THE entry of the Philippine men’s football team to the Asian Football Confederation Challenge Cup next year would only go for naught if the Azkals won’t be having their top players back.
In its bid to ensure that the same set of Filipino booters will be available for the Challenge Cup set in Maldives from March 3 to 16, the Philippine Football Federation (PFF) has relayed the request that the dates of the tournament be moved to Fifa match days.
Led by Phil Younghusband, Stephan Schrock, and Javier Patiño, the Azkals advanced to the main tournament by topping the Group E qualifiers that came to a close on Tuesday.
But the Azkals face not having overseas-based standouts Dennis Cagara, Jerry Lucena, Juani and Angel Guirado, Paul Mulders, Rob Gier, Schrock, and Patiño in the Challenge Cup as the dates of the tournament set for emerging Asian nations currently do not fall on Fifa match days.
Professional clubs worldwide are only required to release their players for national team duty on Fifa match days.
PFF president Mariano ‘Nonong’ Araneta has already talked with AFC executive committee members regarding the appeal, explaining the Maldives competition is a direct qualification tournament to the Fifa-sanctioned 2015 Asian Cup, where the region’s benchmark squads Japan, South Korea, and Australia are competing.
“I think we have made our point. It makes sense,” Araneta said. “We should not discriminate the Maldives qualification as against the other qualifications for the Asian Cup.”
“Hopefully we’ll elevate this to Fifa to consider the qualification as Fifa match days.”
Araneta is hoping the AFC can already consider the appeal in May when the governing body holds its next ex-co meeting.
If the request won’t be granted, Araneta said they would have to think of other ways to cope with.
“We just have to make adjustments on the availability of the players, but we will move heaven and earth for them to have that rule.”
"The PFF will play a big role in this particular objective,” Azkals manager Dan Palami said. “It will take a lot of effort, creativity, and financial resources to ensure that all these things will happen.”