By Mars G. Alison
The Cebu Football Association (CFA) confirmed that it is hosting another international friendly match dubbed as Face Off 2 last Sunday during the halftime of the Men’s Open titular battle between the Leylam FC and the University of Cebu (UC) BRO Nationals of the 16th Aboitiz Football Cup at the Aboitiz Sports Field in Subangdaku, Mandaue City.
The match is set on April 27 at the Cebu City Sports Center. This friendly is sanctioned by the Federation Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) and will pit the Philippine Azkals against the Malaysia Tigers.
Cebu hosted its first international friendly in November 2012 which saw the Azkals defeat the Singapore Lions, 1-0.
CFA president Ricky Dakay said Cebu could be the lucky charm for the national men’s senior team as the friendly will be the Azkals last tune-up match before it leaves for Maldives for the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Challenge Cup.
“We are very fortunate that PFF (Philippine Football Federation) chose Cebu for this very important friendly giving us a chance to send off the Azkals before they leave for Maldives. We are very privileged to get this chance,” Dakay said.
Aside from the CFA officials, the presscon was also graced by Azkals new head coach Thomas Dooley and team manager Dan Palami.
Palami said that Cebu has not only been a gracious host but it has also been a good venue for the Azkals citing the win against Singapore and that he hopes the trend continues.
This time, the Azkals will be hoping to nail their first win against Malaysia after their three previous meetings against the Tigers have all ended in a draw.
“The team considers Cebu as their second home. Not only is it a place where we can relax but it is also a place where we can get much assistance,” said Palami.
According to Palami, the national team is hoping to raise funds for two international events that they will be taking part in this year—the AFC Challenge and hopefully the Asian Cup.
Dakay said the CFA will revive the Azkals’ We Believe campaign by putting up a box for cash donations at the gates during the friendly and he is urging the Cebu football community to lend assistance to the national team by way of donating whatever little they can spare.
Not only will the team have a new coach in this friendly but Cebuanos may see new faces among the Azkals with many United Football League (UFL) players getting a call-up for the national team.
For the friendly here, Palami said that they may use the same line-up against Nepal in Qatar on April 11 but there might be slight changes in instances of injuries. He said the players based outside the country who will be coming here for the friendly are Rob Gier, Juani Guirado and Martin Steuble.
Dooley, for his part, said that before going away for the Challenge Cup, it is important for them to have a home game in a place where they can get much support. He said he heard how the Cebuanos supported the Azkals during the first Face Off and he hopes they will get that kind of support again.
After achieving the type of play that he wanted with the Azkals, something that they did in such a short time which amazed him, Dooley said that he wants the team to try and play forward, and this will be the kind of play that the Azkals will employ against the Tigers.
During their first training session, Dooley had wanted the team to get organized, know their positions on the field, have fun in playing because it means keeping the ball in their possession, and now he now wants to set their minds in playing it forward.
“Mind setting forward first…keep the ball and bring it forward, go there as fast as possible,” Dooley said.