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Azkals merrily move on

/ 11:01 PM October 11, 2015

Fortified by their gutsy feat in Pyongyang, the Philippine Azkals are merrily on their way to the next stop of the Fifa Asian qualifiers for the 2018 World Cup.

Coming out of a scoreless draw with the North Korean national team playing at home in front of 50,000 partisans, the Azkals earned much more than the respect of the emerging countries of the Asian Football Confederation.

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By holding their heavily-favored hosts to a deadlock at Kim Il-sung Stadium, the Azkals also polished their image as a tough as nails competitors with their backs to the wall.

Inquirer sportswriter Cedelf Tupas, in a fine piece of reporting from Pyongyang, said by pulling off the draw, the Azkals gave Philippine football “one of its biggest moments yet. “

Pyongyang’s pride, after all, has great pedigree. It has reached the World Cup twice before and remains among the top dogs in the Asian Zonals.

The North Koreans are still on top of their group, with the Filipinos not too far behind in points.

The Azkals’ road to their next World Cup qualifying match on Wednesday—an away game and a rematch with the Bahrain national team they beat 2-1 before—is paved with good intentions.

Our nationals strive to play their hearts out each time because of their desire to become major players in Asian football. They are also eager to highlight their ultimate goal of making it to the World Cup someday.

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Despite a criminal investigation at the top of its food chain, including president Sepp Blatter, the Fifa is orchestrating the Asian, African, European, American, Oceanian and other continental zonals leading to the World Cup in Russia in 2018.

Philippine Football Federation president Mariano “Nonong” Araneta said because the international football federation is financially stable, all countries participating in the world qualifiers have received $300,000 each in assistance from Fifa.

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Araneta also reports that each year, the PFF gets $250,000 from the Fifa Financial Assistance Program that the local national sports association for football uses to pay for administration costs and bankroll its development programs.

Araneta said the PFF’s yearly country dole out from Fifa is decided by an executive committee and not solely by Blatter to gain favor from smaller countries and perpetuate himself from power.

The PFF has been assured that it will continue to receive financial help from the Fifa  even if there is a change in its leadership, according to Araneta, who is batting for limited terms of office for leaders of football’s world body.

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The longest local political striptease ever finally comes to an end on Oct. 16. That’s the last day for Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte and other political hopefuls to file their certificates of candidacy for the 2016 general elections.

The mayor has held off declaring his candidacy for President for the longest time, and the suspense is killing supporters or has turned them off altogether because of his indecision.

Should he opt to run, two of my friends, both diehard Duterte allies—fellow Inquirer columnist Ramon Tulfo and former scribe and ex-North Cotabato Gov. Manny Piñol—will be in hog heaven.

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TAGS: Azkals, Football, Nonong Araneta, North Korea, PFF, Philippines, Pyongyang, World Cup Qualifying
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