No Azkals, Malditas in SEA Games

MANILA, Philippines -- Philippine football suffered a major blow on Thursday, June 27, after the Philippine Olympic Committee (POC) and the Philippine Sports Commission (PSC) ruled out the country's participation in the football and futsal events in the upcoming Southeast Asian Games in Myanmar.

The decision was based on POC president Jose "Peping" Cojuangco Jr. and PSC chairman Richie Garcia's strict regulation to only allow athletes who earned medals in previous editions of the SEA Games to participate. 

From around 200 athletes, the proposed delegation has been cut down to 130 in the hope of giving the country a podium finish.

Included in the athletes left out were players from under-23 men's national football team and the Philippine women's national football team, known as the Malditas. Futsal national teams -- both men and women -- were also dropped.

In the official Twitter account of the Philippine football team, @PHI_Azkals, participation will only be open for potential gold medal performers.

In the last edition of the SEA Games in Indonesia in 2011, the Philippine U-23 men's football squad failed to squeak past the group stage, finishing at the bottom of their table.

The solitary win of the national booters came at the expense of Laos, 3-2, thanks to two late goals from standout striker Joshua Beloya.

Clamor for the participation of the Philippine Malditas was also gaining ground given the women's squad recent brilliant performances in the AFC Women's Asian Cup Qualifiers, where they finished second behind powerhouse Thailand.

Part of the U-23 group are Azkals Joshua Beloya, OJ Porteria, Matthew Uy, Jason de Jong and United Football League (UFL) stars Mark Hartmann and Angelo Marasigan, among others.

The 130 delegates remaining in the national pool bound for Myanmar this December will be participating in around 20 of the 33 sports of the biennial tournament. -