miss the Challenge Cup in Nepal next March due to club commitments.
“Neil most probably will not be released, but he will be playing for us on Feb. 29 against Malaysia,” said Palami.
With Neil getting tied to club duties, Germany-based Roland Muller is expected to take over.
“(Paul) Mulders already has the go signal to join us, I am also in constant contact with Dennis (Cagara) and Angel Aldeguer’s brother Juan Luis will be arriving on Feb. 5,” said Palami.
The manager added that Cebuano Ray Jonsson is also expected to play, while Stephen Shrock will also see action for one or two games.
However, Palami said it is still not sure whether Air Force spitfire Chieffy Caligdong, who got injured during their game against the Philippine Navy in the UFL, can play in the Challenge Cup.
“He has a partial ACL tear, so we are still waiting for the doctor’s assessment on whether he needs surgery,” said Palami.
A surgery will rule out Caligdong’s sting with the Azkals, who are already missing the services of team captain Alexander Borromeo due to an injury sustained last November.
The Philippines will have its Challenge Cup debut on March 9 against North Korea and will face India on March 11 and Tajikistan on March 13.
Tajikistan, and India are former champions while North Korea is the defending champion.
After the Challenge Cup, the Azkals will be released back to their clubs for UFL duties but will team up anew late in May to prepare for a short tournament in Manila during the designated Fifa break in June.
“We are planning to invite Indonesia over so we could finally have that home game we didn’t have. We are also looking at Thailand or even Vietnam,” said Palami, whose team played their “home match” against Indonesia in the Suzuki Cup 2010 semifinals in Jakarta.
“That will also be a chance for us to rack up points and rise in the Fifa rankings,” he said.
Aside from the Southeast Asian teams, Palami said he is looking at a major English Premier League club to complete the four-tournament friendly.
“The clubs usually have a short tournament in Hong Kong during that break and maybe, we can invite one over,” he said.
For the May training camp, Palami said he has already told the European-based players to spend their vacation in the Philippines so they can join the team training, which could be held in Cebu anew.
“I’m planning to put them in one place, maybe in Plantation Bay again so they can be with their families while at the same time train with the team,” said Palami.
During last year’s short training camp, the Azkals stayed at Plantation Bay and trained at the Aboitiz Sports Field pitch.
The manager added that he hopes Cebu will soon have a venue that can pass the Fifa standards so he can hold an international friendly here.
The only viable options for a match of such magnitude is the Cebu City Sports Center, whose field is under rehabilitation, and the planned University of San Carlos Stadium, which is still under construction.
“Cebu would be a very good location because the fans from the Visayas or Mindanao can just fly there,” he said.
Aside from the Challenge Cup, Palami is also busy with the U21 team that will see action in the Hassanal Bolkiah Trophy in Brunei on Feb. 25 to March 3.
The team will be handled by the newly-hired Serbian coach Zoran Djordjevic, who so far has impressed Palami.
The coach told Palami, who is also the manager of the U21 squad, to prepare a bonus since he is confident of finishing as runner-up or even champion of the U21 competition.
“I’d be happy to pay the bonus since I was already planning to give a bonus anyway if they win it,” said Palami.
Djordjevic has also been busy watching local football matches to gauge the players’ skills.
“I think he went to all UFL games yesterday (last Sunday) and he’s also been watching the UAAP matches and he’s been talking to the coaches too,” said Palami.
Meanwhile, Palami said he is elated that the University of the Philippines has released its players to see action for the U21 team.
After the Brunei tournament, Palami plans to have friendly games between local senior and Under 23 teams in Bacolod, Iloilo and Cebu and the PH U21 team.
“We’re also planning to play Queen City in Cebu,” he said.
Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on January 31, 2012.