WITH no international friendly lined up before they kick off their 2018 World Cup qualifiers, the Azkals made do with a modified friendly with a foreign-laced UFL All-

Stars squad last Saturday at the Philippine Sports Stadium.

Playing three 30-minute halves to give the whole squad a chance to take part, the Azkals took apart the UFL selection, 7-1, with Javier Patiño scoring two and Iaian Ramsay, Kevin Ingreso, Misagh Bahadoran, Stephan Schrock and Mark Hartmann getting one each.

With the back ground of all the players coming in--plus the four new faces--there’s no question we will have a team of A-players, the only question of course is would we have our best team?

It was just a glorified scrimmage, but that 7-1 win bodes well for the squad and with a team that has Patiño, Ramsay, Schrock and Phil Younghusband, the country’s top scorer in international football, you can’t help but ask, “Who will be our primary scoring option and who plays what position?”

Of course, these are questions that could have been answered months ago, with a couple of friendlies but this is part of the price we pay for having a team like this, a collection of the best Filipino players abroad. We have guys from Germany, England and Australia and Javier Patino is from Spain but is playing in China. Just like how some of the friends or your relatives you grew up with are now all over the world plying their trade.

They’re here, now. Playing for the Philippines. Our best hope for achieving this crazy dream of qualifying for the World Cup. The moment we started looking abroad for players, fans all over the world started asking this question, “What can happen if we manage to get all the best Filipino players in one team?”

That 7-1 win against the UFL All-Star was just a teaser, now we wait three more days to find the answer.

As to the doubts that the guys raised abroad won’t have the same passion for the flag as those raised here, Rob Gier, the captain who sometimes plays as if he’s willing to break a leg for the flag, cleared it up.

He told football.com.ph, “This is (our) national team. Every time you put on the shirt you have to reliaze you’re representing the 100-plus million people in the country. If that’s not motivation enough for you do your best, you’re not really playing the game.”

GOING LOCAL. After failed partnerships with Mizuno and Puma, the Philippine Football Federation has teamed up with LGR to make the new kits. It may not be a big deal to some but we are slowly getting to a point, like in other countries, where the unveiling of new kits is a big thing.

We had that last week and so far, the reaction has been positive. It helps, perhaps, that LGR is a Filipino company and recognizes the needs of the team.

Mizuno and Puma only provided uniforms, LGR recognizes that being kit provider means more than providing uniforms, but giving fans that connection to the team.

LGR has changed the local pro scene. Before, I’ve always wondered why the uniforms of the PBA teams are no better than the uniforms of teams who play in the barangay leagues. When LGR stepped in, that changed.

Now, I also hope LGR changes the fan experience with Philippine football.