Little Azkals depart for Borneo Cup
Olmin Leyba (The Philippine Star) - October 1, 2014 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines - The Philippine Little Azkals continue taking their baby steps towards their long-term vision of making it to the U-17 Fifa World Cup someday.

After their UK training last year, the U-12 boys team left for Malaysia Monday night to undergo another intensive training abroad.

For the next nine days, the Little Azkals will be honing their skills and tactical play under the watchful eyes of some of Asia’s top football coaches and test their learning in the 2014 Borneo Cup U-13 slated Oct. 2-4 at Likas Stadium in Kota Kinabalu.

“I think the Philippines has actually got a lot of talent and what we’re doing with the Little Azkals is we’re giving that talent a chance to have a long-term program. We’re giving them high-level coaching over an extended period of time,” said Leigh Manson of Total Football School, the technical director of the program.

Asked about their target in Borneo, Manson said they are looking more at the big picture: the Fifa U-17 World Cup in five years’ time.

“In youth football, it’s about development. If we come back with a trophy, that’s a bonus. If we win the Borneo Cup, it will be fantastic but the important thing is they get an opportunity to travel abroad and play in tournament,” he said.

A dinner-sendoff was hosted for the team by Pru Life UK, led by president and CEO Antonio de Rojas and SVP and chief marketing officer Belle Tiongco, with members of the men’s team Azkals also on hand to show their support.

“We are committed to supporting the Little Azkals because we believe in supporting the education of the Filipino youth and the education is not limited to academics or classroom education alone. We recognize the many benefits of sports training, especially in the field of football which is fast becoming a popular, promising sport for our young athletes,” said Tiongco.

“As a British company, we are enthusiastic about football and we are honored to be partnered with the British Council in supporting the training of the young Azkals so that they may provide the best football players that this country can be proud of,” she added.

The Little Azkals are composed of Mark Zidane Alanquihan, Joie Gaid, Jr., Jil Sander Pilloria, Ildefonso Xike Escobin, Nikko Gutierrez, Vin Joel dela Cruz, Chevey Deo Celeste, Greg Naquines, Agiel John Rojo, Robert John Orr, Nicolai Abalos, Shemrei Marobillo, Jan Karl Soloma, Drexler Jones Valencia, Jacob Padernal, and Shaninho Clemente.

The trip to Malaysia is part of a five to six-year plan to gear the youngsters up for a  targeted stint at the Fifa U17 World Cup in 2019. To start things off, the Little Azkals trained at Loughborough U, Britain’s premier sports university, last year under the British Council-Philippine Football Federation Training Program. Their experience are documented in a documentary by Baby Ruth Villarama entitled “Little Azkals” which will be shown in selected SM Cinemas on Oct. 25 and 26.

AGIEL JOHN ROJO AZKALS BABY RUTH VILLARAMA BELLE TIONGCO BORNEO CUP BORNEO CUP U BRITISH COUNCIL BRITISH COUNCIL-PHILIPPINE FOOTBALL FEDERATION TRAINING PROGRAM LITTLE AZKALS WORLD CUP
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