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Bacolod City, Philippines Saturday, January 29, 2011
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Fans trail practicing RP Azkals

Since they arrived in Negros Occidental on Wednesday for their training in preparation for their game on Feb. 9 against Mongolia in the AFC Challenge Cup, the Philippine men’s football team members, the Azkals, have been followed everywhere they go by a crowd, mostly of females, wanting autographs and to take pictures.

It was the same excitement that met them yesterday at the University of Negros Occidental-Recoletos, where the team had their afternoon practice.

With 30 university security personnel deployed to secure the football field, the Azkals had their practice amidst the screaming crowd of students, from grade schoolers to college coeds, who trooped to the pitch to watch the team.

But instead of getting distracted, the Azkals focused on their practice and were able to execute the moves their new German coach, Michael Weiss, gave them.

Weiss said he considers the presence of the crowd more encouraging than disturbing.

“We’re happy to see these boys and girls watching the practice. Very encouraging...but of course some of kind of discipline needs to be observed,” Weiss said.

Moving away from Manila, he said, is very good for the team since they were able to save time and experience less stress from driving for more than an hour to and back from where they practice.

“Here in Bacolod, we get to the venue in less than 15 minutes. This is better, much better,” Weiss, who also had his share of football fans asking for his autograph and having their pictures taken with him, added.

The Azkals’ coach also confirmed two friendly games for the team against a selection of players on Monday and Thursday next week.

He said they will probably play the Monday game at the UNO-R pitch and the Thursday match-up at the Panaad Stadium.

Being with the Azkals for only two weeks, Weiss said he finds the players to be very disciplined.

While they still have to develop further their game, he said they have enough time to prepare for the game against Mongolia and he is looking forward to having the Fil-foreigner players joining the team soon.

“We will beat Mongolia. That is a sure thing,” Weiss said.*NAB

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