By Karlo Sacamos
THE Philippine men’s football team will have two obstacles standing its way on Thursday when it continues its Asian Football Confederation Challenge Cup campaign in Addu City, Maldives.
Before they take on Laos at the Hithadhoo Stadium, the Azkals are set to undergo another hassling task of getting to the playing venue using a speed boat from another island where they are billeted.
The Filipino booters underwent the same ordeal last Tuesday when they fought Afghanistan to a goalless draw to open their stint.
“No doubt, Maldives is a good place for a vacation, but for a competition it is impractical and logistically demanding,” Azkals manager Dan Palami said.
The AFC awarded Maldives the hosting right last December after the island nation beat the deadline, set by the Asia’s football governing body, on renovation work on its playing venues.
What made the task more challenging was that the Azkals had to ride under stormy weather.
“We had to endure rough seas and the amount of time wasted on loading and unloading of team equipment is simply too taxing on the players and the staff. Players threw up,” Palami recounted.
Still, the Azkals remained unperturbed, battling the Afghans and nearly getting rewarded by a James Younghusband header that just hit the crossbar.
“Nevertheless, I give credit to them because they had to do a job for the country and they did it without complaints,” Palami said.
Now, the Azkals, in joint second spot with Afghanistan, are in a must-win situation against Laos to move a step closer to reaching the semifinals.
Phil Younghusband and Rob Gier return from suspensions to boost the national side, which has never beaten the Loatians in all their meetings (seven losses and one draw).
“We’re very much in the tournament and I think we’ve always had difficulty in our first games so I’m looking forward to a better performance in the games ahead,” Palami said.