The Azkals have revived interest in football in this part of the world, but their lack of 'local flavor' is starting to become a concern for their top officials.
“We want to have more local-based players,” said Dan Palami, team manager and one of the architects of the phenomenal rise of a team backstopped by players mostly born and raised overseas.
Their lack of homegrown players was none more apparent than in their 3-0 win over Guam in a friendly held in Bacolod City which their best locally raised player, Chieffy Caligdong, had to sit out due to suspension.
Not one homegrown player made the Azkals’ starting eleven against Guam. Starters Marwin Angeles and Jason Sabio may be full-blooded Filipinos, but they grew up in Italy and the United States, respectively.
Aside from Caligdong, Ian Araneta, Mario Clarino, Eduard Sacapano, Roel Gener, and Nestorio Margarse are the other locals in the national pool. But they have yet to secure regular spots in the starting eleven.
More exposure is clearly needed for the locals and that could come in their next tournaments, including the four-nation Long Teng Cup in October which the Philippines is planning to host.
“The Long Teng Cup is an avenue for our local-based players to gain more confidence,” Palami said.