SINGAPORE—Amid the raucous atmosphere marking Singapore’s entry to the AFF Suzuki Cup finals at Jalan Besar Stadium here Wednesday night, Philippine team manager Dan Palami stayed cool and composed, trying to console each player who approached him.
It was not the time for him to sulk—he will deal with the disappointment later in private—after the Azkals’ 0-1 loss to the Singaporeans in the second leg of their semifinal clash.
“It’s one of those occasions when you had to be strong,” said Palami. “You had to show everybody this is not the end.”
The Azkals returned to the tournament that sparked the renaissance of the sport two years ago with heavy expectations because of a stronger, more experienced lineup.
Along with the Philippine Football Federation, Palami’s task was to ensure that the squad was prepared for battle. The Azkals held camps in the United States and the Middle East in their buildup to the tournament and made sure that the Europe-based aces would be able to join the team for the Suzuki Cup.
In the group stage in Bangkok, Palami had to buy studs for several players as they struggled to cope with the soft and soggy pitch at Supachalasai Stadium. It was this change in footwear that helped keep Phil Younghusband stay on his feet to deliver the first goal in the
2-0 win over Myanmar that sent them to the last four.
“Any loss for me is tough but this one really hurts because I’ve been spending to prepare this team. But to fold up now would be to even let the team down more,” said Palami, who started helping bankroll the squad in 2010.
Palami said the Azkals are still looking forward to the AFC Challenge Cup next year and the 2014 Suzuki Cup, where they hope to finally end their wait for a title.
“More than ever, the team has to be supported,” said Palami. “Of course, it’s also imperative that other individuals support the team. If not, we will continue to plod on. We will certainly get up from this fall.”