By Olmin Leyba
MANILA, Philippines - Although they didn’t maximize the opportunity to play during Fifa international match dates for June, the Philippine Azkals are looking to arrange more friendlies in the next few months to continue their buildup for next year’s AFC Challenge Cup.
The Azkals played Hong Kong on the road and eked out a 1-0 victory last Tuesday in a “not-so-friendly” encounter that served as their lone outing during international break calendared by Fifa for the month (June 7-11 and June 14-18).
“We decided to forego with the friendlies (in June) because most of the players are coming from long seasons. It’s physically, mentally exhausting, especially from those playing professionally,” team manager Dan Palami said.
“We’re now scheduling friendlies during Fifa dates; they are being arranged by Philippine Football Federation,” he added.
The next friendly match day in the Fifa’s 2013 calendar will be on Aug. 14, followed by international match days for the periods Sept. 6-10, Oct. 11-15, and Nov. 15-19.
According to Palami, they are eyeing a possible training camp in the Middle East in November.
“We have an invitation from UAE and we’re trying to find our games in adjacent areas to make it a tour, a training camp,” he said.
The Azkals, banking on James Younghusband’s header and Neil Etheridge’s splendid goalkeeping, finally got the better of Hong Kong after losing their first five meetings and drawing their sixth (3-3).
But they had to endure an extremely hostile crowd, which booed and jeered them from the playing of the national anthem to the traditional victory lap at the end of the match. Some Hong Kong fans even reportedly threw bottled water at Pinoy supporters and shouted alleged racial slur.
Palami was to file an incident report with the PFF, which would then take appropriate action. The organizing Hong Kong Football Association itself had stated it was conducting its own probe.