PFF rues SEAG snub of Under-23 Azkals
THE NATIONAL Under-23 men’s football team yesterday rued the missed opportunity of participating in the only international tournament that was available for them—the Southeast Asian Games.
Thumbed down by the SEA Games Task Force, which said it did not make the grade for inclusion in the lean Philippine delegation, the under-23 side will also blow the opportunity to train in world-class facilities and significant exposure in Japan that would have armed them with much-needed experience going into the tournament.
“We already had an invitation from the Japan Football Association to train this October,” said Philippine Football Federation president Mariano “Nonong” Araneta.
As much as he was grateful for the go-signal for the Philippine women’s side to see action in the biennial event, the PFF chief said he was disappointed over the decision of the Task Force, made up of officials of the Philippine Olympic Committee and the Philippine Sports Commission.
Even Asean Football Federation president Sultan Ahmad Shah of Malaysia had appealed before the POC to include the men’s football team in the tournament.
A former national player himself, Araneta did not mince words in expressing his displeasure over the decision.
“As long as these are the same officials that are there in the committee, the Philippines can say goodbye from competing in men’s football in the SEA Games,” Araneta said in slamming the “gold medal” criteria set by the Task Force which he claims goes against the principles of Olympism of inspiring the youth.
The PFF, with the help of private sponsors, was ready to fund the expenses of the men’s football team’s campaign. The PFF had also spent for a trip to Singapore for a friendly against the Lions Under-23 side, which scored a narrow 1-0 win over the Under-23 Azkals, who just started their preparations in June.
It turned out that the loss was the only basis for the performance evaluation by the Task Force.
Araneta said Myanmar was also willing to shoulder the accommodation expenses of the team for the duration of the tournament.
Instead, the Philippines—a rising power in the sport in the region—will be the only team missing in what is considered to be the centerpiece event of the SEA Games.
“If they wanted us to lose our sponsors then they have been successful,” said Araneta.
Japanese carmaker Suzuki has funded the PFF’s national Under-23 tournament, which allows the federation to pick the best players from all over the country.
“What are we going to say to our sponsors now?” Araneta asked. “Where were these officials who turned down our SEA Games bid when we were struggling to get help?”