An under-strength Philippines Under-23 side recently managed to restrict their Singapore counterparts to only a 1-0 win in a friendly, where there were glimpses of how far football has progressed in the basketball-mad nation.
Captain Mark Hartmann had told Goal Singapore after the game that he is looking forward to their participation in the upcoming SEA Games at the end of the year, but it is still unclear whether the U23 side will be boarding the plane to Myanmar.
“There has been two years of development in Philippines since the last SEA Games,” Hartmann said.
“I feel we are better prepared and are stronger now and we will be more of a threat this time compared to the last time out.
“The United Football League is definitely garnering more support and football is growing in the country and hopefully we can translate that to the U23 team and show the region what we are capable of.”
The Philippine Sports Commission (PSC) has recently revealed that they are not keen on sending the football team to the biennial tournament as they "can’t guarantee a gold and a silver".
Previously, the Philippines Football Federation (PFF) had planned to send the men’s, women’s and futsal squads for the SEA Games.
Team manager Dan Palami is adamant that Philippines football should be represented as the teams will be funded by private entities and not the government. PFF secretary general Ed Gastanes has also come out publicly and voiced his support for the nation's football teams to compete.
“Our U23 is fairly strong; it is stronger than the team two years ago," Gastanes told the Asean Football Federation (AFF) website.
"We have at least seven Azkals national team players and we have good additions. We even formed the nucleus of the team earlier than usual six months before competition, which gives them enough time to prepare.
“The women’s team made a good showing in the Asian Cup qualifiers, losing only to Thailand in a very close game 1-0, and beating Iran, a strong women’s team, 6-0. They are ranked 76th in the world now and 34th in Asia.”
This year's SEA Games will take place in Myanmar from December 11 to 22, with the football competition starting earlier. In the 2011 edition, Philippines finished last in their sox-team group with Malaysia the eventual victors.