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    Date switch gives Azkals chance to get full-strength squad for Challenge Cup

    Sep 12, 2013

    THE Philippine men’s football team is expected to have a full complement of players when it competes in the Asian Football Confederation Challenge Cup next year in Maldives after the tournament was moved from March to Fifa match days in May.

    The Philippine Football Federation, which lobbied for the rescheduling, confirmed the development on Wednesday, making the likes of Stephan Schrock, Neil Etheridge, Dennis Cagara, and Jerry Lucena  available for selection for the continental tournament that stakes a single ticket to the more prestigious Asian Cup in 2015.

    Originally set on non-Fifa match days March 3 to 16, the tournament for emerging Asian footballing nations is expected to be held sometime between May 19 and 26, dates declared by Fifa (International Football Federation) as rest days of countries participating in the World Cup or by the time the European season is over.

    Professional clubs worldwide are only required to release its players for national team duty on Fifa match days.

    “We’re waiting for the formal, written advice to us, but the message has been communicated,” PFF general secretary Edwin Gastanes told over the phone late Wednesday.

    Gastanes expects the official announcement from the head of the competitions department of the AFC on Thursday.

    “We argued strongly for the transfer of the match dates and they were convinced of the argument,” added Gastanes, who co-signed the request along with PFF president Mariano 'Nonong' Araneta. “Out of the eight participants, only us requested for that.”

    Aside from the Philippines and the host country, Afghanistan, Myanmar, Palestine, Laos, Kyrgyzstan, and Turkmenistan are the other countries that advanced to the final stage of the tournament for emerging Asian footballing nations.

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    “It’s good not only for the Philippines, but also for other teams because they also have players who play overseas,” the lawyer continued.

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