The Philippines Azkals are set to take on Nepal and Chinese Taipei in a couple of friendlies on June 15 and June 19 during the international FIFA windows at Rizal Memorial Stadium.
Several players were already invited to play and an announcement will be made soon as to who will be available for the tuneups. From what I heard, the call ups are being finalized and the squad list will be released in the next few days.
Which brings us to the bigger question of who will be the Azkals’ coach for the matches against Nepal and Chinese Taipei. A source has told The Designated Kit Man that someone has been tapped already and an official announcement is expected to be made by the Azkals’ management soon. Regarding his identity, the length of his contract and other pertinent information, I would defer to Dan Palami, the Azkals’ team manager, to reveal the details. Just hoping that it won’t just be for the friendlies and it will be for a longer spell, whoever is named the new Azkals’ coach.
Another source said the new coach may not be actually “new” and has been working with the Azkals’ management for a few weeks now in preparation for the friendlies. He has also requested to remain anonymous for the time being.
Whoever he is, here is hoping that his presence will be a positive development for the team and he will stay with the squad for a little bit longer than the previous coaches.
Speaking of new developments, The Designated Kit Man had an opportunity to talk with two icons of Filipino MMA recently regarding their future plans. With the help of good friend and Bedan brother, Nissi Icasiano, one of the country’s foremost authorities on combat sports, we had an update on former champions Eduard “Landslide” Folayang and Joshua “The Passion” Pacio.
The two are currently winding down on their US trip, connecting with former and current greats of Mixed Martial Arts in the country. Folayang and Pacio said they were able to achieve their reasons for their “career development excursion” which included watching the first big event of ONE Championship in Denver, learning how to further improve their skills, especially their striking and ground games, and interacting with their ‘kababayans’ and international fans, who came from all over the world while they were gym-hopping in the US. They also had the chance to reflect on how they will further their careers after leaving their former stable.
For Folayang, he assured his fans that he still has so much left in the tank and his journey is not yet over. While he admits that Father Time is catching up with him, there is no sense of urgency for him now when it comes to his career.
“‘Yung term kasi na urgency sa atin ay hindi naman ibig sabihin ay nagmamadali ka na and then you just jump into fights. ‘Pag hindi ka ready sa mga sitwasyon because you are rushing, dahil baka last trip ka na, mahirap ‘yung ganu’n. Ang point is you approach it wisely. Pag-aralan mo sarili mo, pag-aralan mo kalaban mo, dapat tama ang gameplan mo, and then go,” Folayang said.
He added that his trip in the United States has opened opportunities for him and somehow fanned his desire to accomplish more. Just like Pacio, Folayang maintained that the drive is still there. And there is no reason to count him out yet.
“We are still here doing what we love and what we need to improve on,” he explained.
For Pacio, the visits to the Jackson Wink MMA Academy, Kings MMA Anaheim, Cris Cyborg’s Fitness Martial Arts Academy, 10th Planet Oceanside Jiu Jitsu and Training Center and Wild Card Gym were a lot to take in but much appreciated. He was also inspired by the kind words given to him by Cyborg and the rest of the people he met on the trip.
When asked what he will do to remember them all, The Passion – actually he could also pass as The Joker – had a very simple answer.
“Siyempre nag-take notes po ako kasi sa iba’t-ibang gym kasi na napuntahan namin bawal po mag-video. So I need to repeat them everyday. Drills, drills and more drills hanggang sa maging normal na sa katawan ko ang mga ginagawa ko na technique,” he explained.
At 27, Pacio has not yet reached his peak and there is a long way to go in his MMA career. Just like Folayang, he is hoping to get back in the octagon in the last quarter of the year. He is optimistic to get another title shot at ONE soon. He is also open to a rematch with Jared Brooks or a tiff with the no. 1 or no. 2-ranked opponents in his division
While continuing his preparations for another fight, Folayang revealed that he is planning to open his Landslide Martial Arts Training Center in La Trinidad, Benguet. If plans pan out, he said his training center will be ready within this month and will be open to all MMA enthusiasts or to ordinary Filipinos who want to be fit and healthy.
“Para makapagturo rin ang mga kaibigan natin na may alam sa martial arts. They can share the skill sets they have sa mga mahilig sa martial arts,” Folayang added.
On a personal note, I would like to clarify some points to set several matters straight. First, I’m no longer the media officer of the Philippine Azkals. I was only asked to serve in the team as such during the 3rd round of the Asian Cup qualifiers in Ulaanbaatar in Mongolia last June 2022. I was NOT PAID for my services then, simply because I did the job for the love of the team. I’m also not employed by the Philippine Football Federation or the Azkals’ management after the Asian Cup qualifiers. For some people who seem to know everything, and to paraphrase a quote from my favorite football show, please read this, before you flip, ok?
Stay safe. Stay happy peeps!
For comments or questions, you can reach The Designated Kit Man at erel_ca[email protected] or follow his account at Twitter: @erelcabatbat