U19 national team prepares for tough AFF tournament

ABS-CBN Sports on Jun 28, 2018 12:22 PM
U19 national team prepares for tough AFF tournament
The U-19 National Team will be competing in the AFF U-19 Men's Football Championships this July in Indonesia

Once again, some of the Philippines' finest young footballers will be tested in the crucible of international competition. The Philippines U19 men's national football team is taking on South East Asia's best in the ASEAN Football Federation U19 men's championship this July in the towns of Gresik and Sidoarjo near Surabaya, Indonesia.

The Pinoys are bracketed in Group A, along with five other teams. The Philippines begin their campaign against Singapore onJuly 1. Two days later they face Vietnam. Then on the 5th the Philippines tangles with Indonesia. July 7 will see the boys against Thailand, with the last group match on July 9 versus Laos.

Reiji Hirata from Japan is the head coach, filling in for Nhiboy Pedimonte who suffered an injury in a friendly football tournament and is unable to lead the team. The youth football consultant is assisted by former national team players Roxy Dorlas and Timo Orcullo. The goalkeeper coach is Anton Albao and also helping out the side is Laguna FA's Kit Salanguit.

No doubt there is true world-class quality in a side selected from all over the Philippines. UAAP Rookie Of The Year Fidel Tacardon, a Claretian who helped UP win the title this year, will be a handful in attack. Alongside him will be Gio Pabualan from Bukidnon. The FEU juniors standout scored a remarkable 35-yard goal in the UAAP Juniors final as the Tams beat DLS-Z in the final. Pabualan, who will begin his collegiate career next year, is also a gifted free-kick taker.

Another player to watch out for is JR Suba from San Beda high school. The Tarlac native is a prolific goalscorer who helped lead the Lions to the NCAA juniors title over La Salle Greenhills. Suba also won the Golden Boot award in the Palarong Pambansa in Vigan, representing CALABARZON.

There are a pair of Barotacnons flying the flag for the province of Iloilo. Martini Rey, a tall and skilled central midfielder is highly regarded, while Jed Bode was part of the runner-up squad in the UAAP Juniors for DLSZ.

Cebu's Leo Maquiling, a graduating senior high student from Ateneo de Cebu/Sacred Heart, could lead the formation at center forward.

Far Eastern University is also supplying three solid defenders, Pete Forrosuelo from Dipolog, Viejay Frigilliano from Ozamiz, and the towering John Paul Bengay from Malaybalay, Bukidnon.

Also boosting the squad are San Carlos city natives Shanden Vergara, who starred for DLSZ and was instrumental in their runners-up finish in UAAP, and Joshua Broce.

Filipino-Dutchman Quincy Kameraad is the likely first choice in goal. The bull-strong product of the AVV Zeeburgia club in Amsterdam is already on his third competition for the Philippines in youth international play. The Philippines are spoilt for choice in this position, with FEU Junior standout Jason Blanco pushing Kameraad in training. Blanco hails from the noted North Cotabato football town of M'lang. Cebuano Jessie Semblante from San Beda is the other keeper in the squad.

Apart from Kameraad there is another overseas-bred Pinoy in the squad, right back Adam Bambroffe from South London. Bambroffe was vacationing in the Philippines when he heard about the tryouts. Now he will be representing the country.

“I'm optimistic about the team,” says Dorlas. “A lot of the players have not played internationally so they are eager to prove themselves. The atmosphere is good and the players look forward to training every day. There are no cliques in the team.”

Dorlas also appreciates Hirata's guidance, noting his organizational skills and attention to detail. The native of Gifu in Central Japan, has experience in academy football in his hometown. Hirata is focusing on transition play and will likely employ a 4-2-3-1 formation.

“These players have a lot of potential and are very creative,” says Hirata, who is the head of youth football development in the PFF and has also served the Chinese Taipei Football Association in youth national team coaching. Hirata holds a Japan Football Association “A” license, the equivalent to an AFC “A.”

This squad has already played two friendlies against San Beda's college team, winning 3-0 with starters against starters, and then drawing 3-3 with their second team. On Wednesday they faced PFL squad Davao Aguilas in a friendly and despite goals from Vergara and Broce, went down swinging, 4-2.

The team has been practicing in the PFF Artificial Turf Pitch in Carmona, Cavite within the San Lazaro Leisure Park. The pitch is part of the PFF National Training Center which is planned to include more pitches, dorms, classrooms for coaching and refereeing courses, and a stadium.

“We are lucky to have this pitch to train on,” says Dorlas.

The assistant marveled at the quality of the turf, especially the drainage underneath.

“In mid-June it was raining so hard for a few days but we kept on training and we didn't miss a single session,” says the coach. The team trains twice a day, in the morning and in the afternoon.

The team are billeted in a nearby hotel five minutes from the facility.

“It's great having a camp here because there are no distractions. After training they go back to the hotel. You can really monitor them,” continues the coach.

“We are so proud to help the team in their quest for glory,” says Manila Jockey Club VP for Marketing, Eduardo Ramirez de Arellano. MJC manages the pitch for the PFF.

“We are delighted that the U19s really appreciate our world-class pitch. It's great that MJC and SLLP can really contribute to the advancement of our youth national teams,” continued de Arellano.

The PFF Artificial Turf Pitch in Carmona measures 105 meters long and 68 meters wide, the preferred dimensions for elite play. The surface has passed the FIFA Quality Pro standard, formerly known as FIFA 2 star. Recently hundreds of new seats were installed around the field, making it an even better venue for spectators. Soon light towers will be installed, permitting nighttime play.

While the PFF Artificial Turf Pitch is designed to be used by Philippine national teams and other elite club squads, anyone can rent the field for football, frisbee, or rugby. Contact Jeng Arrazola at 09167766377 or Mikki Cardenas at 09178829312, 02-687-9889 loc 410, 02-843-5561 loc 106. - RELEASE

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