It’s still months to go before the Suzuki Cup—moved from 2020 to this year—and the Southeast Asian Games but officials of the Philippine Football Federation (PFF) now have a hurdle to solve this early.
The Thai League 1, which usually runs from February to October, has been pushed back and its new schedule will coincide with both the SEA Games—an Under 23 tournament—and the Suzuki Cup. And since both international events are not part of the Fifa calendar, the clubs can refuse to release their players.
And since most of the starters of our senior team are based in Thailand, that’s going to be a problem for the national team if the Thai clubs won’t release them for national duties.
Keepers Patrick Deyto and Michael Falkesgaard are based in Thailand, along with other Azkals standouts Daisuke Sato, Iaian Ramsay, Patrick Reichelt and a host of other players. Jarvey Gayoso also recently signed with Maungthong United and if all of them won’t be released, we are going to have a squad devoid of international experience.
The other Southeast Asian countries won’t be facing such problems as us since, aside from the depth of their squad, their domestic leagues haven’t made any announcements regarding the scheduling conflicts.
So, the Thai announcement is going to be a problem. Unless of course, the PFF doesn’t see it as one and views it as an opportunity.
We still have the Azkals Developmental Team (ADT), which saw action in the PFL during the last bubble. The PFF formed the ADT to keep the U23 team in shape going into the SEA Games, but this early, management could just decide to use the ADT as the core that will see action in both the SEA Games and the Suzuki Cup. And just like in the previous SEA Games, we can tap veteran Stephen Schrock, who is staying with United City FC, to lead the teams.
And who knows? Maybe we can even convince Phil Younghusband to “unretire” and join both SEA Games and Suzuki Cup squads. Wouldn’t that be something?
Sure, a young ADT team may have the disadvantage against other national teams in the Suzuki Cup, but it could also mean a chance for the younger generation to step up in the absence of the veterans. And since our regular Azkals are growing old, I guess now would be the best chance to see who among our younger players deserve a spot in the senior squad.
The reason the PFF put up the ADT, right? To discover the next potential senior team members? The announcement of the Thai League may have just put their timetable a little bit forward.