Azkals scheduled for February matches in Dubai, Qatar
The Philippine national "Azkals" football team is scheduled to play in Qatar and the United Arab Emirates this February as part of its Middle East tour.
A report on news site Gulf News said the Azkals' stint in UAE will include matches with Uzbekistan and the Australian Under-23 sides.
In Qatar, the team will take on Al Ahli on Feb. 7 and 13, the Gulf News report added.
The games are expected to draw attention from some 500,000 Filipino expatriates in the UAE, with tickets likely to be highly sought after.
Expected to get the most attention are the Filipino-British Younghusband brothers, James and Phil, who kicked off their careers at English giants Chelsea before heading back to their roots in the Philippines in 2008.
The team is due to take on Qatari club side Al Ahli in Doha, on February 7, then take part in a training camp in Dubai before taking on the Uzbek Olympic team at Al Nasr's Al Maktoum Stadium on Frebruary 11.
After a trip to Qatar to face Al Ahli on February 13, the Azkals return to Dubai and play their final match against Australia's under-23s on February 16 at Al Nasr.
Gulf News said the final match may yet be the biggest test the Azkals will face, as the Australian team is preparing for the AFC Asian Qualifiers for London 2012.
But head coach Michael Weiss promised it won't all be fun in the sun for the Azkals players, as they have some serious work to do.
"We have one month before the Challenge Cup and we need to use the time wisely. The UAE is producing some very attractive football and it's fast becoming attractive to the Europeans. That is why we have chosen Dubai," he said.
"It's important for a developing country like ours to get the experience of playing high quality opposition. The Azkals, despite being one of the oldest international teams in Asia, have never qualified for the Asian Cup or World Cup. Without the opportunity to play in the big tournaments, fans see the Challenge Cup as their big hope of seeing their team lift some silverware," he added.
Opportunity to get together
The tour provides an ideal opportunity for Weiss to bring his players together for an extended period.
"The UAE was chosen for its central location, making it easier for players from the Far East and the west to come together," Gulf News said.
It added Dubai is a popular choice for many of the world?s biggest clubs and international teams in the winter with its excellent facilities, ideal climate and great entertainment.
During its stay in the UAE, the Azkals team will be based at the Asiana Hotel.
Of note is the fact that team members will visit a Filipino school during their stint to meet the children, sign autographs and enjoy a kickabout. — AD/RSJ, GMA News
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