Jaelle Nevin Reyes MANILA, Philippines - The Azkals are not the only team that hardcore Filipino football fans should watch out for.
The Philippine national Futsal team, known fondly as the Muzangs, named after a type of Civet found in the Southeast Asian region, is ranked number 27 in Asia and 92 in the world.
Not known to many, Futsal, is the indoor variant of the association football that was first developed as a sport in the 1930s to the 1940s in Brazil and Uruguay. The name of this sport was derived from the Portuguese phrase Futebol de Salao or Hall Football, hence the name, Futsal.
It is played within a small indoor court and teams can field 5 players each, one of them being the goalkeeper. It is also played with smaller and less bouncy balls compared to the regular football.
Meanwhile, Muzangs head coach Red Avelino revealed the team had already training as early as July to prepare the players for the tournaments they will be joining.
“The Muzang’s have been in the rebuilding stage since joining the tournament last year. In selecting potential candidates to join the rosters, The coaching staff has scouted stand-outs from previous local futsal tournaments nationwide, as well as pre-selected players from a 1st Division Football League who we feel are equipped with the skills to play and adjust to the sport. They will be joining the current main stays of the Muzangs,” Avelino added.
Familiar names from the United Football League will be boosting up the team the tournaments that they will be joining this year.
“We have Floriano ‘Tating’ Pasilan of GAU as our team Captain, he will be joined by Jovanie Simpron and Patrick Bocobo also of GAU, Jake Morallo and Jayson Cutamora of Manila Jeepney, Boyet Canedo of Loyola FC, Mike Reyes and Enzo Pinga of Socceroos FC, Ian Araneta of Airforce FC, and Arnie Pasinabo of Ceres FC. They will be reinforcing the other mainstays of the Muzangs.”
According to Avelino, they also considered enlisting some Azkals mainstays but have chosen to do otherwise because they want players who can dedicate more time to the Futsal team.
“There are also notable players who we feel can be a great addition to the team like OJ Porteria and Jeff Christiaens, to name a few. But we try to avoid recruiting active players from the Azkals, to avoid conflict with their training and competition commitments. We are also establishing a solid pool of rosters that can concentrate and be focused mainly on futsal.”
However, the team will be missing the services of top quality Futsal player and Azkals standout Misagh Bahadoran.
“Misagh Bahadoran is one of the best, if not the best player who has ever played for the Muzangs. He is actually one of the best futsal players in the ASEAN region, also. However, he has moved on to being a regular member of the Philippine Azkals and is committed to play for them.”
This year, the national futsal team will be joining two international tournaments, beginning with the MNC Cup that will be held in Jakarta, Indonesia.
Avelino said the trip to Indonesia was supposed to be for a scheduled friendly against their national Futsal team but they were later informed that the supposed friendly was converted into a tournament.
“Two weeks ago, we received an invite to play a friendly with the Indonesian National Futsal Team in Indonesia. Upon confirming our participation, we were informed that the friendly has developed into a mini Futsal Cup that would include two more countries, namely Kyrgyzstan and Dalian Yuan Dinasty (China).”
For the pocket tournament, Philippines will be faced against highly ranked opponents Kyrgyzstan, which is ranked 7th in Asia, number 8 China, and Asia’s number 12 Indonesia.
The coach stressed that the 4-nation Futsal meet would be a good training ground for the team.
“Based on the ranking alone, our expectations are fairly managed. The friendlies will be much more beneficial to the team rather than our opponents in terms of gaining the much needed exposure and experience. This will also be a good opportunity to test our chemistry as a team, especially for the new members.”
The Muzangs’ tour of duty in the MNC Cup will start on September 1 with a game against hosts Indonesia, followed by a game versus Dalian Yuan Dinasty of China on September 2 then a game against Kyrgyzstan on September 3.
Meanwhile, the team will also be joining the annual Asean Football Federation Futsal Championship that will be held from September 19 to 27 and will be hosted by Malaysia.
For the Asean Futsal Championship, the Philippines is clustered in Group B which also houses world number 17 Thailand, world number 47 Vietnam, number 91 Laos and number 90 Myanmar.
On the other hand, Avelino explained that they will face a tough match-up against higher seeded team than the Philippines.
“For the AFF Tournament, we are almost equally at par with Laos and Myanmar. We have beaten them in the past and with new and improved reinforcement, we are hoping to equal that feat. With Thailand and Vietnam, despite their superiority in ranking, we will obviously play to win, but if unsuccessful, we will make sure we go down fighting.”
The Philippine national Futsal team’s conquest to claim the ASEAN Futsal Championship plum will start on September 19 with a game against Laos to kick-off the group stage.