MANILA, Philippines - After missing the action in the last Southeast Asian Games, the Philippine Football Federation (PFF) said it is prepared to send a “competitive team” to this year’s SEAG in Singapore.
PFF president Nonong Araneta said a training program for the Under-22 team is being lined up in the buildup for the June 5-16 SEA Games.
“Our U-22 team will first compete in the AFC U-23 Championship qualification this March and then naka-set na ang training (training has been set) because this will hopefully, if we’re allowed to join the SEA Games, will be the same team we’ll send to the SEA Games,” Araneta said in the TV program “The Score” on ABS-CBN Sports+Action.
He stressed that the federation is serious in sending the U-22 side, which is expected to be bannered by Azkals stalwarts who meet the age limit of 23, like Amani Aguinaldo and Daisuke Sato.
“If we prepare right, we’ll have a competitive team. I can’t promise the gold medal but I promise that I will prepare them the best way I can. We should consider that,” he said.
The PFF couldn’t field an entry in the 2013 edition of the SEAG after failing to get the go-signal from the Philippine Olympic Committee.
For the Singapore joust, however, the Olympic body is more receptive to the PFF’s bid to enter the competition.
“Gusto namin sila isama. Maganda ang showing nila ngayon (We want football in the Philippine delegation, they have a good record now),” chef de mission Julian Camacho told The STAR.
Araneta said participating in the biennial SEA Games is part of long-term efforts to gear up the youngsters for bigger tournaments in the future.
“We’re already exposing them because they need exposure. Take for example Thailand that won the Suzuki Cup. This was their team for the SEA Games. In-expose na nila sa (they sent them first to the) SEA Games (2013), lumaban sila sa (then they competed in the) Asian Cup (qualifiers) before they went to the Suzuki Cup,” Araneta said. – Olmin Leyba
“Actually, iyung pag-join namn is not just to win, but you have to have something in the end in mind; ano ba ng gusto natin (What do we target in the end)? We just don’t join the SEA Games just to get the gold medal but also for exposure of the team (for future competitions like what Thailand is doing),” he added.