Azkals eye friendly with Bangladesh, India
MANILA—The Philippine Football Federation is still keen on hosting higher-ranked countries Bangladesh or India at the Rizal Memorial Stadium on Oct. 9 to play against the Philippine Azkals.
Although Pakistan has expressed interest in going to Manila to face the Azkals, PFF president Mariano “Nonong” Araneta said their preference remains Bangladesh (No. 139) or India (No. 158), where former national coach Des Bulpin is currently employed.
The PFF has already agreed with the Football Association of Singapore to stage a friendly pitting the Azkals and the Lions in Singapore on Oct. 6.
Ranked 33 places higher than the Azkals at No. 129 in the world, the Lions, who will use the game as a warm-up for their World Cup Qualifying clash on Oct. 11, will be facing a full-strength Philippine side that will include the likes of Europe-based Neil Etheridge, Paul Mulders and Ray Jonsson.
Because of this development, the Azkals may be flying straight to Singapore from Taipei, where they will play three matches in the Long Teng Cup from Sept. 28 to Oct. 4.
Despite the already busy schedule of the national team, Araneta said the PFF is determined to organize a home match for the Azkals to take advantage of the international break, which runs from Oct. 6 to 11.
If the home match pushes through, the Azkals could be playing five matches in 12 days.
Clubs are inclined to release their players for national team duties during the international break.
“We still want to showcase our best team in Manila,” said Araneta.
Araneta said they are even willing to write off the $22,000 debt of Bangladesh to the federation just for them to agree to play against the Azkals.
The debt stemmed from expenses incurred by Bangladesh when they joined an age-group tournament in the Philippines during the time of former PFF head Mari Martinez.
Meanwhile, Azkals coach Michael Weiss has expressed concern over the condition of the pitch at the Rizal Memorial Stadium, even as he stressed that it should be maintained for the whole year, not just for certain matches.
“The condition of the pitch is like day and night compared to the Kuwait match,” said Weiss, whose wards started training at the Rizal Memorial Stadium late last week.
“The country has to ask itself whether it can only have a pitch for particular matches or whether they want a pitch that they can showcase to the country,” said Weiss.
“Normally it should be maintained the whole year and not only for particular matches. I hope they can correct that.”