Latin America

Azkals notebook: one week to go before Bahrain

Bob Guerrero
Azkals notebook: one week to go before Bahrain
Notes on the Azkals' preparation for FIFA World Cup qualifiers, new members of the football squad and Nonong Araneta's thoughts on the FIFA scandal

MANILA, Philippines – I was able to chat with some of the new Azkals yesterday at the PRU Life UK event for the team. 

Luke Woodland, just 19 years old, is a former England U16, U17, and U18 international whose mother is from the Daet, Camarines Norte area. Woodland was under contract with Bolton Wanderers in the English Championship, (the nation’s second tier of competition), but was loaned out to Oldham Athletic in League 1, the third tier. Oldham is where Neil Etheridge played a few games last season but they weren’t there at the same time. Woodland played in six matches for the Latics, as Oldham is nicknamed. 

Woodland, a diehard Liverpool fan, prefers to play as a holding, or defensive midfielder. He was actually born in Abu Dhabi, so theoretically he might have even been qualified to play for the United Arab Emirates, depending on that nation’s citizenship rules. His father works for the Hong Kong Football Association.

Coach Thomas Dooley told me he was surprised at how big Woodland was in person.

The nice part about Luke is that he only turns twenty next month, meaning he is eligible for the SEA Games in 2017. Perhaps he could also be pressed into service as a centerback. 

Iain Ramsay, 27, is a veteran of the A-League, Australia’s top level, having played over a hundred times total for Melbourne City and Adelaide United. 

Ramsay says he is a left-side winger who can create and score. You can see him do both on this clip. The third highlight, a cracking half-volley from distance, is magical.

Ramsay’s mom is from Pampanga. 

Kevin Ingreso, 22, has been on the radar of the national team for some time, but only got his passport last May 30. The kid from Hamburg is out of contract at the moment, having played in VfR Neümunster in the Regionalliga Nord, part of the fourth tier of the German football pyramid. He hopes to latch on to a better club soon. 

Kevin’s favored position is central midfielder but he can also be deployed on the left side of the midfield. He idolizes Cesc Fabregas, Chelsea’s Spanish midfield maestro.

Ingreso’s father, Ricky, is a Filipino from Manila, and it’s his mother who is German.

(IN PHOTOS: Azkals train for FIFA World Cup qualifiers)

Stephane Palla is following to the camp as is Javier Patiño, who will probably start in the center forward position in front of Phil Younghusband. 

On the team’s preparation time. I interviewed coach Thomas Dooley on Wednesday for ABS-CBN and I asked him if he felt there was enough preparation time with the new players. His answer?

“There’s never enough time.”

He said later on that he would definitely have to rely on the skill and experience of the players to make up for the time together.

Fortunately that is a problem shared by many coaches of international teams who have their players coming from all over the place. Lets hope Dooley’s charges can overcome these challenges and perform on the 11th. 

Neil Etheridge’s club future. Neil played six matches for Charlton in the English Championship this past season, with one clean sheet. He told me that he has some options going into next season and that most of them involve either playing as a sure starter in League One or competing for the number one shirt in the Championship.

Etheridge recounts that one of his best games of the campaign was a 5-0 drubbing at Watford, where he actually made a bunch of saves. Watford finished second in the Championship and are thus promoted to the Premiership next season. 

The Azkals goalie says he definitely sees this World Cup campaign as a shopwindow to show to teams what he is capable of. 

Etheridge recently taught a goalkeeping course in Manila that was attended by Inna Palacios, the Philippines’ women’s national team keeper. According to Neil, Inna “set the standard” for the attendees but he also noted one eleven-year old student who he said was also very promising. 

The new Azkals kit. The team’s new outfitter is LGR, and both the blue and white kits were unveiled on Wednesday night in the Sparta football pitch.

LGR last outfitted the national team in 2012 after Mizuno and before Puma took over. 

Phil Younghusband (C) shows off the new team kit as goalkeeper Neil Etheridge (L) and coach Thomas Dooley (R) sit at his side. Photo by Bob Guerrero

The USA MNT uses Nike, an American brand. Germany uses Adidas, a German company. For a long time England’s Three Lions were kitted out by Umbro, a legendary English outfitter until they switched to Nike, who now owns Umbro. Thailand’s War Elephants wear Grand Sport, a local kit maker.

It’s therefore only fitting that our boys don a uniform that is designed and manufactured in the Philippines by Filipinos.

The kit is clean, classy, and elegant in a simple way. I like the subtle ethnic details in the goalkeeper shirt’s chest area and the maze pattern in the back of the outfield jersey. I also love the three stars and a sun on the back of the neck. Very Francis Magalona. 

Previous Azkals jerseys were often designs from the supplier’s catalogs that were used by other teams. One of the Puma national kits was a template that Chile’s national squad also used. The old Adidas kit from the mid-aughts was identical to the one used by the Greece national team. But this LGR uniform is unique to the Philippine men’s team, and that is really cool. 

The jerseys are available for purchase at Bootcamp outlets for P1695, according to LGR’s Rhayan Cruz. I’m also told they may be available in SM stores soon. Dan Palami says we will wear white on the 11th. 

Adidas has also come on board as the team’s footwear and sock provider, which is terrific. Many of the players were going to wear the three stripes anyway. 

A word on the PRU Life UK insurance for the team. The folks at PRU Life UK were kind enough to offer a free accident insurance policy for the players at the lunch in Century Park on Wednesday. PRU Life UK brand ambassador and former Azkal Chieffy Caligdong was on hand.

It’s good to know that our players are protected in the event of injury. No doubt this will give them added motivation to go after 50-50 balls. 

The players signed their policies right then and there while the insurer’s officials outlined the numerous benefits, which included assistance in the event of “murder and assault.” 

I wonder if that includes “sporting murders.” I’d love to claim that benefit in the unlikely event of a 6-0 drubbing during this qualifying phase.

Nonong Araneta on the FIFA scandal. I chatted briefly with PFF head Nonong Araneta about the scandal that resulted in several FIFA bigwigs getting thrown into the slammer, a development that appears to have forced President Sepp Blatter to fall on his sword the other day and call an end to his seventeen-year reign at FIFA.

Nonong Araneta was at the most recent FIFA presidency vote and joked that he was happy he was not arrested, but that “at least it would be in Zurich." Photo by Bob Guerrero

It’s a sorry end for a man who actually did a lot for football, but whose legacy is now irretrievably besmirched. 

Araneta said that in the ’90s the FIFA budget for international development was US$15 million for every World Cup cycle. Now it’s around US$1 billion. That all happened under Blatter’s watch. 

Araneta also noted that the charges that sent these officials behind bars pertain to shenanigans in CONMEBOL (South America,) and CONCACAF (Central and North America,) not FIFA per se. They have nothing to do with the allegedly spurious awarding of the 2018 and 2022 World Cups to Russia and Qatar. That is a totally separate investigation.

I did not ask, nor receive information on how the Philippines voted in the presidential election. Araneta was at the congress and joked that he was happy he was not arrested, but that “at least it would be in Zurich” if ever he did get detained.

No doubt the arrest of the officials from the Americas and the resignation of Blatter is a good thing for football. It strains credulity to think that Blatter was not privy to some or all of these improprieties, since these gentlemen were all holding or had held senior positions in football administration. 

Ticket and bus ride information. I’m getting a lot of tweets asking for information on tickets and how to get to the stadium for the Bahrain game. 

The tickets are available in Ticketworld. Round-trip bus tickets from Trinoma can also be bought at Ticketworld outlets for P331.40. (A bit pricey if you ask me.) 

I get my tickets at the Ticketworld booth in National Bookstore Power Plant.

Here is the link to order online.

The Mac2 Group is also selling preferred seats and shuttle packages. Information on that is available on this link.

 

We all have to make an extra effort to fill up the Philippine Sports Stadium. Azkals fans, please invite and spread the word among non-fans and casual fans.

Many of you guys going there by car, please note that the exit to the stadium from the NLEX is the special Duhat exit right after Marilao. It’s easy to miss if you’re not alert, so please be on the look out once you pass Marilao. The exit will be there on the right once the stadium and arena come into view. If you miss the Duhat exit you have to go through Santa Maria and that is a pain in the behind. 

This exit is only for entering the facility. To get back to the NLEX you have to go north and pass through Santa Maria. There will be lots of traffic going to the Santa Maria exit so you can try going east then south behind the stadium then towards the Marilao exit. – Rappler.com

Follow Bob on Twitter @PassionateFanPH. 

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