MANILA, Philippines - A month before embarking on their biggest battle and launching a spirited bid to win the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Challenge Cup, Azkals coach Thomas Dooley charged his wards to emulate another Filipino sports great – WBO welterweight champion Manny Pacquiao.
Over the weekend, on the sidelines of their training camp in Doha, Qatar, the Azkals gathered at the Philippine embassy to watch Pacquiao versus Timothy Bradley and joined every Filipino in taking pride on how he exacted revenge on the American and wrested the title back.
For Dooley, the Pinoy booters could learn a thing or two from the Pacman. Follow Pacquiao’s template and in likelihood, the Azkals will reach success internationally.
“Manny Pacquiao is a great inspiration for our team. He is a person the players should look up to. Always attacking, going forward with great confidence, doing the right punch at the right moment,” Dooley said.
“We can learn from him and one day Philippine Football will be watched by the whole world too. Let’s go for it!” he added.
The Azkals are gearing up for the Challenge Cup slated May 19-30 in Maldives, targeting no less than the crown and its corresponding berth to the 2015 AFC Asian Cup.
They will face Malaysia in a friendly at Cebu Sports Complex on April 27 and possibly play one or two more friendlies in May prior to departing for the Maldives Challenge Cup, where they are bracketed with Afghanistan, Laos and 2012 runner-up Turkmenistan in Group B.
The Maldives tourney is viewed as the Azkals’ best chance to make it to the top-level Asian Cup via the backdoor. As decided by the AFC executive committee last Wednesday, the 2014 Challenge Cup will be the last and “emerging nations” like Phl will have to duke it out with the more developed nations in succeeding qualification process for the Asian Cup.
“We’re leaving no stones unturned to realize every Azkals fan’s dream of playing in the AFC Asian Cup,” said team manager Dan Palami.
“It’s not going to be very easy. It’s going to be a difficult task and we want to ensure that everybody is also made aware of the importance of this task,” he added.
Meanwhile, the Asean Football Federation (AFF) announced the staging of the Asean All-Star match for the benefit of victims of typhoon Yolanda on May 11.
Instead of the originally planned charity match between the Azkals and the All-Stars in the Philippines, the federation moved it to Dili, Indonesia with the Indon national side hosting the Asean All Stars.
The Azkals, just like other member associations, will be represented by two players in the Asean All Star team, which will have Dato’ Hamidin Mohd Amin from Malaysia as team manager and Piyapong Pue-On from Thailand as coach.