Saturday, 25 February 2012

Elasto Painters survive late scare



By Ares P. Gutierrez
Copy Editor, Gulf News

The Dubai leg of the Philippine Basketball Association's Commissioner's Cup got off to a fiery start as last-placed Rain or Shine Elasto Painters escaped a late scare to beat the Barako Bull Energy Boosters 99-95 at the Al Shabab Sports Club stadium in Deira on Thursday night.

Despite playing most of the game without their American reinforcement Dermarr Johnson, who got injured seven minutes into the game, the Energy Boosters kept pace and even threatened to upset the Elasto Painters as their long-range shots found their mark.

"It's a break-out win, but I'm not really happy with the way we played. The other team lost their import early so we should have aimed for a convincing win, but a win is a win and we're happy for breaking into the win column," Rain or Shine coach Yeng Guiao told Gulf News.

The Elasto Painters improved their win-loss record to 1-2 and switched places with the Energy Boosters, who dropped to the bottom at 1-3. The Elasto Painters were also due to take on crowd favourites Barangay Ginebra Gin Kings later last night.

Energy Boosters coach Junel Baculi could only shake his head when pressed to assess their game. He did say, however, that their American reinforcement was neutralised after being caught by a wayward knee to the groin. Johnson limped off after tallying only three points. The Elasto Painters failed to dominate their opponents and even trailed 39-50 late in the second period.

"They were hitting their outside shots. Their locals really stepped up," said Guiao. "In the endgame, having an American reinforcement really makes a difference. You can ask him to create situations and score points, which is something the other team could not do."

Duke Crews, who was in danger of being sacked after the Elasto Painters' back-to-back losses prior to the Dubai tour, scored a game-high 27 points and grabbed 14 rebounds, but it was Filipino centre Beau Belga, who sparked an endgame rally that catapulted Rain or Shine to their first win in the conference.

"Beau Belga played really well in the endgame. He was in foul trouble, but I took a gamble on him and it paid off," said the multi-titled Elasto Painters coach. Matching his personal best in the league with a huge 20-point effort, Belga hit his final points in the game where it counted most, draining a momentum-grabbing three-pointer with less than four minutes on the clock.

Friday, 24 February 2012

Rain or Shine barge into win column in Dubai-leg of PBA Commissioner's Cup



By Alfonso Ramirez
InterAKTV

Dubai -- Rain or Shine Elasto Painters escaped a late scare to finally barge into the win column on Thursday night as they defeated the Barako Bull Energy Boosters 99-95 at the Al Shabab Sports Club stadium here.

“It’s a break out win, but I’m not really happy with the way we played . The other team lost their import early so dapat siguro mas convincing yung panalo namin, but a win is a win and were happy for breaking into the win column and that is something that we can use for the game tomorrow. Kung matatalo ka ngayon, bagsak na bagsak ka na for the game tomorrow and it’s an important, big game tomorrow against Ginebra,” Elasto Painters coach Yeng Guiao told reporters.

The Elasto Painters improved its card to 1-2 and switched places with the Energy Boosters who dropped to the cellar at 1-3. The Elasto Painters are set to go up against crowd favourite Barangay Ginebra Gin Kings at 7pm tonight (Friday).

Energy Boosters coach Junel Baculi could only shake his head when pressed to assess their game.

Baculi had to play All-Filipino most of the game as import Dermarr Johnson was hit by a wayward knee in the groin seven minutes into the game. Johnson limped out of the hard court tallying only three points.

The Elasto Painters, however, failed to dominate the Energy Boosters all-Filipino crew and even trailed by as many as 11, 39-50, late in the second period.

Guiao credited the Energy Boosters’ fluid game, which kept them in the game.

“To give credit to Barako. Maganda rin ang nilaro nila. They’ve kept pace with us despite losing their import early. Their locals stepped up and we had problems stopping their 3pt shots,” he told InterAKTV.

Willard Cruze, who is in danger of being dismissed after the Elasto Painters’ back-to-back losses, scored a game-high 27 points and grabbed 14 rebounds, but it was center Beau Belga who sparked an endgame rally that catapulted Rain or Shine to its first win in the conference.

“Beau Belga played really well in the endgame. He was in foul trouble, but I took a gamble on him and it paid off,”Guiao said.

Matching his personal best in the league with a huge 20-point effort, Belga hit his final points in the game where it counted most, draining a momentum-grabbing three-pointer with less than four minutes on the clock that kick-started a short but telling run, turning an 86-all deadlock into a 96-92 cushion entering the final minute.

Although Belga missed two free throws with 48 seconds on the clock, Wynne Arboleda and the the Elasto Painter’s go-to-guy Willie Miller failed to connect on two successive possessions allowing Jeffrey Chan and Gabe Norwood to seal their first win from the free-throw line.

Belga said it was Guiao who gave him the license to shoot: “When I hit my first shot, that got my confidence going. I just kept on shooting whenever I was free. That was what coach wanted us to do.”

The Energy Boosters, which led most of the game, posted a 71-68 cushion entering the fourth and extended it to 78-72 when Belga scored five points to lead a 10-2 blast that put Elasto Painters in front, 82-80, with eight minutes remaining.

Miller came off the bench and scored the Energy Boosters’ next six points to level the score for the last time, 86-all, before Belga – the best player of the game – regained the momentum with a go-ahead 3-pointer.

“I’m not really happy with the way we played,” said Guiao, citing his team’s lack of aggressiveness on defense as a major cause for concern. “The other team lost their import early, so we should have won convincingly. But a win is still a win. It is still something we can use to energize ourselves for the game against Ginebra.”

While crossing his fingers that they can further level up in the standings, Guiao said they will have to further improve their quality of play against Ginebra if they want to go back to Manila with a 2-2 record.

“Totally different yung magiging game plan bukas. Yung import nila (Chris Alexander), 7-footer na magaling so we have to defend the low post a lot better than what we did today,” he said.

Wednesday, 22 February 2012

Rain or Shine happy to play back-to-back games as PBA invades Dubai anew



By Alfonso Ramirez
InterAKTV

Dubai’s winter breeze seems to have cooled down the usually fiery Yeng Guiao as he bantered with fellow coaches Junel Baculi and Siot Tanquincen minutes before the briefer to formally raise the curtain on the PBA’s Middle East tour.

Known in Philippine basketball circles as a task master who always sets the sidelines on fire, the Rain or Shine Elasto Painters coach shook the jet-lagged PBA delegation when he said that he so loved playing in this cosmopolitan Persian Gulf city that he agreed to have his charges slotted into a killer, back-to-back game schedule that will start on Thursday evening.

“Excited kaming makapaglaro dito sa Dubai… sa excitement namin, pinili naming dalawang beses kaming maglalaro dito kaya magsasawa kayo sa Rain or Shine,” an unusually jovial Guiao said.

But true to his reputation as a whip-lasher, he added that his team will immediately plunge into practice in the afternoon to shake off the rust that built up overnight during the PBA delegation’s nine-hour flight from Manila to the UAE capital in Abu Dhabi. The group had to travel for two hours over land before they could wash up and take a breather at the Asiana Hotel in downtown Dubai.



“Wala na ‘tong pahinga. They need to be in tip-top shape by game time,” he told InterAKTV.

“Pagkatapos nang presscon, magpa-practice kami. Bukas nang umaga, magpa-practice kami at sa Biyernes ng umaga magpa-practice rin kami. Tinanggap namin ang pagpapahirap para lang mabigyan naming nang kasiyahan ang mga taga-Dubai,” the vice-governor of Pampanga said.

Yet to win a game in the Commissioner’s Cup, the Elasto Painters hope to reverse their fortune and chalk up a win or two to bolster their chances of making it to the next round.



“Mahirap sabihin pero sana pag balik namin sa Pilipinas, 2-2 na kami,” said rookie sensation Paul Lee, who was one of three who represented the players seeing action in the Dubai tour.

The Elasto Painters will go up against the Barako Bull Energy Boosters on Thursday evening and then face the Barangay Ginebra Kings on Friday.

Commissioner Chito Salud was all praises for the cellar-dwellers for agreeing to make the “sacrifice”.

“Last year, nangako kami na babalik kami dito at nandito na naman po ang PBA,” he said at the press briefing.

“Special thanks to the Rain or Shine organization. These two games are not exhibition games… these are regular season games. In a short second conference, napaka-crucial ang every game [and] I want to thank Rain or Shine for agreeing to play back-to-back … kahit sa Pilipinas bihira ang maglaro nang back-to-back. Usually teams play on separate days na may pagitan. Eto dikit, Thursday and Friday maglalaro ang Rain or Shine and that is a big sacrifice for that organization para matuloy lang ang ating Dubai tour,” he said.

The Commissioner’s Cup format has a single round elimination stage with teams playing nine games each. Teams are then seeded based on their win-loss record. The top two teams after the elimination stage will advance to the semi-finals while the next four finishers will play in a quarter-final play-off series with the winners advancing to the four-team semi-finals.

“These are not exhibition games. They’re not here to have fun. These are regular season games of the Commissioner’s Cup and every game is crucial as teams need to win as many games as they can to qualify for the next round,” PBA commissioner Chito Salud said.

Asked why the PBA returned to Dubai despite a foul up in last year’s tour when the local promoter failed to fulfil his financial obligations, commissioner Salud said: “Our mentality in the PBA is to move forward particularly when what is at stake is the welfare of our fans. The PBA was not really damaged by the incident… we learned our lessons that’s why we resolved that when we go back here, we’ll make sure that the safety and security of our players are ensured and I believe that we’re now in safe hands”.

Last year’s tour was marred by the local promoter’s inability to pay their hotel and airline bills which resulted in the abrupt cancellation of the flight booking made for the members of the Talk N Text Tropang Texters. Members of the team who were left stranded at the Dubai International Airport were forced to buy their own tickets and catch separate flights.

“Ang balita namin nakakulong siya. Gusto nga sana naming puntahan.” PBA media bureau chief Willie Marcial told InterAKTV.

The promoter who used to organize basketball tournaments for Filipinos in the UAE was reportedly slapped with a hold departure order following the well-publicized incident and was subsequently penalized by authorities here.

Local organizer Edwin Deang, chairman of the Dubai-based Philippine Expat Basketball Club, said he expects the PBA tour will be a huge hit not only among Filipinos but to other basketball-loving expatriates in the UAE as well.

“The clamour to bring the PBA back to Dubai has been tremendous,” Deang said.

Before closing the briefer, Guiao took the microphone and in jest gave the organizer a “stern” warning.

“Natutuwa ako na despite yung kung anong nangyari, nagpursige ang grupo ni Edwin na maibalik ang PBA at maipakita na maganda naman ang situation dito sa Dubai. Si Edwin kasi Kapampangan din, kaya kapag pumalpak, maski sa Pampanga hindi na makakauwi si Edwin,” he said bringing the house down.

Sputtering PBA teams hope to reverse Commissioner's Cup fortune in Dubai




By Ares P. Gutierrez
Copy Editor, Gulf News

Fans will have their fill of top-class hardcourt action as the Philippine Basketball Association – the oldest professional basketball league in Asia – open their two-day Middle East road show today (Thursday) at the Al Shabab Club in Al Mamzar, Dubai.

Winless in Manila, the Rain or Shine Elasto Painters under fiery coach Yeng Guiao hope to put a stop to their downward skid in the Commissioner’s Cup as they go up against the Barako Bull Energy Boosters at 8pm and perennial crowd-favourite Barangay Ginebra Kings tomorrow (Friday)

The Elasto Painters are yet to break into the win column after losing their first two elimination round matches. The Kings and the Energy Boosters are in the middle of the standings with records of 1-1 and 1-2, respectively.

The Elasto Painters are reinforced by Duke Crews, a 6ft 7in former All-American who played for the University of Tennessee and Bowie State in the US NCAA. Dermarr Johnson, who was picked sixth overall by the Atlanta Hawks in the 2000 National Basketball Association (NBA) will man the slot for the Energy Boosters while the Kings are again relying on 7ft 1in centre Chris Alexander, who played a vital role in their last championship run in the 2008-2009 season.

The three teams, together with league officials and staff, arrived yesterday morning in Abu Dhabi and traveled straight to Dubai. Last year, the PBA played two matches in Dubai with the Talk N’Text Tropang Texters splitting their games against the the B-Meg Llamados and Barangay Ginebra Kings.


“These are not exhibition games. They’re not here to have fun. These are regular season games of the Commissioner’s Cup and every game is crucial as teams need to win as many games as they can to qualify for the next round,” PBA commissioner Chito Salud told Gulf News.

The Commissioner’s Cup tournament has a single round elimination stage with teams playing nine games each. Teams are then seeded based on their win-loss record. The top two teams after the elimination stage will advance to the semi-finals while the next four finishers will play in a quarter-final play-off series with the winners advancing to the four-team semi-finals.

Asked why the PBA returned to Dubai despite a foul up in last year’s tour when the local promoter failed to fulfil his financial obligations, commissioner Salud said: “Our mentality in the PBA is to move forward particularly when what is at stake is the welfare of our fans. The PBA was not really damaged by the incident… we learnt our lessons that’s why we resolved that when we go back here, we’ll make sure that the safety and security of our players are ensured and I believe that we’re now in safe hands”.

Local organiser Edwin Deang, chairman of the Dubai-based Philippine Expat Basketball Club, said he expects the PBA tour will be a huge hit not only among Filipinos but to other basketball-loving expatriates in the UAE as well.

“The clamour to bring the PBA back to Dubai has been tremendous,” Deang said.

Friday, 17 February 2012

Azkals run Australian team close in final Dubai friendly



By Ares P. Gutierrez
Copy Editor, Gulf News


Australia’s Olympic team survived a resilient Philippine Azkals and held on for a 1-0 win in a friendly that capped the south-east Asian national side’s 10-day Middle East training camp at the Al Maktoum Stadium on Thursday evening.

An 11th-minute goal from striker Jason Hoffman, who plays for the Melbourne Heart in the A-League, was all the Olyroos needed to stave off a late scare from the Azkals, who played without their star striker Phil Younghusband.

The Olyroos, who needed a win to boost their morale going into this week’s London Olympics group stage qualifier against the UAE, stepped on the gas early in the match as the Filipinos put up a deep defensive line.

A cross by Aziz Behich enabled his Melbourne teammate Hoffman to head one over Fulham goalkeeper Neil Etheridge to break the deadlock in the 11th minute.



The Olyroos dominated the first half, but an improved Azkals, who were hammered 3-0 by the Uzbeks last Saturday, frustrated the Aussies’ attempts to live up to their pre-match billing that they would also dominate the minnows.

Tweaking his unit in the second half, Azkals manager Hans Michael Weiss replaced Ian Araneta and brought in Ruben Doctora to further fortify their defensive line, but Aurelio Vidmar’s boys continued to shine.

Brisbane Roar’s attacking midfielder Mitch Nichols eluded defenders Jason Sabio and Angel Guirado, but was stopped by Carli de Murga. Daniel John Mullen of Adelaide United gave the Azkals another warning when he went close with a header.

Nearly turned the tables

The Azkals nearly turned the tables on the Olyroos when German-Filipino right winger Denis Wolf linked up with Doctora on a counter-attack and came close to forcing a draw.

“Mission accomplished. The plan of the camp was to put the players in pressure situations, having to play three matches in six days, which will be the same in the [AFC] Challenge Cup next month in Kathmandu, Nepal,” Azkals manager Weiss told reporters in a post-match briefing.


The Azkals left for Manila Friday morning and will regroup for another friendly against Malaysia on February 29 before opening their Challenge Cup campaign on March 9.

The Olyroos, meanwhile, are set to go up against the UAE Under-23s on Wednesday.

Thursday, 16 February 2012

Dubai Pinoys give Azkals rock star treatment



By Alfonso Ramirez
InterAKTV

DUBAI — Members and coaching staff of the Philippine national men’s football team faced a busy Wednesday, the morning after arriving from Doha where they won their friendly match against Qatar Star League first division club Al Ahli SC.

Now minus German-Filipino goalkeeper Roland Mueller who had to report back to his Bundesliga second division club, MSV Duisburg, and fan favorites James and Phil Younghusband who flew back to Manila to attend to prior commitments “that couldn’t be rescheduled,” the Azkals plunged into a noon practice at the Al Maktoum Stadium practice pitch immediately after making an appearance at The Philippine School in Al Rashidiya, also in Dubai.

The Azkals welcomed its number one goalkeeper, Neil Etheridge who also arrived in Dubai on Tuesday after he was cleared by his club, Fulham, to join the national team’s training camp.

An estimated 200 grade school students of The Philippine School mobbed the Azkals in a morning pep rally organized by the team’s Middle East tour organizer, Mediapro.




“We had a similar thing in Doha. It was really awesome. I’d say, it’s like the Beckhams coming to the school,” Chris Bayliss, project coordinator of Mediapro, told InterAKTV.

Azkals vice-captain Chieffy Caligdong introduced the members of the team with Etheridge, Angel and Juanito Guirado, and Misagh Bahadoran receiving the loudest applause, as wide-eyed grade schoolers tried to press onto the stage to ask for the national footballers’ autographs.

Augustus Xavier Alparce, a Grade 7 student who is also a member of the school’s football team, said the Azkals visit will further inspire him to make good in the sport.

“Pagbubutihin ko po ang paglalaro para sana balang araw maging Azkal rin po ako,” Alparce said.

After practice, the Azkals motored to the Jebel Ali International Shooting Club to call on Sheikh Saeed Bin Maktoum Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, a member of Dubai’s ruling family.

Al Maktoum, a world champion shooter, represented the UAE in skeet shooting in the 2000, 2004 and 2008 Olympics in skeet shooting. He also participated in the 2006 Asian Games in Doha and 2007 Pan Arab Games.

The sheikh, who was practicing his shots, shot a perfect practice record of 125 out of 125 in the lead up to his participation in July’s London Olympics.

With the Azkals tour coming to an end it was an inspirational meeting that will live long in the memory for the players and coaching staff.

“The visit was incredible. I will use it now again and again as a reminder to the boys, when things aren’t going so well, to see a man who has everything, all this wealth, who can rest the whole day, who can have pleasure if he wanted to, can be so disciplined. It’s just incredible, fantastic, I can’t find the words,” Azkals coach Hans Michael Weiss said.

“There are many characters in this team who use their head in a very good way and they will find this visit fantastic for sure, they will find it very motivating also.”

Aside from shooting, Al Maktoum, who also owns the Al-Shabab Al Arabi Football Club discussed football with the Azkals players.

Midfielder Jason de Jong said: “We are really thankful for this opportunity and it has been a great experience. His dedication and passion for sport is clear to see and we can learn a lot from him.”

The Azkals are set to go up against Qantas Australia Under-23 team in their third friendly match to cap their 10-day Middle East tour.

Azkals face Olyroos tonight



By Ares P. Gutierrez
Copy Editor, Gulf News

The "stray dogs" from the Philippines promise to have more bite than bark when they face the Qantas Australia Olyroos in the last of three friendly matches tonight that will cap the south-east Asian country's Middle East tour.

A resurgent Philippine team — known as the Azkals, Filipino street lingo for stray dogs — returned to Dubai on Tuesday night after beating Qatar Star League first division club Al Ahli SC 3-1.

Azkals team manager Hans Michael Weiss attributed the win to lessons learnt from their first fixture last Saturday against Uzbekistan's under-23 team, where the Filipinos were outclassed in a 3-0 defeat.


"We were very disciplined tactically and played fantastic counter football," the 45-year old German told Gulf News during the Azkals' visit to The Philippine School in Rashidiya yesterday morning.

"We were more adjusted in the second game and we're also better organised and the team understands each other better, so hopefully we can bring this to the match tomorrow."
The Azkals, who are preparing for next month's AFC Challenge Cup in Nepal, will again be experimenting with positions and tactics as new players, including Fulham goalkeeper Neil Etheridge, are now available.

Etheridge has arrived from London and will take over the No. 1 position from Roland Mueller, who has left the camp to return to German second division club MSV Duisburg.

Etheridge, who once played for the England under-16 team, said tonight's match will not be a walk in the park.

The Olyroos need a morale boost after losing to the Uzbeks earlier this month meaning they face the prospect of becoming the first Australian team to crash out of the Olympic qualifiers in 28 years.

"I'm expecting a tough match," Etheridge said. "The Australian team has been preparing for the Olympics and I think they were in bad form before, but it doesn't really matter for, when it comes to Thursday evening, it's two teams going to play the best they can and hopefully we come out victorious."

Wednesday, 15 February 2012

Azkals ready to pounce on Australia U-23



By Alfonso Ramirez
InterAKTV

Dubai — A fiercer Philippine national men’s football team, backstopped by the arrival of Neil Etheridge, will try to pounce on a beleaguered Australian Under-23 squad in a friendly that is expected to turn into an all-out street fight on Thursday evening at the Al Maktoum stadium in Dubai.

Fresh from an ego-boosting 3-1 win against the Al Ahli Club in Qatar, the resurgent Azkals hope to carry their luck over in the last of three fixtures lined up for the squad that will cap their 10-day Middle East tour.

The Qantas Olyroos, meanwhile, badly need a morale-boosting win before they face the UAE on February 22 in a do-or-die match to bolster their chances of making it to the London Olympics.

Azkals coach Hans Michael Weiss said the team is well-adjusted and has blended better compared to their initial outing against the powerhouse Uzbekistan U-23 team that totally outclassed the Philippine side last Saturday.

“We were more adjusted in the second game and we’re also better organized and the team understands each other better so hopefully we can bring this to the match tomorrow (Thursday),” Weiss told InterAKTV during the national team’s visit to The Philippine School in Rashidiya, Dubai.

“Our opponents (Al Ahli) were not as strong [as Uzbekistan]… the first one was really much stronger. In the first game, we faced a different environment and jet lag, but [I’m not offering an] excuse. When you travel, you know what I’m talking about,” the German coach said.

The Azkals, who are in camp to prepare for next month’s AFC Challenge Cup in Nepal, will again be experimenting on positions and tactics as new players led by Etheridge will suit up for the Philippine side.


The Fulham goalkeeper arrived straight from London and will take over the No. 1 position from Roland Mueller, who left the Azkals camp to attend to his commitment to Bundesliga second division club MSV Duisburg.

Etheridge, who once suited up for the England U-16 team, said that Thursday’s match will not be a walk in the park for the Azkals as the Olyroos need a morale boost after losing to the Uzbeks earlier this month and are facing the prospects of becoming the first Australian team to crash out of the Olympic qualifiers in 28 years.

“I’m expecting a tough match. The Australian team has been preparing for the Olympics and I think they’re in bad form before, but it doesn’t really matter for when it comes to Thursday evening it’s two team going to play out the best as they can and hopefully we come out victorious,” he said.

The Olyroos will need to win its match against the UAE on February 22. The match will be played in the Emiratis’ turf in Dubai.

The Olyroos where pushed to wall after they lost to Uzbekistan, the same team that gave the Azkals a 3-0 drubbing, earlier this month. That left the Australians in the group’s cellar with three points from four games. The Uzbeks top the group with eight points. Only group toppers will go to London, according to FIFA rules.

Should they win against the UAE, the Olyroos will have to win against Iraq on March 14 and sneak into second place. That will put them into the lottery of a playoff in Vietnam from March 25 to 29 against second-placed teams from two other Asian groups, likely to be Oman and Syria. If the Olyroos can get through that stage, they will have a final playoff against Senegal, who finished fourth at the 2011 African U-23 championships.

Tuesday, 14 February 2012

Azkals learn from the masters

Post-match assessment of the Azkals' game against Uzbekistan by Coach Hans Weiss and acting captain James Younghusband.

Videography: Irish Eden Belleza
Photography: Hadrian Hernandez
Reporting: Alaric Gomes, Ashley Hammond and Ares Gutierrez

Palami, Weiss OK with Azkals performance in loss to ‘strong’ Uzbekistan U-23


By Alfonso Ramirez
InterAKTV

DUBAI — Team manager Dan Stephen Palami was beaming like a Cheshire cat as he high-fived each and every member of the Philippine national football squad moments after it absorbed a 3-0 defeat against Uzbekistan’s Under-23 team.

“Good job, guys!” he said as members of the Azkals swirled around the Philippine bench at the main pitch of the Al Maktoum stadium on Saturday as coach Hans Michael Weiss crossed the midfield line to extend the customary congratulatory handshake to Uzbek coach Vadim Abramov.

“It’s a good test match and I congratulate Uzbekistan for winning,” the 45-year-old German said at the post-match press briefing.

Palami agrees with his coach’s assessment.

“I think it’s a very good first game. The result may not be good, but I think in the overall view of the preparations for the [AFC] Challenge Cup, that would be good for the team,” he told InterAKTV before joining Weiss at the media room.



Uzbekistan, which also used the Azkals friendly to warm up for this month’s Olympic qualifying matches, has a clean record of two wins and as many draws for their eight points in Group B of the qualifiers.

Uzbekistan has consistently been the strongest team out of the Central Asian nations that include Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan. The Uzbeks won the football competition at the 1994 Asian Games in Japan.

“Uzbekistan’s senior team is one of the top four in Asia [and they’re handled by] the same coach who’s coaching them dito sa under 23, so I hope we gained good experience,” Palami said.

Asked to assess the match, he said: “We’re trying to experiment positions lalo na may mga injuries. James [Younghusband] had to play out of position – nasa right back when he’s supposed to be in the center.

“We were able to more or less contain them a bit [in the second half] kasi we played more defensively and we just tried to do the counters. Ang problema, it’s been a while since we really played together as a team… actually, it’s the first time. Makikita mo there’s still deficiency sa fitness [level] pati sa position ng team… but that was a good experience against a very good team and Uzbekistan is one of the best in Asia.”

Weiss meanwhile, attributed the loss to the Azkals’ “lack of cohesion.”


“We lack cohesion because as it is often the case… there are two to three new faces for example the brother of Angel [Guirado] – Juanito – and Dennis Wolf and also Misagh Bahadoran. Of course, were also missing Aly Borromeo and Chieffy Caligdong so these people who are playing need time to adjust and obviously facing a strong team like Uzbekistan, mistakes get punished very severely and quickly. This is something we have to accept at this moment, but as I mentioned, in the long run it will definitely pay off that we learn from this experience,” he said.

“I am particularly happy with the second half where we’re seeing a more defense-oriented team … having one of the strikers working more in the midfield… that helped us to prevent our defense line from getting overrun not like in the first half. I see that as a very positive sign that the spirit of the group is okay and we’re starting to grow into a strong national team.”

Azkals manager Palami said they could have chosen to play against a weaker side to boost the national team’s image and satisfy the fans, but that would not help the team in the end.

“Our objective has always been clear and that is to prepare this team for the AFC Challenge Cup and we could do that by facing teams that we know we could easily beat or do that by facing teams that can give us good preparation and will give us a tough time like Uzbekistan,” he said.

“Of course, losing is not a good thing whether against a strong or a weaker team. I’m sure the players will learn from this and I’m sure the coaching staff will do their homework to make sure that whatever there is that needs to be changed or that needs to be further developed for the team will be done.”

Weiss meanwhile, sees the first of the three Middle East friendlies as a positive and “realistic” development.

“As I said, I see this match on the aspect of learning [by] starting football on the highest level in Asia. I think in a match like this two years ago would have cost a very very bitter, maybe 7, 8. or 9-0 defeat. So at this point of time, it’s a 3-0 defeat,” he said

“A defeat is a defeat. There’s no excuse for a defeat but we should put everything in the right context and see where we stand and make small steps and not dream of something which is unrealistic. At this moment that is OK… I’m content with the performance of this team.”

The Azkals flew to neighboring Doha to play its second friendly against Al Ahli SC, a first division club in the Qatar Star League, and will be back in Dubai on Valentine’s Day to prepare for its third and last friendly against Qantas Australia U-23 “Olyroos” on Thursday.

Saturday, 11 February 2012

Winning is the top goal, Philippines coach says




By Ares P. Gutierrez
Gulf News


Dubai: Philippine men's football team manager Hans Michael Weiss is confident that his team's Middle East tour will take their game several notches higher.

"As you can see, they're not yet 100 per cent. We're still adjusting after a long trip and we're also adjusting to the weather and the environment. We'll get better as the days go by and we have players coming in from Europe, so we'll see," the German mentor told Gulf News on the sidelines of his side's training camp.

The Philippine team, also known as the Azkals, are in Dubai for a 10-day training camp in preparation for next month's AFC Challenge Cup in Kathmandu, Nepal. They are due to play a match against the Uzbekistan Under-23 side at Al Maktoum Stadium tonight (8pm).

"If we can bring in a few more European-based players we'll have a good chance to make the top four in Nepal. Should we get to the semi-finals you never know what might happen. Our primary goal is to win and that would cause a tsunami across the footballing world."

Friday, 10 February 2012

Weiss wants Azkals to cause ‘tsunami’ in world football


By Alfonso Ramirez
InterAKTV

DUBAI — Philippine national men’s football team coach Hans Michael Weiss is optimistic that the Azkals’ 10-day training camp in Dubai and Qatar will take their game several notches higher and eventually create not just a ripple, but a “tsunami across the footballing world”.

“As you can see, they’re not yet 100 percent. We’re still adjusting after a long trip and we’re also adjusting to the weather and the environment. We’ll get better as the days go by and we have players coming in from Europe so we’ll see,” the 45-year-old German told interAKTV at the sidelines of the Azkals’ training camp at the Al Maktoum practice pitch.

The Azkals are here to prepare for next month’s AFC Challenge Cup in Kathmandu, Nepal.

Weiss, said the friendly matches lined up in Dubai and Qatar are in line with their aim to pit the Azkals against stronger teams and expose them to international level of play.


“We always made sure last year we play opposition that is stronger than us. That’s why we have Australia and Uzbekistan now to physically challenge the players, because [the] local league [is weak] and domestically we’re at a very low level,” he told reporters prior to the actual start of the camp.



The Philippines is presently 157th in the FIFA ranking, a vast improvement from its lowest placing at 195 in September 2006. The Southeast Asian country, which counts basketball and boxing as its most favored sports, is experiencing a renaissance in football after the Azkals’ phenomenal campaign in the 2010 Suzuki Cup where they beat regional powerhouse Vietnam and faced Indonesia in the semifinal.

Weiss noted that the top-class football facilities at Al Nasr Sports Club has somewhat motivated his players to work hard at camp.

“We lack facilities for football. In Manila, we only have the [Rizal Memorial] national stadium and the pitches are not very good. That’s why I’m happy that we came here. Here in Dubai, clubs have five pitches. You can’t find a facility like this in Manila. That’s probably why you can see that our players are happy and motivated ,” he said adding that the dearth in facilities is however, overcome by his players’ desire to give honour to the flag and country.

“We don’t have five pitches in Manila. But what we do have is players hungry to fight and sacrifice everything,” Weiss said.

Asked to assess his side’s chances in the Challenge Cup, the 45-year-old German is optimistic that they can duplicate the “magic” the team pulled off in the 2010 Suzuki Cup.

“If we can bring in a few more European-based players we’ll have a good chance to make top four in Nepal. Should we get to the semi-finals you never know what might happen,” he said.

“Our primary goal is to win and that would cause a tsunami across the footballing world.”

have five pitches in Manila. But what we do have is players hungry to fight and sacrifice everything,” Weiss said.

Asked to assess his side’s chances in the Challenge Cup, the 45-year-old German is optimistic that they can duplicate the “magic” the team pulled off in the 2010 Suzuki Cup.

"If we can bring in a few more European-based players we'll have a good chance to make top four in Nepal. Should we get to the semi-finals you never know what might happen,” he said.

“Our primary goal is to win and that would cause a tsunami across the footballing world.” ###

Thursday, 9 February 2012

Azkals star defies pain to train in Dubai


By Ares P. Gutierrez, Copy Editor
Published: 11:51 February 9, 2012
Gulf News

Azkals vice-captain Chieffy Caligdong winced and gasped for air as he performed light exercises on the first day of the Philippine football team's training camp in Dubai on Wednesday.

The 29-year-old midfielder, who suffered a knee injury during a United Football League match on January 28 in Manila and was earlier ruled out of the Azkals' 10-day Middle East tour, was given the green light to join his teammates after he passed a fitness test last Friday.

"I'm joining the team in exercises, but it's sad. It's my first time to go abroad and not be playing with the Azkals,"
Caligdong said during a press conference held before the Philippine team headed for their first workout at the Al Maktoum Stadium practice pitch.

MRI scan

Doctors attending to Caligdong earlier feared that the footballer suffered a torn anterior cruciate ligament (ACL), but an MRI scan on his left knee showed no signs of the injury.

"I'm hoping to recover as soon as possible. It's my first time to sustain an injury in my knee and I was told it would take two to three weeks for me to regain my normal movement,"
he told Gulf News on the sidelines of the Azkals' training session.

Three injuries left knee

Caligdong revealed that he sustained three injuries on his left knee - an LCL (lateral collateral ligament), an MCL (medial collateral ligament) and a partial ACL.

The footballer from Iloilo province in central Philippines added that this is his fourth time to visit Dubai,

"It's nice to be back here. This is actually my fourth visit. My first time here was when I played in the beach football World Cup,"
he said as he quickly clarified that the Azkals are not here on a holiday.

No vacation

"We're not on vacation. We are here to toughen up for the tough Challenge Cup in Nepal next month."
The Azkals, led by coach Michael Weiss, arrived in Dubai on Tuesday evening after an eight-hour direct flight from Manila.

The team is scheduled to hold three training sessions before going up against the Uzbekistan under-23 team in a friendly match on Saturday at the Al Nasr Sports Club's Al Maktoum Stadium.

The national squad will also fly to neighbouring Qatar to play a friendly against Al Ahli, before returning to Dubai to face the Australia under-23 team on February 16

Injured Chieffy continues work for Azkals



By Alfonso Ramirez
InterAktv

DUBAI — No pain, no gain.

Philippine national men’s football team vice-captain Chieffy Caligdong winced and gasped for air as he performed light exercises on the first day of the national football team’s training camp in Dubai Wednesday.

The 29-year-old Philippine Air Force midfielder, who suffered a knee injury during a UFL match between his team and the Philippine Army last January 28 and was earlier ruled out of the Azkals’ 10-day Middle East tour, was given the green light to join his teammates after he passed a fitness test conducted by Dr Randy Molo at the Moro Lorenzo Gym in Ateneo last Friday.

“I’m joining the team in exercises, but it’s sad. It’s my first time to go abroad and not be playing with the Azkals,” Caligdong said during a press conference held before the national squad headed for their first workout at the Al Maktoum Stadium practice pitch.

Doctors attending to Caligdong earlier feared that the footballer suffered a torn anterior cruciate ligament (ACL), but an MRI scan on his left knee showed no signs of the injury.

“Kailangan mas madali at maging mas maaga yung recovery kasi hindi siya basta-basta. First time kong magka-injury nang ganito sa tuhod so siguro two to three weeks pa… depende sa therapist kung anong movement ang kakayanin ko. Dinadahan-dahan muna. May mga exercises na pinagawa pero yung mga lateral moves, hindi muna,” he told InterAKTV on the sidelines of the Azkals’ training session.

Caligdong revealed that he sustained three injuries on his left knee – an LCL (lateral collateral ligament), an MCL (medial collateral ligament) and a partial ACL.

The airman from Pototan, Iloilo added that this is his fourth time to visit the cosmopolitan city in the Persian Gulf region.

“It’s nice to be back here. This is actually my fourth visit. My first time here was when I played in the beach football World Cup,” he said as he quickly clarified that the Azkals are not here on a holiday.

“We’re not on vacation. We are here to toughen up for the tough Challenge Cup in Nepal next month,” Caligdong said.

The Azkals, led by coach Hans Michael Weiss, arrived in Dubai on Tuesday evening after an eight hour direct flight from Manila.

The team is scheduled to hold three training sessions before going up against the Uzbekistan under-23 team in a friendly match on Saturday at the Al Nasr Sports Club’s Al Maktoum Stadium. The national squad will also fly to neighbouring Qatar to play a friendly against Al Ahli Football Club then return to Dubai to face the Qantas Australia under-23 team on February 16.

Tuesday, 7 February 2012

Azkals gear up for Middle East tour




By Alfonso Ramirez
InterAKTV

The Philippine national men’s football team is running double time to get into shape as they only have roughly a month to blend together as a team before they face expected rough sailing at the 2012 AFC Challenge Cup in Kathmandu in March.

“Since the Suzuki Cup, there has been a lot of buzz around Philippine football. There’s more pressure and we’re expected to win, but there’s still a long way to go,” said Azkals star striker Phil Younghusband in an interview published by Dubai-based newspaper, Gulf News.

The Philippines is bracketed with Asian football powerhouse and World Cup qualifier North Korea, India, and Tajikistan.

“We’re trying to educate people about the realities of our situation. Football isn’t as developed in the Philippines as it is elsewhere.

“We need more preparation, but a lot of our players fly in from Europe at the last minute and it’s difficult to gel,” he added.

The Azkals are leaving Tuesday night via an Emirates flight that will take them straight to Dubai for their 10-day Middle East tour.

Organizers of the tour said the Philippine Football Federation decided to take the national team away from the many distractions in Manila to enable Weiss and the coaching staff to whip the stray dogs into fine thoroughbreds.

The Azkals will be playing three friendly matches – one in Doha, against Qatar Star League first division club Al Ahli, and two matches in Dubai against the Under-23 team of Uzbekistan on February 11 and the Qantas Australia under-23 team on February 16.

The Dubai matches will be played at the Al Maktoum Stadium which is located in the Oud Metha area where Filipino expatriates usually congregate.

“The biggest test the Filipino players will face will be against the side from Down Under,” said Chris Bayliss of MediaPro Middle East, which handles the marketing and promotion of the Azkals tour.

“[The Australians] are preparing for the upcoming AFC Asian Qualifiers for London 2012 and will be tough opposition,” he added.

Aside from Younghusband, 17 other national team candidates – including skipper Chieffy Caligdong who was earlier ruled out due to injury — will be joining the camp.

Phil Younghusband misses former Azkals coach McMenemy’s presence


http://www.interaksyon.com/interaktv/phil-younghusband-misses-former-azkals-coach-mcmenemys-presence

By Alfonso Ramirez

Phil Younghusband, the British-Filipino who has become the pin-up boy of Philippine football, has admitted missing somebody very dearly.

No, the 24-year-old former Chelsea reserve, was not referring to his rumored girlfriend, actress Angel Locsin, when he made the admission on the eve of the Philippine national men’s football team’s departure for Dubai, where the Azkals will hold a two-week training camp in preparation for their upcoming campaign in the AFC Challenge Cup in Nepal. Neither was he referring to his mother, Susan, who passed away in September.

Younghusband, who plays for the Loyola Meralco Sparks in the fledgling UFL, minced no words in admitting that he misses former Azkals coach, Simon McMenemy.

“I was very close to Simon and was sad to see him go. He was one of the key reasons why we had the success we did. I often wonder what could have happened if he was still here,” he said in a phone patch from Manila.

McMenemy, who brought the Azkals to the semifinals of the 2010 AFC Suzuki Cup that thereby triggered a renaissance of sorts for Philippine football, was replaced by current national team coach Hans Michael Weiss.

McMenemy is currently head coach of Indonesia Super League club Mitra Kukar.

“He did a great thing for Philippine football and he’s doing well now in Indonesia,” Younghusband said of McMenemy. “I’m still in contact. But now we have a new coach and he’s doing well.”

Azkals face tough teams in Nepal tilt




By Alfonso Ramirez, Dateline Philippines


Filipino fans should not expect too much from the Philippine Azkals when the AFC Challenge Cup kicks off next month in Nepal.

The Azkals, who were catapulted to “rock star” status after they beat sub-regional football powerhouse, Vietnam, and went on to reach the semi-finals in the Suzuki Cup in 2010, will be up against tough teams in the group stages in Kathmandu as the minnows will be facing India, Tajikistan and Asian powerhouse and World Cup qualifier, North Korea.

“We’re trying to educate people about the realities of our situation. Football isn’t as developed in the Philippines as it is elsewhere,” said national team striker Phil Younghusband.

The former Chelsea reserve who now plays for the Loyola Meralco Sparks in the UFL, readily admits that the Azkals are cramming as they only have about a month to whip themselves into fighting form.

“Since the Suzuki Cup, there has been a lot of buzz around Philippine football. There’s more pressure and we’re expected to win, but there’s still a long way to go,” Younghusband said in an interview published by Dubai-based newspaper, Gulf News.

The Azkals will be leaving for Dubai tonight (Feb7) for a 10-day training camp, in which they will play three friendly matches.

“We need more preparation, but a lot of our players fly in from Europe at the last minute and it’s difficult to gel,” Younghusband added.

Eightheen players, including Younghusband and skipper Chieffy Caligdong who was earlier ruled out due to injury, will be joining the camp that will be held in the cosmopolitan Middle East city where basketball plays second fiddle to football and cricket in terms of popularity.

Organizers of the tour said the Philippine Football Federation decided to take the national team away from the many distractions in Manila to enable coach Michael Weiss and the coaching staff to whip the stray dogs into fine thoroughbreds.

The Azkals will be playing three friendly matches – one in Doha against Qatar Star League first division club, Al Ahli and two matches in Dubai against the under-23 team of Uzbekistan on Feb. 11 and the Qantas Australia under-23 team on Feb. 16.

The Dubai matches will be played at the Al Maktoum Stadium which is located in the Oud Metha area where Filipino expatriates usually congregate.

“The biggest test the Filipino players will face will be against the side from Down Under,” said Chris Bayliss of MediaPro Middle East, which handles the marketing and promotion of the Azkals tour.

“[The Australians] are preparing for the upcoming AFC Asian Qualifiers for London 2012 and will be tough opposition,” he added.