The Philippine Under 14 football team known as the Little Azkals will have their hands full today as they begin their campaign in the Japan-East Asean Football Exchange Programme U-14 Youth Football Festival against Brunei Darussalam and Indonesia in Osaka, Japan.
All matches will be held at the J-Green Sakai, the Sakai Soccer National Training Center, a 35-hectare football village where teams are billeted.
The football village boast of five natural grass soccer fields, nine artificial turf fields, eight artificial turf fields for futsal, a clubhouse, locker room buildings, center square, sports square and a walking and cycling course.
Team manager Richard Montayre said the team is well taken cared of. They were met by a liaison officer and was taken by a bus to the venue, which was about 30 minutes away from the Kansai International Airport.
This event is patterned after the Japan-East Asia Network for Exchange of Students and Youths.
In 2009, U-15 football players from Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Vietnam and Thailand were invited to go to Japan. This time, invited for the youth programme aside from the Philippines and Brunei Darussalam are Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore.
The programme is aimed at promoting friendly exchange and mutual understanding between the Japanese youth and Asean youth.
Aside from the matches, all participants will be made to undergo an education scheme tagged as the Kokoro Project and watch matches of the J-League, Japan’s professional football league.
The tournament will follow a league match system with each participating team having five matches. Each game will have 25-minute halves with no extra time and penalty shootouts.
Brunei also saw action in the recently-held Asian Football Federation (AFC) U-14 Festival of Football 2012 in Kota Kinabalu but was not able to play against the Little Azkals because of the way the festival was formatted.
The Little Azkals had a better win-draw-loss record of 3-2-4 while Brunei managed a 1-1-7 record.