Philippine Azkals will be heading to a new venue in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) for the joint qualifiers of the 2022 FIFA World Cup and 2023 Asian Cup after China dropped their hosting over coronavirus concerns.

/ 3 June 2021

“The AFC outlined its desire to ensure the safe and successful resumption of the Asian Qualifiers and we are determined to deliver on our plans, keeping in mind the highest health protocols, for the benefit of all our participating teams, players, fans, and key stakeholders,” said AFC General Secretary Dato’ Windsor John.

Initially, the Azkals are to resume their campaign for the qualifiers against Guam on Thursday, however, a new schedule will be released after the last-minute changes in the venue.

The Philippine national football team is currently training in Doha, Qatar and was supposed to take a chartered flight to China on Monday.

According to Azkals team manager Dan Palami, the team will be left undermanned if the games were pushed through in China.

He bared that four among the team officials will be barred from entering China as the two of them came positive of IgM antibodies possibly due to their recent vaccination, and the other two due to a history of being COVID-19 positive last year despite undergoing and passing multiple RT-PCR and IgM antibodies tests.

With the new venue set in Sharjah Stadium in UAE, it will give more time for the team to prepare for their qualifying matches.

“Our priority remains the health and safety of every individual in the team,” Palami said.

“We urge the fans to remain patient as we wait for a fair and reasonable decision on the venue and schedule of our matches,” he added.