Fil-Briton Woodland gets Fifa OK to play for Azkals
DOHA—Filipino-Briton Luke Woodland sat on pins and needles until he received the news he so desperately wanted to hear since joining the Philippine Azkals camp last June 1.
It hurt him that he couldn’t warm up with the team, much less sit on the bench in the Azkals’ 2-1 win over Bahrain last Thursday because of an eligibility issue.
“I wanted to be part of the team so bad so I just kept my head up and stayed ready,” said the 19-year-old former England Under-18 player who has been cleared by the International Football Federation (Fifa) Players’ Status Committee to play for the Philippines.
‘Sporting nationality’ switch
The Fifa panel approved his switch in “sporting nationality” last Monday.
Because of the Fifa approval, Woodland became available for selection in the World Cup Qualifying match against Yemen scheduled Tuesday night, giving Azkals coach Thomas Dooley a formidable option on defense and in midfield.
“When he came in, we already saw his quality,” said Dooley.
His mother’s country
Woodland’s case was delayed as he needed confirmation not only from England but also from Wales, Ireland and Scotland (countries that are part of Great Britain) in his request to switch countries. Players are allowed to transfer “sporting nationality” only once, with Woodland making his decision to switch to his mother’s country after playing for England from the Under-16 to -18 levels.
“Obviously it’s been a long time coming,” said Woodland. “I have followed the team for quite awhile now. The chemistry is good. Everyone is on the same wavelength.”
Rob Gier hailed Woodland’s attitude despite the earlier setback.
“His attitude has been spot-on, fantastic,” said the Azkals skipper. “He’s integrated with the team really well.”
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