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    Club vs country row flares up as Ceres explains decision not to release Azkals for national duty

    Nov 5, 2014
    Ceres is one win away from the FA League Cup title, and team officials say their players are free to rejoin the Azkals after that. Jaime Campos

    CERES-LA SALLE manager Ali Go stressed his team’s decision not to release players for national team duty was nothing personal and management was just concerned with the welfare of its players who are in the middle of a killer schedule.

    Patrick Reichelt, Juani Guirado, Manny Ott, and Jeffrey Christiaens were not allowed to join the Azkals in a friendly against Nepal in Qatar last Saturday, but Go said that they were trying to keep their players away from injury as they prepare for the semifinals of the Football Alliance League Cup of the United Football League.

    “For me, it’s not personal. It’s nothing against the national team,” Go said Tuesday night after Ceres’ 3-1 semifinal win over Pachanga-Diliman. “For us, it’s the players, it’s the team and nothing else. We had to ready the team for the semifinals and given another chance it’s going to be like this, our decision is always going to be the same.”

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    “I think the players need to rest,” he said of the Azkals, who are also in the thick of their buildup for the Asean Football Federation Suzuki Cup later this month.

    Had they been released, they would’ve undergone a schedule that saw them play in the friendly in Doha, return to Manila six hours before semifinal kickoff for their mother clubs, then play in the final two days later had they advanced — the same scenario Global FC’s Azkals are going through.

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    Global coach Leigh Manson also aired his qualms about the schedule.

    “Of course we don’t (like the schedule),” the Scottish mentor said. “I would question the preparation for these players, because they are professional athletes. So I think it’s something that we as clubs need to look at with the PFF (Philippine Football Federation). For me, this is a recipe for injury.”

    “But what can we do?” Manson was quick to add. “We’ll play with whatever’s put in front of us. That’s our job. We’re professionals.”

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    Global and Ceres clash on Thursday at the Rizal Memorial Stadium.

    “After Thursday, they’re all free to train with the national team,” Go said.

    Ceres also found a supporter in Loyola Meralco coach Simon McMenemy.

    “I read that people have a problem about Ceres pulling their players out. I bet they don’t have any niggles or injuries. That’s a very professional decision for a team that wants to win things,” the Scottish coach said. “Unless we can work out how we go about this — some sort of a relationship between the UFL clubs and the national team rather than players being demanded from teams, this is going to continue.”

    “How many injuries or niggles do we have because of this ridiculous schedule? It just doesn’t give players a chance. Coaches are alright; we stand around and make it happen. The fans are okay; they pay to come in and watch good games. But these players are slogging themselves across the world and surely we can work out a bit better than that (schedule),” McMenemy added. “Until we can sort those problems, it will have an impact in the UFL. Because at the minute, the attitude is: it’s all about the national team and it’s nothing about the UFL. That’s the problem.”

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    Go underscored the importance of the local league in relation to the national team.

    “This is all connected to the national team,” he said. “If there are no good clubs here to support the players, where are you going to see these players play outside? You have to thank the clubs for spending, giving the chance for other players outside to play in their own country. Without the big clubs, there’s no league. You can’t say this is a useless tournament. This is the tournament for the clubs. This is very important.”

    “You cannot just say you don’t care for this tournament and you care only for the Suzuki Cup,” Go was quick to add. “I think that’s wrong. That’s a thinking of a kid, probably. But if you care about football in the Philippines, you have to start somewhere.”

    “I hope this is going to be a start for the PFF and the national team to make better schedules next time.”

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    Ceres is one win away from the FA League Cup title, and team officials say their players are free to rejoin the Azkals after that. Jaime Campos
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