Azkals moniker goes the way of Malditas–with no replacement yet

Azkals moniker goes the way of Malditas–with no replacement just yet

/ 04:10 AM February 27, 2024

Team manager Freddy Gonzalez (left) and PFF president John Gutierrez (right) welcome new men’s national team coach Tom Saintfiet. —PFF PHOTO

Team manager Freddy Gonzalez (left) and PFF president John Gutierrez (right) welcome new men’s national team coach Tom Saintfiet. —PFF PHOTO

Philippine men’s football team manager Freddy Gonzalez admitted that finding a new name to replace the famous Azkals moniker is not among his main priorities at this point.

He’d rather wait for a new team identity to take shape under a new coach.


What he’s sure of is finding a replacement, or even reverting back to the term that refers to a street dog is something the Philippine Football Federation (PFF) or the fans will eventually determine in the unforeseeable future.


READ: PH football federation retires Azkals moniker, eyes new direction

“Who knows? Anything’s possible, right?” Gonzalez said when asked by The Inquirer if there’s a possibility the PFF will bring back the Azkals name. “Look at it this way, if the fans keep calling it that (Azkals), then that’s what they call it, right?”

The decision to retire the moniker, which apparently came from some fans a few years before the team became a fixture in the sporting scene by scoring an upset win over Vietnam in the group stage of the 2010 Asean Football Federation (AFF) Cup, was officially confirmed by Gonzalez following a press conference introducing Belgian-born Tom Saintfiet as the men’s team’s new coach.

The name has not been used since the entry of Gonzalez as the successor to long-time team manager Dan Palami, who is said to own the Azkals trademark. As the Azkals under Palami, the Philippines produced four AFF semifinal appearances and made the Asian Cup for the first time back in 2019.

READ: Azkals hope to fish something out of loss

“I’m a bit saddened that we’ll now have to stop using a moniker that we all love already, just like what happened to Malditas before,” said Jorex Cruz, who runs the Facebook group, Philippines Football League Fans United, referring to last year’s decision of the women’s team to use the moniker Filipinas instead of Malditas.

Cruz later set up a post discussing the decision, resulting in some mixed reaction on the comments section. For the PFF, doing away with calling the men’s team as the Azkals and using the terms as “Men’s National Team” or “MNT” on its press releases came in accordance with the current direction.

“When we first came to the [PFF], we decided that since the team is gonna be evolving into a new chapter, we will scrap the Azkals moniker,” said Gonzalez. “We feel that it already had its time. We don’t consider overseas-based players as half Filipino and we believe everyone is Filipino. It doesn’t matter if you’re born in England or whenever, you’re Filipino.


Ambitious goals

“So while there is still no [new] moniker, that’s the reason why we are not using the Azkals [name] anymore. It doesn’t fit with the new direction the team is going, and the PFF wants to approach that everyone is Filipino, we’re all Filipino.”

Gonzalez believes a future name will likely depend on how the team will shape up under Saintfiet, who plans to put together a roster capable of meeting his ambitious goals of qualifying for the 2027 Asian Cup and winning the AFF Mitsubishi Electric Cup.

“It can be an animal, it can be a statement [or] it can be something else,” he said. “But it’s up to us and maybe the fans will come up with something when they see the team play, the players on the team and how we operate.

“It may not come after the [two matches against Iraq next month in the World Cup/Asian Cup Qualifiers] or even after the June Qualifiers, it’s something that will come out organic. Japan is known as the Blue Samurai, Spain is known as La Furia Roja, who knows what will come up.”

For now, it seems there’s a wait-and-see approach from supporters as to what’s next for the men’s team and its future identity.

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“I’m just happy that at least the new management is willing to hear what fans think about it before making a final decision,” said Cruz. INQ

TAGS: Football, Philippine Azkals, Sports

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