Smooth field for Azkals, Lions

Posted on November 14, 2012

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The Philippine Azkals run in the greener Cebu City Sports Center football field.

The football field of the Cebu City Sports Center may serve well the game plan of the Philippine Azkals when they play against the Singapore Lions tomorrow.

“Fantastic,” siad Azkals head coach Hans Michael Weiss upon stepping on the ptich yesterday.

The field is no longer the bumpy, uneven ground he inspected in October.

“It’s amazing what Cebu has achieved in such a short time,” he said.

Despite a steady drizzle and mud, the Azkals exchanged high fives and hand shakes, signed autographs and had their photos taken with fans.

Weiss, team manager Dan Stephen Palami and the Azkals were given a warm welcome from the time they arrived in Cebu on Sunday for Cebu’s first international football match.

The friendly match is spearheaded by the Cebu Football Association headed by Engr. Pericles “Ricky” Dakay, whose group rehabilitated the sports center pitch with the help of Alta Vista Golf and Country Club and Cebu Country Club.

Team captain Emelio “Chieffy” Caligdong expressed surprise over the improved field. He had played there twice before two years ago when it was bare and rocky.

The sports center has renovated shower rooms and locker rooms to be used by both teams , said center manager Ricky Ballesteros.

The Azkals and the Lions stay in the same hotel in uptown Cebu City and practice at the football field of the Sacred Heart School-Ateneo de Cebu in Mandaue City.

Yesterday, the Azkals were at Ayala Center for a meet-and- greet with fans before going to the sports center for a warm up.

Missing, however, were Azkals poster boys Phil and James Younghusband who returned to Manila yesterday to play for Meralco Sparks in the semifinals of the United Football League.

Both will be back today in time for a press conference.

Cebuano athletes Paolo Pascual and Patrick Reichelt were proud to be playing in their hometown.

“I’m very excited. I may not be able to play but having the team here is already a dream for me,” said Pascual, a former University of San Carlos varsity player.

“For me this is really all for Cebu.”

Reichelt, who traces his roots in Argao town, said the facilities were better than expected.

Tomorrow’s match against the Lions, a three-time ASEAN Football Federation Suzuki Cup champion, is part of their preparations for the 2012 Suzuki Cup that will start in Malaysia on Nov. 22.

The same tournament two years ago catapulted the Philippine men’s national team to fame when they reached the semi-finals for the first time.

The achievement revived interest football in the country. /Mars G. Alison

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