One of the Philippines footballing icons made a plea to his fellow Pinoys in the UAE to come out in force to
support the Azkals in their two matches in Dubai.
Speaking at the arrival press conference at the Asiana Hotel this morning (Wednesday 8th February),
James Younghusband insisted a big crowd against the Uzbekistan and Australian Under 23’s can inspire
the team. He said: ‘When we have good support it really makes a big difference. When you have the fans
behind you it gives the players an extra boost and you can feel the adrenaline rush.
‘If I could say one thing to our fans it would be ‘’come and support us’’. We would love to see as many fans
there as possible and meet all of them too.’ Referring to the large Filipino population in the Emirates the
pin-up added: ‘I’m not sure I can have a picture with 500,000 people though!’
The team arrived at Dubai International Airport at 11pm on Tuesday (7th February) evening where they
were greeted by a small gathering of diehard fans, eager to get a photograph. Captain Emelio Caligdong
said he was pleased to be in the Emirate: ‘This is the fourth time I’ve been here but the first time to play
football and I’m very thankful to have the opportunity to do that. We are here for a training camp ahead of
the AFC Challenge Cup and it’s a good chance for us to get together and do our best.’
The Azkals have shown improvements in recent times under former coach Simon McMenemy and current
Head Coach, Michael Weiss. Although progress has been made, Weiss admits there is still a lot of work to
do: ‘In the UAE one club has 5 pitches; we have probably 5 pitches in the whole of Manila. We face
challenges every day. We’ve come a long way but have a long way to go still.’
Football is a relatively new phenomenon in the Philippines where money isn’t available like in many other
nations but the German coach says the players have a different motivation: ‘The biggest motivation any of
these players need, is making history. This Challenge Cup is the biggest tournament in the Philippines
history. If we win this we go to the Asian Cup for the first ever time.’
Mr Weiss took time to thank the organizers, Mediapro Middle East for arranging the tour at such short
notice: ‘In order to compete we need to face quality opposition and play together as much as possible.
Thanks to Mediapro we have two games against very tough opponents and this was all arranged within a
The matches are to be played on 11 February 2012 against Uzbekistan Under 23’s and 16 February
against the Australian Under 23’s. Sandwiched between they will fly to Qatar to play Al Ahli on the 13th.
To get fans in the spirit of things merchandise will be available to pick up at the games with T-shirts and
caps on sale bearing the Azkals logo. Also, there will be the popular local Boracay Bar band performing
outside the stadium as fans enter.
One fan who will be there cheering on the side is the Philippine Consul-General, Benito Valeriano. Sitting
at the press conference he said: I am very happy the team is here in Dubai. I’m not only a football fan and
a fan of the Azkals, I used to play when I was younger. I’ve been supporting the Azkals for a long time
now. I want to wish the team the best of luck.’
Joining the squad from Manila is Roland Muller from MSV Duisburg and Jason De Jong from Dutch 1st
Division side Dordrecht. Neil Etheridge of Premier League outfit Fulham will also be flying out to meet up
with the squad during the stay.
Tickets are now available with prices range from AED 50 for Category B, AED 75 for Category A and AED
165 for VIP.
Fans can show their support by picking up their tickets at participating Orlando Sports, Giordano and Virgin
Tickets can also be bought from the Al Maktoum Stadium on the day of the game from 9am. Any fans
hoping to leave it to the last minute are being urged not to with a high demand expected as kick-off draws
closer on the day.