MANILA – Philippine Azkals team manager Dan Palami still rues the non-inclusion of the Under-23 football team to the country’s delegation to the recent Southeast Asian Games in Myanmar, saying they could have sent the strongest Philippine team ever.
The Philippine Olympic Committee (POC) – Philippine Sports Commission (PSC) SEA Games task force opted not to include the U-23 Azkals to the lean delegation to the 27th edition of the biennial event, something Palami called a “pity.”
“It was a pity that our sports leaders decided not to send a delegation because of previous track records,” Palami said on ANC’s “Hardball” on Wednesday.
“I mean, if that was the case, then we would never have had the Vietnam miracle, because then why would we send a Philippine team to the Suzuki Cup when we were not even going through the qualifiers?” he added.
The U-23 Azkals participated in the 2011 SEA Games, but were snubbed from the 2013 Games because they did not meet the criteria for qualification. The Philippine women’s football team, the Malditas, did participate in the SEA Games.
“I think we would have been able to send the strongest team ever assembled, and we had plans for the preparation as well,” Palami said.
“We had a training camp in the Gulf, in Japan, and we had the players. Most of the players were already exposed with the Azkals, and they had the cohesion, they had experiences as senior players,” he added.
Had they been given the chance, the U-23 Azkals could have added to the meager medal haul of the Philippines.
“We were actually optimistic that we will be getting a medal, but the decision was not left to us, so it’s unfortunate,” said Palami.
The Philippines brought home 101 gold medals, including 29 golds. They finished seventh in the 11-nation event, their worst performance.
Thailand wound up winning the football tournament.