By Olmin Leyba
MANILA, Philippines - As early as now, the Philippine Football Federation has made known its plans to skip next year’s Southeast Asian Games in Singapore. Instead, it will start preparing a team for the 2017 edition of the regional meet.
PFF president Nonong Araneta said the federation has tapped Australian coach Jim Fraser to handle and train the U-21 squad, whose members should be ripe when they reach the age limit of 23 for the 2017 SEAG in Malaysia.
The U-21 side will compete in the Bolkiah Trophy in August in Brunei.
“We won’t be sending a team (to the Singapore SEAG) because the same officials who did not want us to go in the (2103) SEA Games will still be there in 2015,” said Araneta.
Last year, the PFF formed a squad under Brian Reid specifically for the Myanmar SEA Games and arranged overseas training camps. But the U-23 Azkals were turned down by the Philippine Olympic Committee and the Philippine Sports Commission’s joint task force, which claimed the U-23 Azkals couldn’t justify their inclusion in the contingent.
As a result, the Philippines, the top-ranked nation among Aseans in the International Football Federatin (Fifa) world rankings, was the only one missing in what’s considered the region’s premiere competition for the U-23 division.
PFF national teams committee head Dan Palami said they were “actually optimistic” the U-23 Azkals would be getting a medal in Myanmar “but the decision was not left to us, so it’s unfortunate.”