PH Azkals suffer embarrassing loss to Timor Leste
On the day Philippine football marked one of its biggest achievements, a hastily assembled national men’s squad also suffered one of its most embarrassing losses on Tuesday.
The Azkals, the top-ranked team in Southeast Asia at No. 118, absorbed a stunning 0-1 defeat to 196th ranked Timor Leste, on the final day of the four-nation Chinese Taipei Football Association Invitational Tournament at Municipal Stadium in Taipei.
The loss came on the seventh anniversary of what Filipino football fans dubbed The Miracle in Hanoi when the Azkals upset powerhouse Vietnam in the AFF Suzuki Cup, triggering the sport’s resurgence in the country.
The Azkals missed more than half of their regular squad since the tournament did not fall in the international window, while Philippine Football Federation technical director Marlon Maro was tasked to handle the team.
Azkals manager Dan Palami also wasn’t around to be with the team with businessman Jefferson Cheng appointed this time by the PFF. Cheng owns the Davao Aguilas, where Maro is the coach.
There was still plenty of optimism within the side that they can produce creditable results in the tournament that also featured Laos, which the Azkals defeated, 3-1, on Friday.
The Azkals already lost to Chinese Taipei, 1-3, on Sunday, but the bigger, more alarming loss came against the Timorese side, which has dropped its previous three games against the Azkals in the AFF Suzuki Cup.
Maro opted for an inexperienced starting eleven, putting Phil and James Younghusband on the bench against the Timorese with the Azkals playing their third game in five days.
“It’s a humiliating experience that we should never ever have to go through again,” Palami told the Inquirer.
Despite not having the strongest squad, Palami, who is also the national teams’ committee chair, said he agreed with the decision to participate in the tournament “as a matter of courtesy to the CTFA.”
But Palami was hoping that Maro and PFF general secretary Ed Gastanes consulted the Azkals management and coaching staff on which players to be placed on the roster first.
“They told us they were trying to beat the deadline and we were in Nepal for our last game so we were not consulted, before they submitted the squad,” said Palami. “I hope that Mr. Cheng will continue to support football despite the results. I know that he has genuine love for sport. He genuinely only wanted to help.”
The PFF official said it’s time the federation gets its acts together to ensure that a similar result doesn’t happen.
“We need to look at our shortcomings as an organization,” said Palami.