MANILA, Philippines - Fil-Spanish players Angel and Juani Guirado and Carli de Murga said yesterday they will suit up with the Azkals if called to action by coach Michael Weiss in the Suzuki Cup, also known as the Asean Football Championships, on Nov. 24-Dec. 22 in Malaysia and Thailand.
The Philippines has qualified for the eight-team Suzuki Cup finals with Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam. If FIFA suspends Indonesia on a charge of government interference in sporting affairs, three teams from the October qualifiers in Myanmar will advance to the tournament proper to join the five seeds.
The Guirado brothers are set to wed their Spanish fiancées this year while De Murga has no immediate plan of settling down although his Spanish girlfriend Maria Flores, a journalist, arrives today to spend a month here. Juani, 32, marries his girlfriend Andrea Marijuan in Burgos on June 16. Angel, 27, ties the knot with Rocio Carvajal, who recently visited him in Manila for two weeks, in Malaga in July.
The Fil-Spanish booters, who call themselves The Three Musketeers, are also teammates on the Global squad in the UFL. They battle Kaya F. C. on Saturday in Juani’s farewell match. The older Guirado returns to Spain on Monday.
“I’ve been away for about two months now and I must go back to my job doing quality control as inspector of materials with Pepsi Cola in Spain,” said Juani who scored the marginal goal in the Azkals’ 4-3 win over Palestine to bag the bronze at the recent AFC Challenge Cup in Nepal. “I will never forget playing for the Philippines and I want to come back. I’ve won medals and trophies in the Spanish league but the bronze with the Azkals is special and historic for the country. I am proud to play for the Philippine national team and one day, when I have children, I will tell them how lucky I was to play for the Philippines. It is a big honor for me. Playing national teams from Palestine, India, North Korea, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan is a new experience and I’m grateful for the opportunity.”
When Juani returns to Spain, he will reenlist with his Division III club and resume his work at Pepsi Cola. “Jobs are difficult to find in Europe,” he said. “Life is hard. Andrea and I plan to come to the Philippines in October and we’d like to just take a vacation for two weeks. I haven’t seen how beautiful the country is and I couldn’t even go to visit my grandfather in Isabela. I will stay on until the end of the Suzuki Cup. Will I consider living in the Philippines? You can never tell. It will depend on opportunities. I have cousins, uncles and aunts in the Philippines but my parents are in Malaga.”
Angel said he is excited to continue playing with the Azkals. “We’ve improved so much since I first joined,” he said. “That’s because we’ve become more familiar with each other, gaining more experience as a team. We face a very complicated situation because so many players come from different countries and we get together only for a few practices before playing a tournament. But little by little, we’re improving. Coach Michael has done a very good job of getting us to play as a team.”
De Murga, 23, said his older brother Antonio, 25, is recovering from two knee football-related injuries and plans to try out with the Azkals. “Playing for the Philippine team is an honor because it is my mother’s country,” he said. “I really miss Spain. That’s why I spend all my money eating in a Spanish restaurant (Barcinos). When the UFL ends, I’ll go back to Cadiz. I hope to return to play with the Azkals in October or maybe come earlier.”