THE Philippine Azkals are now waiting for the communication from the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) as to the new official site for the joint qualifiers for the 2022 Fifa World Cup and 2023 AFC Asian Cup after China begged off from hosting at the last minute.
The Azkals were forced to stay in Doha, the site of their training camp, and were told not to push through with their chartered flight to Shanghai, China after being told that the AFC was looking for another venue for the qualifying matches.
Although the AFC has stated in its press release that it is still looking for a neutral venue, reports have indicated that Dubai is taking over the hosting duties.
For now, Azkals team manager Dan Palami said the team will continue training in Doha as they wait for the AFC announcement, while emphasizing that the health of the players is the main concern.
“Our priority remains the health and safety of every individual in the team,” said Palami. “We urge the fans to remain patient as we wait for a fair and reasonable decision on the venue and schedule of our matches.”
Palami, however, admitted the team will be left with a depleted squad had the qualifiers pushed through in China.
The Azkals bared four team officials were told that they would be barred from entering China – two due to them being positive of IgM antibodies perhaps due to their recent vaccination, and two due to a history of being COVID-19 positive last year despite undergoing and passing multiple RT-PCR and IgM antibodies tests.
On Friday, the Azkals also took the first of two RT-PCR tests and IgM antibodies test as part of protocols before entering China. The second test was done on Sunday and all the delegates yielded a negative result in two RT-PCR tests.
“We would have been severely shorthanded in China if the games pushed through there,” said Palami.
Meanwhile, the Philippine Football Federation admitted the huge financial impact caused by the cancellation of the Azkals’ chartered flight to China at the last minute, but is hopeful that an agreement between participating countries China, Guam, Maldives, and Syria as to the venue and schedule of the matches.
The PFF added that “the federation stresses the importance of the health and safety of everyone involved in the competition.”
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