Azkals battle LA Galaxy in friendly match today
MANILA, Philippines - The Philippine Azkals and the Los Angeles Galaxy will play in an exhibition match at the Rizal Memorial Stadium today.
It will be the last game of the year for the Azkals -- a fitting end to a year that saw a rise in the popularity of football in the Philippines.
The LA Galaxy, meanwhile, are coming off a successful season that saw them win the 2011 Major League Soccer Cup.
They will be bannered by superstars David Beckham, Landon Donovan and Robbie Keane.
The Azkals will be led by homegrown players Chieffy Caligdong, Ian Araneta, Edward Sacapano, and Phil and James Younghusband.
The Philippines will be missing the services of Europe-based players who still have commitments to their professional football clubs.
They include goalkeepers Neil Etheridge and Roland Muller, as well as midfielder Stephan Schrock.
The Philippines is the Galaxy's second stop in their 2011 Asia-Pacific Tour.
They won 1-0 in their first game against a selection from the Indonesia national team.
Galaxy players arrived in Manila Thursday afternoon.
Aside from playing in the friendly, LA Galaxy also held a football clinic for kids and had a practice session at the Rizal Memorial Stadium on Friday.
At least 200 kids joined the clinic.
Galaxy players led by Beckham showed children passing and dribbling techniques.
Beckham enjoyed himself, frequently giving the kids high-fives and engaging them in conversation.
"The children out here today are incredible... it's amazing hoe positive the energy the children have. they're so happy," said Beckham.
Galaxy players proceeded with their own training after the football clinic.
For the Azkals, the exhibition game will be a chance to play against their idols, but they maintain they will be professional during the game.
"Pagkatapos ng game, pwedeng magpa-autograph, magpa-picture. During the game, kailangan professional," said striker Phil Younghusband.
Caligdong is looking forward to finding himself matched against Beckham, and says he hopes to learn a lot from the experience.
"Malaking challenge para sa amin. Maraming matututunan mula sa team ng Galaxy, especially David Beckham," he said.
Azkals team manager Dan Palami is hoping that the PH XI will be able to give the MLS Cup champions a tough test.
"Hopefully for the Team Azkals, we give them a good fight, para yung ibang teams, they will want to play against us kasi they will get a good session," Palami said.
Europe-based Azkals Rob Gier and Ray Jonsson arrived in Manila late Wednesday evening, and both said they were excited to face the LA Galaxy.
"It's just an unbelievable opportunity," Gier said. "If you told me a few months ago that we would be playing against David Beckham here in Manila, I would've laughed at you," Gier said.
Jonsson said that a win was possible, "if we play good defense."
The Azkals head coach Michael Weiss urged Filipino football fans to fill the stadium and cheer during the match.
"I hope they will come in masses. I hope the stadium will be sold out," Weiss said.
The ticket prices for the Azkals-LA Galaxy exhibition game range from P2,000-P15,000.
The United Football League (UFL) has offered fans a 35% discounts on all tickets.
People who still want to buy tickets to the game need to give the code #6987 when buying at Ticketworld outlets. The discount is not available when buying online. -- With reports from Dyan Castillejo and Raffy Santos, ABS-CBN News