The Philippine men’s football team is facing the possibility of being without its top overseas-based Filipino-foreigners in the knockout stages of the Asean Football Federation Suzuki Cup.
Foreign-based players like striker Angel Guirado, midfielder Paul Mulders, and defender Dennis Cagara have played major roles in the Azkals' dream run during the group stage in Bangkok, which saw the team seal a place in the Final Four of the competition for the second successive time.
But with the Azkals management’snegotiations with their mainstays' professional clubs covering only the group stage, their availability is now in question ahead of the Azkals home-and-away semifinal tie against Singapore starting on December 8 at the Rizal Memorial Stadium.
“Some of the players might have to go back to their clubs so it will be another round of negotiations,” Azkals team manager Dan Palami said. “The order of the day is for us to immediately prepare the request to the clubs.”
Vice-captain Rob Gier, Ray Jonsson, and Chris Greatwich complete the cast of the notable overseas-based players in the Azkals' 22-man roster in Bangkok, along with Roland Muller, who has yet to be given the green light by his German club, and Jerry Lucena, who has already been recalled by his Danish club.
The Azkals management has already sought the Philippine Football Federation’s help in sending the request letters to their respective clubs, which the PFF said it has already done.
We have sent the letters … so hopefully they will also be released (for the knockout stages),” said PFF president Mariano “Nonong” Araneta, who has instructed the football body’s legal counsel and acting secretary-general, lawyer Ed Castanes, to do the necessary paper work.
“The PFF has always sent the letters early enough for the clubs to respond,” Palami said.
With the foreign-based players' availability in question, Azkals coach Michael Weiss is counting on promising local-based booters like Patrick Reichelt, Demit Omphroy, and Jeff Christiaens, to name a few, to step up if they have to.
“But even then (without overseas-based players), we have options,” the German mentor said.