‘Kuwait could open doors’: A lot at stake for top Philippine booters
KUWAIT—The Philippine Azkals’ World Cup Qualifying showdown against Middle East powerhouse Kuwait presents an opportunity for Filipino players to crash the Asian football scene, which could lead to more lucrative club football careers in the continent.
The Azkals were set to face the Al-Azraq early this morning in the first leg at the Mohammed Al-Hammad Stadium in Hawalli and while the goal is to put up a solid effort, superb individual performances may earn them possible stints with some big club teams in Asia.
One of the more established Azkal in terms of club football, goalkeeper Neil Etheridge believes a good performance against Kuwait could open doors for Filipino players internationally.
“It will open different doors. Of course, this is just one step,” said Etheridge, who has settled at London-based English Premiere League side Fulham, where he is currently the second choice goalkeeper.
“This could open doors playing in these Arab countries or playing at a higher level in Asia,” added Etheridge who only arrived in this oil-rich country Friday night.
“But once you play in the next stages against the likes of Japan and China and Australia, they are massive countries and then you start to open the eyes for players like the Younghusbands, Angel and the Borromeos in the team.”
Jason de Jong signed up for an Indonesian club team after the Suzuki Cup, but has since been released, while Phil and James Younghusband and skipper Aly Borromeo were also linked with another team in Indonesia after the Azkals’ run.
Borromeo, the tall and strong central defender for Kaya FC, is sitting out the first leg for picking up two yellow cards against Sri Lanka in the first round, but promised to be in the stands taking notes, analyzing tactics.
Azkals striker Angel Guirado is currently unattached as he didn’t extend his stay at CD Ronda in the Spanish third division.
Guirado’s cousin, Rafa Garcia, who is also his interpreter and manager, has said that Guirado is leaning towards looking for a club in Asia to be close to the Philippines that would also make it easier for him to link up with the national squad for matches.
“We already have many requests from some Asian countries. There’s always a good possibility for the boys,” said Azkals coach Hans Michael Weiss.
In football-mad Bahrain for example, club teams are allowed to field one Asian import apart from three non-Asian reinforcements.
And Bahrain football officials have been monitoring the progress of some of the Azkals, considering the strong Filipino following there.
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