Friday, March 22, 2013THE Philippine Football Federation (PFF) has confirmed that Brunei have pulled out of the AFC Challenge Cup Qualifiers yesterday.
It was reported by GMA News Online that the PFF was only notified by the National Football Association of Brunei Darussalam (NFABD) through the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) match commissioners at noon yesterday.
The Ministry of Culture, Youth and Sports had confirmed with The Brunei Times on Tuesday that the Sultanate will not be at the four-team tournament citing 'unavoidable circumstances'.
The withdrawal of the Wasps was a disappointment and a surprise to everyone.
"They even asked for early arrival and the Philippines as hosts obliged and made arrangements," Atty Edwin Gatanes, PFF General Secretary, was quoted as saying.
"It's not what we wanted to happen. They have not explained to us why they took that decision," added Ebong Joson, spokesman for the PFF.
Michael Weiss, the national coach of the Philippines football team, said he could not understand the situation which would force Brunei a 'serious football nation' to pull out just one day before kickoff.
"(Their withdrawal) affects more than just our group, we can only shake our heads," said Weiss.
The other two teams Cambodia and Turkmenistan are unfazed by the withdrawal of Brunei.
They remain focused on their aim which is to qualify for the tournament proper in Maldives next year.
Cambodia head coach Prak Sovannara felt that Brunei's withdrawal does not affect their preparation while Turkmenistan's coach Yazguly Hojageldyyew said that they are just focused on their target to qualify.
Brunei were suppose to open their campaign today against the hosts in Group E action at the Rizal Memorial Stadium.
The Azkals now have two extra days to prepare for their first game against Cambodia on Sunday followed by Turkmenistan two days later.
"That is two extra days for our Europe-based players to adjust to the heat," added Weiss.
Turkmenistan are favourites to top the group having been in the final of the AFC Challenge Cup twice before.
They have had months of training in preparations for the qualifiers as opposed to the Philippines, who have only had five to six days of training together along with a couple of mini camps in the past month.
A total of 19 teams excluding Brunei are separated into five groups vying for eight slots in Maldives.
The group winners and top two second-place finishers together with the hosts will fight for top honours.
The Brunei Times