As he continues to prepare the Philippine Azkals, the men’s national football team of the country, for the upcoming Asian and World Cup qualifiers in November, head coach Michael Weiss says there is another aspect that the team has to improve further to bolster their chances against powerhouse teams such as Vietnam and Indonesia.
Weiss said right now, the team is promising with several younglings set to step up as the squad, just like almost everything, keeps on evolving for the better. He also said that the veteran members of the team are also doing their share in helping the team transition in the light of challenges posed by the tough competition. He said that the tools are there, but the team can be much better if the Azkals can also develop a different set of mindset once they are on the pitch, whether in a tune-up game or in an actual tournament.
“We should work on our aggressiveness, I would say some kind of brutality because our opponents are not soft. They defend with everything they have, sometimes with unfair means. So we also have to be a little bit more not so friendly and I will demand that from the Azkals in the next camp,” Weiss explained.
The Azkals are set to put up a camp for nine days in Bahrain for a couple of friendlies on October 12 and tentatively on the 14th. Weiss said these games will help the team find the ruthlessness they need against stronger and bigger teams.
“We have all the technical and tactical offensive strategies in our portfolio. So we have to fine tune them and more. It comes with one more camp and more time playing together,” Weiss said.
While he is not disclosing the possibility of new Azkals being added to the camp and eventually in the November qualifiers, Weiss said that it may no longer be feasible to make abrupt changes in the team right now. He, however, made it clear that he is still hoping that those who are in his “wish list” will eventually show up. He reiterated once more that players, who are committed to the team will always be his priority compared to the best players out there but have not made themselves available during the camps.
“We can’t do things overnight and bring in new and young players and then think it will work immediately with the results. We have to find a good balance and take our time. We need, however, to speed it up as much as we can,” Weiss added.
In a list given to The Designated Kit Man by some rabid Azkals fans, who also serve as de-facto scouts for the team, close to a hundred players based in different countries were identified, including their positions, age and club they are currently connected to right now.
Several of these potential and future Azkals are just 15 year olds. The youngest is 13, while two are 14 years old. Most on the list are in their late teens and early 20s. The oldest is 30, and he is the only one in his 30s in the list. The list has been forwarded to Weiss and the management team of the Azkals.
Filipino football icon Stephan Schrock, who serves as consultant and adviser on the team, said that among his duties for the Azkals include identifying prospects and recruiting players to play for flag and country. He revealed that he is monitoring at least 50 players right now. The problem, however, is that inviting the players to come to Manila and play for the Philippines is the easy part. For them to get the necessary documents to allow them to play for the team is among the bigger challenges in forming a strong Azkals team.
“It is not just a snap of the finger because they have a Filipino mom, dad or a grandparent. The main issue is that the parents gave up their (Philippine) passports and it is pretty hard to get back their citizenship or to give up their current ones,” Schrock said. “It makes sense for them, it also makes sense for us. But there are many conditions to consider. And there must be a commitment.”
Schrock was also candid in sharing that funding, too, plays a major part in the recruitment process.
“Funding is a big part of the game in every direction not only for the camps but throughout the year. Working with the Azkals is a full time job, not just a Monday to Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. something. Funding needs to be everywhere, not just for passports and documentation,” he added.
Incidentally, Schrock made his Azkals’ debut for Weiss more than a decade ago. Despite several differences in the past, the two are now inseparable in making sure that the Azkals will have a strong and fighting squad come November.
With less than two months before they play the games that matter most, here is hoping that the Azkals will get their acts together. The process is not easy, the prospect of tangling toe-to-toe with our rivals remains as daunting as ever and with so many parts still missing and wanting, but then again, when was the last time life was easy for the national team? At least the goal remains the same, and there are people who never let go of their faith on the team. And for this the Azkals need our support, as always, especially on the home games on November 15 and 21 at the Rizal Memorial Stadium.
On a personal note, please tune in at 3PTS–Pambansang Tambayan ng Sports aired live over DZME 1530 Khz this coming Sunday, October 1, 2023 from 2 to 3 p.m. GM Jayson Gonzales will give us an update via zoom on the current campaign of the national men’s and women’s chess teams in the ongoing 19th Asian Games in Hangzhou, China.
Legendary basketball coach Joe Lipa, on the other hand, will join us live in the studio. Please join me, Chino Trinidad and possibly Cong. Butch Pichay in our favorite tambayan.
Stay safe. Stay happy peeps!
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