MANILA, Philippines -- It will be one huge challenge facing the Philippine Azkals in this week's AFC Challenge Cup in Nepal not only because previous champions lie in wait in Group B but also because they would need a real good showing to somehow gain some positives amid a controversy back home.
The Azkals will launch their AFC Challenge Cup campaign tomorrow against no less than the winner of the past tournament and 2010 Fifa World Cup qualifier, North Korea, at the Halchowk Stadium.
"If North Korea is sending its World Cup team, definitely it’s a very strong team," Philippine Football Federation president Nonong Araneta said yesterday, also wondering how such a World Cup-caliber side remains in a tournament for "developing" football nations.
"I think it's a challenge for the boys to give their best, especially with what’s happening now here in Phl. We have to prove something, because some people are questioning, saying they should perform in the field. Others are saying they should win games rather than engage in controversies," Araneta said.
The Azkals are having the homestretch of their preparations for the tourney in cool Kathmandu while issues hound two of their players over in Manila.
Angel Guirado and Lexton Moy are in hot water for their pre-game banters during last week's Azkals-Malaysia friendly that match commissioner Cristy Ramos took offense of.
Ramos had complained of "sexual harrassment" with the AFC and the PFF, maintaining jurisdiction over the matter as per Art. 70 and 71 of the Fifa disciplinary code, had already tasked its disciplinary committee to conduct a probe.
Araneta appealed to all parties to let the process take its normal course.
"The disciplinary committee has already written the parties to explain their side. The players were given 24 hours after arrival (from the Challenge Cup) to submit written explanation. So the process is already rolling, we should submit to it. Let the disciplinary committe hear it intelligently and on a professional manner and make a decision based on the merits of the case," he said.
"It's sad that what's happening is like trial by publicity. I hope we give everyone a chance to air their side at the proper forum, which is the disciplinary committee," he added.
The Azkals are in Kathmandu as early as Friday last week in an effort to acclimatize to the cold Himalayan weather and train as a unit.
Europe-based players Paul Mulders, Rob Gier, Ray Jonsson and Neil Etheridge have already touched down in Nepal to hook up with Phil and James Younghusband, Chieffy Caligdong, Jason Sabio, Misagh Bahadoran, and Luis Guirado.
Fil-German rightback Stephan Schrock of SpVgg Greuther Fürth, is also in the Azkals’ 23-man lineup for the Challenge Cup, according to the GoalNepal.com website. Fil-Danish left back Dennis Cagara of FSV Frankfurt is also on the team.
Rounding up the roster along with Moy and Angel Guirado, are Ian Araneta, Roel Gener, Carli de Murga, Eduard Sacapano, Nestorio Margarse, Nathaniel Burkey, Roxy Dorlas, and U-23 standouts Marwin Angeles and Joshua Beloya.