Azkals bracing for logistical challenges in buildup for AFF Suzuki Cup

Published September 29, 2021, 3:35 PM

by Jonas Terrado

Azkals coach Scott Cooper

The Philippine Azkals look to push the right buttons despite the challenges in their buildup for the AFF Suzuki Cup which will be hosted by Singapore on Dec. 5 to Jan. 1, 2022.

Singapore was picked as the centralized venue for Southeast Asia’s premier football which was delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, a move that was welcomed by Azkals team manager Dan Palami and coach Scott Cooper.

But Palami said the pandemic won’t be the only stumbling block in the Azkals’ quest to finally win the Suzuki Cup following four semifinal appearances in the previous five editions.

“Singapore is not in the red list in terms of COVID-19 restrictions in other countries so I think traveling there will be easier,” Palami said shortly after Singapore was named host Tuesday, Sept. 28.

“What is important for us is to assemble the right team for this tournament considering all the restrictions on different countries from where our players will come from. We set our ambitions high and we will represent the country in the best way we can,” added Palami.

The Suzuki Cup schedule is not part of the FIFA window, which means clubs won’t be mandated to release some of the Azkals players for international duties.

Most players are in Europe while some are suiting up for different teams in Thailand.

Not helping is the current restrictions in the country which will limit how the local-based players train plus the uncertainty surrounding the start of the Philippines Football League season.

“I think for now we can’t have early training camps unlike Singapore or Thailand because our players are scattered worldwide and that’s still going to be a logistical challenge for us to see who we can bring in like the players who aren’t in season and the players in season. We cannot be at full strength, but we’ll still give our best shot,” said Cooper.

The Azkals were drawn in Group A along with Thailand, Singapore, Myanmar and the winner of the qualifying round match between Timor-Leste and Brunei.