Jefferson Tabinas

A key part of the Philippine Azkals has been ruled out of their AFF Suzuki Cup 2020 campaign which starts Wednesday, Dec. 7 against host Singapore.

Coach Stewart Hall confirmed that defender Jefferson Tabinas won’t make it to the Lion City due to travel restrictions in Japan.

Japan, where Tabinas is based and plays for J2 League side Mito Hollyhock, recently imposed stricter guidelines after reporting its first case of the Omicron variant.

“He’s not coming at all,” said Hall in the pre-match press conference. “There’s obviously problems in the Japan end and he’s not coming.”

Hall also said that two players won’t make it in time for the Philippines’ opening assignment at Singapore’s National Stadium.

Veteran midfielder Iain Ramsay and debuting Jesper Nyholm are expected to be with the Azkals in time for their Dec. 11 match against Timor-Leste.

Tabinas made a strong impression playing the role of center back during his Azkals debut in the World Cup/Asian Cup Qualifiers in Dubai last June.

His absence is a setback for the team that dealt with the absence of some prominent names due to various reasons.

But Hall challenged those in the Lion City to take advantage of the situation.

“That’s no problem for us,” he said. “I mean, if I give you the stats, we’re about 27 players short of what we would consider to be our strongest squad.

“So you can be disrespectful to the players here and say that this is a C-squad, or you can say to the players here, it’s a fantastic opportunity for everybody so go out and take it, maximize the chances the chances that you’re going to get and that’s the way I look at it,” added Hall.

Amani Aguinaldo, set for his fourth Suzuki Cup, Mar Diano and Christian Rontini will be tasked to step up in back for the Philippine side.

Source: Manila Bulletin (