U-23 Azkals bid for Asiad

By Olmin Leyba, The Philippine Star

Posted at Feb 02 2014 11:58 AM | Updated as of Feb 02 2014 07:58 PM

MANILA, Philippines - Absent in last year’s Southeast Asian Games after the non-endorsement by the Philippine Olympic Committee, the under-23 Azkals will once more try to make it to Team Phl, this time to the 2014 Asian Games.

But unlike the virtually “open” SEAG where every interested nation can send bets, the U-23 Azkals will also have to prove their worth on the pitch, in a qualification process that the Asian Football Confederation will hold prior to the Sept. 19-Oct. 4 Asiad in Incheon, Korea.

“Football will have a qualifying (tournament); if they qualify there, they’ll be included in the delegation,” said POC chairman and Asian Games task force member Tom Carrasco.

The task force has set stringent criteria for selecting the delegates, requiring a high chance of winning medals and high Asian ranking for its imprimatur.

For team sports, it should be inside the Top 5, making only a handful like Fiba Asia runner-up Gilas Pilipinas, Asian 5 Nation campaigner Phl Volcanoes, and Asian No. 4 Blu Girls as shoo-ins.

Philippine Football Federation president Nonong Araneta said the AFC usually holds qualifiers two months before the Asiad. Only 16 spots are traditionally offered in the quadrennial meet.

“We’re still awaiting communication from the AFC regarding the qualifiers,” said Araneta. “If they’ll hold one in Southeast Asia, we’ll likely indicate our intention to participate.”

The U-23 Azkals missed the Myanmar SEAG after failing to convince the POC-PSC task force that they deserved to go. The women’s team Malditas got the POC’s blessings and were able to compete in the Myanmar meet.

But for this Asiad, Araneta said the PFF is not keen on batting for the Malditas’ participation.