THE country needs a long-term football program to sustain the gains attained by the Philippine Azkals, according to national team manager Dan Palami.
“There can be no short cuts. We really need a long-term program if we want our current success in football to continue,” Palami said after observing the Japanese Football Association run its program during the Filipino booters’ five-day training stint in Japan for their Asian Challenge Cup return match against Mongolia on March 15.
The team, which trained at the JFA facility in Gotemba City near the foot of Mt. Fuji, used the trip to adjust to subzero conditions they expect to encounter in the Mongolian capital of Ulan Bator.
The Azkals absorbed back-to-back losses (0-4 and 1-8) to a university side during their training stint but Palami was not surprised by the results, saying the winning team “is being supported by the top Yokohama Marinos which competes in the J-League.”
The Marinos are one of the top clubs in the Division 1 J-League, having won the championship thrice and placing third twice.
Palami said most of the players of the university squad had begun playing football at the early age of six “so you could see how fluid and skillful they were against our boys, particularly in the freezing weather.”
He stressed local fans should not be worried by the team’s results against the university team “because our trip there was not to win but to acclimatize to the bone-chilling weather we expect in Mongolia. This was our major goal and we achieved that” Palami and Philippine Football Federation chief Mariano Araneta Jr. left late Saturday night on separate flights from Manila to join the squad in Mongolia.
An update posted on Facebook said the Azkals left Japan last Saturday and arrived safely in Ulan Bator later in the evening.
“National men’s football team landed safely… team at immigration now,” the report said.
Fil-Am Jason Sabio, who arrived down in Tokyo a day after the 8.9-magnitude temblor struck, managed to rejoin his teammates before they left for Mongolia while another team mainstay, Simon Greatwich, had his flight diverted to Osaka.
Greatwich took a flight out of the seaport city last Saturday via Incheon, South Korea and was expected to join his teammates later in the day.
The nationals will have at least two full days of practice before they tangle with the Blue Wolves at noon tomorrow at the Mongolian Football Federation Center. The Azkals lead the series 2-0 and only need a draw to advance to the group stage of the Challenge Cup. (By Bong Pedralvez) Malaya