The Teen Future Philippine Azkals dominates Australia’s Kanga Cup (Kangaroo Cup)

High hopes for future Azkals

SYDNEY – Former Philippine national football team standout and now Philippine Football Federation (PFF) consultant in Australia Mike Moran said the other day the outlook is bright for the promotion of football relations between the Philippines and Australia with the recent victory of the Philippine U-18 squad at the Kanga Cup in Canberra a portent of things to come.

Moran, 58, is based in Sydney and begins work with Osaka-based Japanese multinational finance company Invast Securities next month. He has been involved in foreign exchange trading for over 35 years with expat postings in Singapore, Tokyo and Hong Kong.  Before starting his Invast engagement, Moran is busy paving the way for an active two-way football program.

Last week, Moran was in Canberra to witness the Philippines, playing as the Carranz Football Club, post a 6-0 record in capturing the U-18 championship of the Kanga Cup which assembled 256 teams of over 4,000 players to compete in three-tier age groups from 8 to 18 for boys and girls. The Philippines sent an 18-man lineup composed of 14 homegrown locals and only four based overseas.  Head coach was Marlon Maro with Alvin Carranza and Jefferson Cheng as managers. The 18 players came from a 38-man pool being trained as "Teen Azkals."

The Philippines will tap the nucleus of the Kanga Cup title squad for the Asean Football Federation (AFF) U-19 Championships in Surabaya on Sept. 9-22.  The "Teen Azkals" are bracketed in Group A with Laos, Singapore, Australia, Cambodia and Timor Leste.  Group B is made up of Brunei, Indonesia, Vietnam, Myanmar, Thailand and Malaysia. The Philippines opens its campaign against Laos on Sept. 9.

Moran said the Filipinos impressed Australian scouts with their ability and quickness in Canberra.  "We went up against bigger boys and we were clearly at a disadvantage physically but we weren't outplayed," he said.  "One of our players Arnel Amita of FEU was spotted by Argentinian coach Gabriel Wilk of the Cooma club of Canberra, the No. 1 club in the Australian Capital Territory.  Wilk is inviting Arnel to his camp.  Arnel is like a little Maradona.  On the field, he amazed the fans with his ball tricks, speed and intelligence."

The Philippines got off to a strong start with a 1-0 win over the Capital Football Senior NTC then crushed Gosford City, 5-2, Taylor Lakers, 20-0, Woden Valley, 2-0 and John Paul College, 6-0 before repeating over the Capitals, 1-0, in the Kanga Cup finals.  "We got better with every game," said Moran.  "Against Gosford, we were down 0-2 but never gave up and eventually won, 5-2.  That showed the team's character."

Dean's Corner ( Article MRec ), pagematch: 1, sectionmatch: 1

Writer Jaime Pimentel of Ang Kalatas Australia paid tribute to Amita. "He menaced forwards in the backfield, opened opportunities in the midfield and taunted defenders in attack," wrote Pimentel.  "In a show of defiance of Capital's superior ball skills and robust defensive tactics, the pint-sized dynamo ruled the midfield as he hustled to terrorize anyone and his shadow who dared cross his territory."  Amita, 17, stands only 5-5.

The others in the champion team were keeper Enzo Cheng, keeper Raphael de Guzman and David Diamante of La Salle, Mark Besana, Daniel Gadia and Raphael Resuma of UP, Mikko Benedicto of San Beda, Junell Bautista, Jan Clarino, Harold Alcares, Doug Carranza, Yoshiharu Luciano Koizumi, Val Calvo, Nicholas Bollier, Rey Diaz and Amani Aguinaldo of FEU and Kevin Hartmann. 

Moran said since his appointment by the PFF, he has explored football tie-ups with former Australian national player Gus Cerro and Fil-Aussie coach Leigh Gunn.  "Gus is training a Fil-Aussie Kenneth Dizon who's 16," said Moran.  "He thinks Kenneth has the potential to become a major player with the Azkals in the future.  Gus is now creating a broad data base of Filipinos playing in Australia. He's married to a Filipina so that explains his closeness with the Filipino community.  Both Gus and Leigh are excited about the possibilities of working with the PFF."

PFF secretary-general Edwin Gastanes said the U-18 team's participation in the Kanga Cup was the country's first-ever training mission in Australia.  "This was unchartered waters," Gastanes told Moran.  During the trip, Carranza was introduced to Fil-Aussie player John Chris Canayama who is 18.  Moran said slowly, the doors are opening to discover more Fil-Aussie players.  "The Kanga Cup is more of a grassroots level of competition," he said.  "I drove to Canberra which is a 3 1/2 hour drive away from Sydney to meet the team which I thought was important as it was a first for the Philippines.  I've been contacted by scouts from out of the blue since word got around of my PFF appointment so we're moving forward with plans to develop a two-way relationship."

Moran played 10 years with the Philippine national team from 1972 to 1982.  "I spoke with the boys during the Kanga Cup and told them to represent our country with honor, to wear our flag on their jersey proudly," he said.  "It's a different feeling when you're playing for your country out there.  I think the boys showed a lot of heart in winning the championship."

philSTAR

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