MANILA, Philippines – The Azkals United may be playing minus their key members Saturday, but they remain confident ahead of their Kia RIO Cup friendly match against Icheon Citizen FC of South Korea.
“I expect a strong side from Korea, we have to react to that,” said Azkals team coach Hans Michael Weiss.
However, they will have to do that without Filipino-British siblings Phil and James Younghusband, Nate Burkey, Jason Sabio and others.
Weiss said some players would have to miss the charity game due to their obligations to their mother clubs in the United Football League (UFL).
The Younghusbands play for the Meralco Sparks FC, while Burkey, Sabio and Lexton Moy play for Kaya Cignal FC.
“Nevertheless, we have a good crop of players and I'm confident we can do something tomorrow,” said Weiss.
Weiss is referring to the inclusion of Azkals right back Rob Gier and Filipino-German Dennis Wolf into their line-up.
Gier said the absence of the Younghusbands is a great opportunity for other Pinoy players to step up.
“Without Phil and James, it gives someone else the opportunity to show what they could do. In a way, I think it could be good,” he said.
The Kia RIO Cup will take place at the Rizal Memorial Stadium on Saturday.
Members of the Korean side arrived in Manila late Thursday.
Icheon coach Lee Hyun-chang said they are looking forward to playing against the Filipino squad.
He said it is good for both countries to finally play a football match.
“Thank you for inviting us to the Philippines... I know there's a lot of competition in basketball between Philippines and Korea but not in soccer tournaments,” said Lee through a translator.
The Kia RIO Cup was organized for the benefit of the Sendong victims as well as the families hit by the recent landslide in Compostela Valley.
Charlie Williams of Dragon Promotions, which is responsible for bringing the Korean team in, said the idea of holding the charity game actually started in a conversation over lunch.
“Six months ago, we were having lunch with Vice President for ABS-CBN Sports Peter Musngi. We’ve been producing billiards events for the Philippines for many years now… we talked about football, Philippines and how's it's growing exponentially over the last couple of years,” related Williams.
They talked about the Koreans’ love for football and the growing population of the Korean community in the Philippines.
“Then it just kind of came out, oh, football, Korea, what do you guys think about doing a football event with Korean team and the Azkals? And here we are 6 months later,” said Williams.
The Kia Rio Cup between the Azkals United and Icheon Citizen will be aired live by Studio 23 on January 21 starting at 7 p.m.