MANILA, Philippines -- The novel coronavirus pandemic has not affected the Philippine Azkals' competitive spirit as they set their sights on the 2020 AFF Suzuki Cup later this year.
This was the assurance of team manager Dan Palami, even as he acknowledged that the pandemic has had an impact on the team's preparation for the biennial competition.
The Azkals reached the semifinals in 2018, losing to eventual champions Vietnam.
"I think based on the conversations that we have with the players, I think winning is still the first thing on their mind," said Palami, when asked in a press conference regarding the "mental state" of the Azkals ahead of the Suzuki Cup.
There are some concerns, Palami admitted. Training for the Suzuki Cup -- which is scheduled to run from November 23 to December 31 -- will be dependent on government agencies.
The Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) last week gave permission to professional football and basketball teams to resume practices, with adherence to strict protocols implemented by the Philippine Football Federation (PFF) and the Philippine Basketball Association (PBA), respectively.
There is no word if national teams can resume training as well.
"Right now, we will be very much dependent on whatever IATF, the government will say about venues, about training sessions," said Palami.
"What we've done right now is to actually talk to the players that we would want to be part of the team, and already introduce to them via something like this, Zoom, the system that we want to use for the national team," he added.
"At least, even with the limited time -- we anticipate that there will be limited time for training for the whole team -- by the time they get to the pitch, they will be very familiar with their roles and how the system will be for us."
Palami has also assured Azkals coach Scott Cooper is in constant communication with the players, and he is optimistic that the team will be quick to understand what is expected of them, even if they can only speak through Zoom.
"Everybody's hell-bent on finally getting that trophy," he said. "That's what we are imparting to them, and that's how we continue to talk to them."
"Of course, paramount concern is the safety of everybody. But it's not too far from their mind," he added. "In fact, it's foremost on everybody's mind to get that. I think their competitiveness has not waned."
The draw for the Suzuki Cup is scheduled for August in Vietnam.
(For more sports coverage, visit the ABS-CBN Sports website).