The Philippine Azkals’ pool for the upcoming joint 2022 FIFA World Cup and 2023 AFC Asian Cup qualifying matches in Suzhou, China, next month has just gotten thinner.
1. FC Magdeburg midfielder Raphael Obermair announced that he begged off international duty in a further blow to coach Scott Cooper and his staff.
Unlike fellow Fil-German Gerrit Holtmann, he was able to obtain his Philippine passport. However, the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has forced him to postpone his Azkals debut.
“I was very pleased with the nomination and am immensely grateful that it worked so quickly with my passport, my Filipino citizenship. Especially during this coronavirus pandemic, the Philippine Football Federation has helped me so well,” he told the team’s official website.
“But I have decided to give up this journey now. I wouldn’t be able to travel until May 30th, I couldn’t even get to know the team and the whole team around me. And it is very important to me to get a good insight. In addition, we have had a stressful season in which there was virtually no winter break.”
This development compounds the issues surrounding the attendance of the Azkals as they gear up for the crucial qualifying matches in their training camp in Doha, Qatar.
Reports earlier stated that midfielder John-Patrick Strauss picked up an injury while playing for his team, FC Erzgebirge Aue.
Obermair would have been a welcome addition for the Philippines, which will face the likes of Guam, Maldives, and China. The 25-year-old midfielder’s contributed five goals and six assists in 25 appearances for 1. Magdeburg this season. Nevertheless, he is not closing his doors on an eventual debut for the Azkals.
“I’m very proud, even if it’s a small country in terms of football. But I keep hearing that the national team is very important in the Philippines. I am also told very often when I will be playing for the national team. My mother is also really looking forward to seeing me in this special jersey,” said the 6-ft-0 footballer.
“In any case, I would be happy if the next international trip works out, hopefully this year.”