Azkals’ skipper sounds battle cry
Philippines captain Phil Younghusband has issued a rallying call to fans ahead of the Azkals’ home campaign in this month’s AFF Suzuki Cup.
Younghusband, who will be playing in his fourth AFF Suzuki Cup, said that a capacity crowd at the Philippine Sports Stadium would help the team make home advantage count.
“It will be very important (having home field advantage at the Philippine Sports Stadium). Obviously, we will be very familiar with the pitch having played our World Cup (Russia 2018) Qualifying games there and it would mean something if we could get more people in the stadium,” said Younghusband, the country’s top international scorer with 42 goals.
“As a player, as a coach and as a member of the staff, it is important that we have people in the stadium to give us the support that we need. When you are down, when you need confidence, when you need a bit of adrenaline, that is what the crowd can do for you, they can be a 12th man so it is important that we are able to have a good turnout in the games.
“I will be disappointed if we do not get a lot of people in the stadium, but it would mean a lot to have people there.
“We saw in Rizal (Memorial Stadium), playing against Thailand (in the semi-finals in 2014) and we got a 0-0 draw and we played Thailand in Rajamangala in front of 60,000 fans a few days later, and we saw what it (the crowd) did for them.
“That spurred them on. It boosted them and that gave them the edge ahead of us so it will be important that we make home advantage count. It would mean a lot more if we do it (in front of a) sold-out crowd.”
Philippines will play four-time winners Singapore (November 19), Indonesia (November 22) and titleholders Thailand (November 25) in Group A at the Philippine Sports Stadium, north of Manila.
Younghusband said that the AFF Suzuki Cup had fired interest in football in the Philippines with the Azkals having reached the semi-finals at the last three editions.
“I think we can safely say that we owe a lot to the AFF Suzuki Cup for bringing football interest and passion to the Philippines, because without the AFF Suzuki Cup in 2010 (when the team reached the semis for the first time), football would not be where it is today, the Azkals would not be where they are today,” he said.
“Without the competition and the success we had there I do not think some of us would be where we are now. We owe a lot (to the tournament) personally and as a team and as a country so we are very thankful for the opportunities brought by the AFF Suzuki Cups (that we have played in).”