It took a long time for Iain Ramsay to decide about suiting up for the Philippine Men’s National Football Team but the length of his decision-making process is inversely proportional to the length of his appreciation of becoming one of the Azkals. Quickly emerging as an integral character to Dooley’s squad, the Filipino-Australian winger revealed his delight in representing the Philippines ahead of the huge clash against Uzbekistan tomorrow.
“I told Coach Dooley and [team manager] Dan Palami when I make the decision to play for the Philippines, I’ll be fully committed. I’ve never looked back since. I’ve enjoyed every moment,” the Tractor Sazi midfielder disclosed. So far, his enthusiasm in donning the Azkals’ jersey has been reflected nicely on the field. Ramsay played a big role in steering the Philippines to three straight wins, often providing the much-needed flair and creativity down the flanks. Concerns about team chemistry were brewing when he and three others walked into the squad, but Ramsay thinks that they have gelled really well and the pleasing start is evidence to that.
Currently, the left winger has a goal and an assist to his name in the two matches against Bahrain and Yemen. Whilst enjoying the occasion of scoring a goal for the Philippines, Ramsay insists that it would be fine if he does not find the back of the net for as long as somebody else does. “I just want to do my best I can to help the team and at the end of the day, we’re fighting for the same goal. We don’t really care who scores in the team as long as we do the job, come away with three points to make sure we qualify,” he stressed. Amongst the things he liked so far in his brief but meaningful stint with the Azkals is the overwhelming support of the crowd. “You know, the fans, they make the difference. When they turn out in numbers, they give the team confidence and the extra adrenaline push in the game to ensure that we come away with the victory. I’m hoping they help us again,” Ramsay uttered.
A stern test is on deck for him and the rest of the squad who are bound to host a traditional Asian football powerhouse in Uzbekistan. The Central Asians are currently ranked 75, and have been just a step or two short in earning chances to qualify in previous World Cup Qualifiers. Tomorrow’s match will also go down in the history of Philippine football regardless of the result as it would be the highest-ever opposition the Azkals will face in terms of FIFA rankings. As they aim to nab their fourth win in a row, Ramsay acknowledges the difficulty of toppling the upcoming opposition. “We probably have the hardest coming up against Uzbekistan, a strong outfit. We cannot underestimate them,” he remarked.
Judging by their recent form, many would think that Uzbekistan hasn’t lived up yet to their seeding. After losing against North Korea in their first match, they scraped past Yemen last Thursday in Tashkent. The Azkals, meanwhile, took the scalp of Bahrain and Yemen in convincing fashion. Nonetheless, Uzbekistan possesses the quality to endanger the Philippines’ chances of advancing to the next stage of the qualifiers. Now on the back of a win, the Uzbeks perhaps could get their qualifying campaign running with another positive result at the expense of the Philippines. Dedicated to avoid such scenario, the Azkals are eyeing to claim their fourth win in a row. Ramsay is, of course, no exception. “We’ve got off to a great start and I’ve been very happy to be a part of that and I want to continue this success,” the 26 year-old said. The historic match kicks off tomorrow evening, 8:00 PM, at the Philippine Sports Stadium in Bocaue, Bulacan. —LGT
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