Booters’ move to UFL squads benefits AzkalsBy Cedelf P. Tupas
Philippine Daily Inquirer
CHICAGO—The decision of several national team players based in Europe and the United States to sign up for United Football League clubs in Manila will augur well for the Azkals’ bid in future tournaments.
Azkals coach Michael Weiss, who is supervising the national side’s two-week camp here, welcomed the move of Denis Wolf, Jeff Christiaens, Jason de Jong and OJ Porteria to play in the coming UFL season as it will allow them to train regularly with the national team.
Wolf, a former German Bundesliga player who spent time in the fourth division in Germany last season, and former Belgian second division standout Christiaens have agreed to play for reigning champion Global FC, while Porteria, an Under-23 standout, has been acquired by Kaya.
De Jong, who has experience playing in the Netherlands and Belgium and Indonesia, has signed with Penson Stallion Giligans for the coming season.
Fil-British midfielder Chris Greatwich has also been linked with a move to Kaya, while new national team recruits Demetrius Omphroy and Matthew Uy have both expressed interest to join a UFL club for the coming season.
Last year, Azkals standouts Angel Guirado and Carli De Murga were lured into leaving Spain in favor of the UFL, a move that proved crucial in the team’s preparations and eventual third place finish in the AFC Challenge Cup.
“The moves indicate that the players want to be part of the team,” said Weiss. “It’s not like before, where we just take players who can walk straight. We are now really getting quality that we are looking for.”
Weiss said the influx of Filipino players born and bred abroad will make the league stronger and increase the level of competitiveness.
“To attract players to leave everything behind and see football as a career in the Philippines speaks a lot of the development,” said the German coach.
The Azkals stayed unrelenting in training in Oak Brook, a suburb west of Chicago – even after its international friendly match against US Virgin Islands scheduled Friday in Indianapolis was cancelled.
The USVI has reportedly blamed the Chicago-based promoter for its failure to fix the tickets of the players and the staff in and out of Chicago.
Playing a “selection team” fielded by semi-pro side Chicago Inferno, the Azkals lost 1-3 in the first match of the camp.
Weiss said scrimmages have been lined up for the Azkals before their departure from the Windy City on Aug. 19.
“We don’t have to peak right now. We must peak when we reach the tournament,” said Weiss.