(UPDATE 2) MANILA---The powerful earthquake that struck most of Japan on Friday spared the city of Gotemba, where the Philippine football team is training for the second leg of its AFC Challenge Cup showdown with Mongolia in Ulan Bator next week.
Several members of the team yesterday gave assurances that the contingent of 24 players, coaches and team staff were safe in Gotemba, a city at the foot of Mount Fuji, three hours away from the Japanese capital Tokyo.
The Azkals had actually just finished a scrimmage against Kanto Gakuin University when the earthquake, measuring 8.9 on the Richter Scale, rocked Japan.
Minus several key players, the Azkals again lost to Kanto U in lopsided fashion, 1-8, in their final tuneup before leaving for Mongolia Saturday night.
‘Dizzy from the game’
“We just finished playing when the quake hit,” said skipper Aly Borromeo on his Twitter account. “We thought we were all dizzy from the game.”
Borromeo added: “Our thoughts and prayers go out to the locals in Japan. Don’t worry about the team. We are all safe over here.”
“The team is all right here,” said defender Anton del Rosario. “It’s very bad out here. Flooding everywhere, but we’re far from it.”
“The Azkals are safe,” assured Azkals team manager Dan Palami, who arrived from Japan on Wednesday after observing their training for three days. “[They] felt the tremors, but otherwise [they’re] okay.”
Palami, however, expressed concern over the status of the flight of the Azkals to Ulan Bator tonight since the Narita Airport near Tokyo remained closed.
Philippine Football Federation president Mariano “Nonong” Araneta also said the PFF was still tracing the whereabouts of United States-based Simon Greatwich, who was scheduled to arrive at Narita Airport yesterday. The flight of another US-based player, Jason Sabio, arrived after the quake.
Looking for Greatwich
Greatwich was in a United Airlines flight from Houston which was scheduled to arrive in Tokyo at 2:30 p.m. Friday. Araneta said Greatwich’s flight could still be airborne or have been diverted to Osaka Airport.
Sabio’s Japan Airlines flight from Chicago reportedly arrived in Tokyo after the earthquake struck.
“Sabio is in Tokyo, but we have not gotten in touch with him yet,” said Araneta.