Bacolod City, Philippines — The Philippine Musangs, the country’s Under-19 national football team, is now training in Bago City, Negros Occidental in preparation for the Asian Football Federation U-19 Championship on September 8 to 21 in Yangon, Myanmar.
The Nationals, composed of 20 players chosen from over 600 aspirants in try-outs conducted across the country, have been in seclusion in the football camp for over a month now.
Former congressman Charlie O. Cojuangco is the team manager and program director of the football camp. He is president of the Negros Occidental Football Association and director of the Philippine Football Federation.
Maor Rozen from the Royal Spanish Football Federation and the Uruguayan Football Association is the coach.
The players were selected in try-outs conducted by Cojuangco and his team in Tarlac, Manila, Cebu, Iloilo, Negros Occidental and Davao.
The players, who will be introduced to the public at the end of the camp, come from football associations of Davao, National Capital Region, Cebu and Compostela Valley. Two of them are half-Filipinos, from Italy and Canada.
Cojuangco said the team is named after the civet cat which is endemic to the Philippines.
“The Musang is stealthy and ferocious, and very resourceful when challenged, characteristics which a football team needs to succeed,” he said.
Cojuangco is pragmatic about the team, saying other countries have been training their players for years already. But he said he wants a team that is going to be known for its football skills, not for the players’ looks.
Also, we want to train them to become better persons as much as we want them to be better players, he added. We cannot produce good players with the wrong values,’ he said. “We are not under pressure of any expectation, except the expectation that we will give the best in everything that we do.”
He added he had always believed football is the sport where Filipinos can excel.
Rozen, on the other hand, said aside from the competitions, the team should also be a good training ground to supply players for the U-23 category.
Then, the U-23 players could graduate into the Philippine Azkals, the country’s national men’s team, he added.
The players, most of whom are in high school and in the first years of college, are into a special education program that allows them to catch up with their classmates when they go back to their schools after being absent for the training and the competitions. – THE FREEMAN
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