The Azkals, as the Philippines national football team is called, will have a tough challenge in the AFC Challenge Cup as two hi-profile players based in Europe will not be available for their campaign.
The preparations of the team has been all but smooth. The club vs country rift ensured that the players assembled together once or twice a week for the camp! Coach Dan Palami was already frustrated with the local clubs not releasing players. Now the two star players he was bamking on have also been denied participation.
Filipino-Danish Jerry Lucena and goalkeeper Neil Etheridge have been ruled out of the tournament. Jerry Lucena plays for the Danish superliga side AGF Aarhus. He is a strong full-back and also doubles up as midfielder. Lucena has already represented the Denmark U21 national football team.
“Jerry’s club wrote to us saying he can’t be released because they are preparing for important matches,”
Neil Etheridge is another talented player of English-Filipino origin who is in the Fulham FC. He has spent 3 years in the Chelsea youth academy but he has never played in the EPL and is in the reserve side.
Ironically, Etheridge will be available for the Feb. 29 friendly against Malaysia at the Rizal Memorial Stadium, but will be unavailable for the AFC Challenge Cup.