HARDLY satisfied with the Azkals’ latest achievement, Philippine men’s football team manager Dan Palami is setting his sights on the next frontier.
After the team notched a new all-time high in Fifa ranking of 137th on Friday, the 43-year-old sports advocate and businessman who has bankrolled the Azkals since 2010, wants to breach the next barrier.
“I want to reach the top one hundred,” Palami said in a chat with scribes after the trade launch of Spin.ph Thursday night at Urbn Bar and Kitchen. “Alam mo naman ako, I want to set the bar high.”
The latest jump in ranking allowed the Azkals to overtake Thailand as the top team in Southeast Asia. The computation took into consideration the results of the last three years, but has yet to take in the results of the Philippine Peace Cup, which the Filipino booters defended.
Philippine Football Federation general secretary Ed Gastanes expressed delight about the team’s latest milestone, but rued the irony that the Azkals may be the top team in the region, and yet the Under-23 team will not participate in the upcoming Southeast Asian Games.
“It is ironic because as we have made clear several times before, seven players of the U-23 are members of the Azkals and with the addition of the budding local football stalwarts, our U-23 is a competitive team for the SEA Games,” Gastanes said in a chat with Spin.ph at the PFF office a day later.
“Unfortunately, POC (Philippine Olympic Committe) officials saw it differently,” the lawyer added.
Moving forward, Gastanes believes Palami’s new aim is achievable.
“That is always a good target,” Gastanes said. “I can go along with that target because if we continue to play and continue to win then that is not a far target.”
To achieve it, the Filipino booters not only have to keep winning, they also have to beat strong opponents.
And that’s exactly why they’ll face 71st-ranked United Arab Emirates on November 9 and fellow Middle East squad India (154th) on Nov. 15 in two Fifa international friendlies.
The PFF also wants to take advantage of the Fifa match date of Nov. 19 as they are eyeing another higher-ranked foe in New Caledonia (126th), which was one of the countries invited to participate in the Peace Cup, but declined due to conflict in schedule.
“In the next few days, we’ll try to find an opponent for the Azkals in the Philippines, but we cannot announce until it is sure,” Gastanes said.