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MANILA, Philippines – International football is coming to the Philippines.
The Philippine Football Peace Cup, the first international football tournament hosted by the Philippines since the sport’s popularity grew thanks to the 2010 AFF Suzuki Cup, is set to kickoff Tuesday, September 25, at the Rizal Memorial Football Stadium. The Azkals’ successful run in the 2010 tournament is widely acknowledged to have spurred the sport’s renaissance in the country.
Host Philippines will face off against Guam, Macau and the former host of it’s predecessor, the Long Teng Cup, Chinese-Taipei. The Azkals will look to end a 99-year international title drought, having last won in 1913 at the Far Eastern Championship Games.
“We have new faces for the team. Siguro mas malakas kami ngayon kaysa sa last Long Teng Cup,” said Philippine captain Chieffy Caligdong, who was the top scorer in last year’s competition held in Kaohsiung.
Head coach Michael Weiss said he would also use the tournament as an opportunity to test the squad’s new additions.
“I’m willing to give the players their chances,” he said.
The Azkals’ lineup for the Peace Cup caught many by surprise when it did not include the talented Younghusband brothers Phil and James who play striker and midfield respectively. In explaining the absence of the two crowd favorites, the PFF said they could not meet the demands of the brothers, both economic and non-economic.
Guam coach Gary White, whose squad faced the Azkals in a 3-0 loss last June, noted that they still have 95% of their squad for the previous meeting.
“We have 2 sets of players and integrating them will be our biggest management challenge,” he said.
“We’re very positive that we can win this. If I say that we can’t win, my players will kill me,” joked White on his team’s chances in the tournament.
Former hosts of the Long Teng Cup, Chinese-Taipei will also look at learning in the tournament after finishing 2nd and 3rd in previous years.
“We will try and try and try. Maybe we lose the game, but we will learn from the Philippines,” said Chinese Taipei team manager Chen Ding Shyong.
Macau will be looking at their half-Portuguese and half-Chinese mix of players, with a step-by-step plan of making it through the tournament. Macau coach Leung Sui Wing sees the team’s fitness as an advantage, saying his team is physically ready for all three games.
In line with the Philippine Football Peace Cup, the tournament will also mark the debut of the “Handshake of Peace” to be done at the end of every match of the tournament — to further promote peace and set a positive example.
The Philippines will face Guam on Tuesday, Macau on Thursday, September 27, and Chinese-Taipei on Saturday, September 29. – Rappler.com