Azkals to continue Doha camp as World Cup qualifiers moved to UAE
MANILA, Philippines — The Philippine men’s national football team will go on with its 2022 World Cup and 2023 Asian Cup qualifiers buildup in Doha, Qatar after a last-minute change in venue.
Group A qualifying matches, which include the Philippine Azkals, were moved from Suzhou, China to the United Arab Emirates due to COVID-19 infections in the Syria and Maldives teams, as per a statement from the Chinese Football Association on Monday.
The Azkals, who set up camp in Doha, were supposed to leave for Shanghai, China on Monday.
With the venue change, the team avoided losing four of its officials and gave the team more time for training before the matches, according to Azkals team manager Dan Palami.
— The Philippine Azkals (@TheAzkalsPH) May 31, 2021
“Two team officials who were positive in the IGM Antibodies possibly due to recent vaccination have been advised they will be barred from entering China. Also, two other team officials were also advised that they will be barred from entering China despite passing multiple RT-PCR and IGM Antibodies test just because they had a prior history of being Covid-19 positive in 2020,” Palami said in a statement Monday.
“We would have been left severely short-handed in China if the games pushed through there.”
The Asian Football Confederation (AFC) later clarified on Tuesday that the qualifiers would take place in Sharjah, UAE, and not Dubai.
“The developments will allow us to get more training time before these important matches,” Palami said.
“We urge the fans to remain patient as we wait for a fair and reasonable decision on the venue and schedule of our matches.”
The Azkals are scheduled to play Guam on Thursday, China on June 9 and Maldives on June 15. China on Monday closed the gap on Group A leader Syria following a 7-0 thrashing of Guam in front of a packed crowd of 30,000 in Suzhou.
The team is dealing with a major roster shakeup after nine of its players including keeper Neil Etheridge won’t be available for the qualifiers due to various reasons.
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