27 March 2011

Tough days ahead for Azkals

By Francis Santiago

National coach Hans Michael Weiss said he will need six tuneup matches against club teams in Asia to whip the Philippine Azkals into fighting form for the qualifying tournament for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil that starts this June.

“We will start training beginning of May,” the German coach said yesterday.

The Azkals returned home before dawn yesterday, fresh from their victorious campaign in the Asian Football Confederation Challenge Cup in Myanmar, and Weiss doesn’t want to waste time in mapping out their battle plan for their next important mission.

“Coach Weiss has proposed to have five to six friendly match against club teams,” Philippine Football Federation chief Mariano “Nonong” Araneta said before boarding a flight for Vietnam to attend an AFC conference yesterday.

“That’s the initial plan with my talks with team manager Dan Palami.”

Araneta said Asian countries such as Japan and Korea, and Australia are the possible sites of their training camps.

“As much as possible Asian countries ang gusto namin kasi mas mura doon,” he added.

Azkals co-captain Chieffy Caligdong said they were given by Palami a one month breather before plunging to training for the home-and-away World Cup series.

“Home sweet home. At last nakasama ko na family ko friends and football fans namin. One week ko din di nakausap family ko,” said Caligdong, who along with the other team members landed at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport Terminal 2 on board Philippine Airlines flight PR 733 at 3:50 a.m.

The Azkals’ opponent for the first of six-rounds of the qualifier will be known only during a draw on Wednesday in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

Palami said they are hoping to assemble one of the strongest teams for the qualifier.

“For the World Cup qualifiers, I’m hoping that we will be able to form our Dream Team,” Palami said.

Among possible recruits for qualifier include Fil-German Stephan Schrock, Fil-Danish Dennis Cagara, Toronto-born Jonathan and Julian De Guzman while Filipino-Spanish Angel Guirado, who struck twice in the Filipino’s 3-0 win over Bangladesh in the Challenge Cup group stage last Friday, has made himself available.

The home-and-away series is set June 29 and July 3, and Araneta said the Rizal Memorial football stadium in Manila and the 1 Panaad Stadium in Bacolod City are possible venues for the home game. If the Philippines advances, Round 2 is set July 23 and 28.

Weiss, meanwhile, said he will fly to Germany soon to scout Fil-foreign players for the Philippines’ Under-23 team to the Southeast Asian Games later this year in Jakarta, Indonesia.

For beating Bangladesh Friday, the Azkals earned a slot in the main draw of the Challenge Cup, a tournament for emerging football nations, to be held next year.

Manila Bulletin


  1. The De Guzman brothers? Julian... impossible. Jonathan... probably just like Cagara, won't/not interested to switch to the Philippines.

  2. I dont know what they keep on mentioning De Guzman brothers . Julian is already a Canadian NT player. Julian got 4 options : Netherlands, Canada , Jamaica and Philippines...

  3. Sinong may sabi hindi interested si Cagara. Pumunta nga sa Bacolod para mag practice. May kunting injury pa na ini-inda ang tao.
    Si Julian De Guzman gindi na pwede pero si Jonathan may chance pa (very slim).

  4. You clearly haven't been keeping up then. If Cagara was really interested, he would have made his debut already.

    Cagara going to Bacolod doesn't mean that much. He probably went there out of good faith and just too check out the other players and the setup. Therefore it would give him a better idea if he really wants to play for the Philippines or not.

  5. If Cagara is really that good, I think he would have not even bothered to go to Bacolod. Thing is, he's stocks are down and I dont think he'll be receiving any call up from the Danish national team anytime soon.

    For Jonathan..this guy ditched the Canada for oranje. So his 2nd option is canada, and I dont think he'll be swapping Canada for the Azkals.

    But I hope he does!!!! he can play behind Guirado and Phil!! darn that would be awsome!!

  6. but no problem if not, because Manuel Ott will join the team on the first week of june. He is an excellent midfielder even with the age of 18.

  7. Fil Foreigners United!! lol
    Julian? Not legal.
    Jonathan? Oh yes he's possible, but not until he finally gives up a long long wait for the call of Dutch national team and doesn't find his spot even in Canada or Jamaica either already.
    Cagara? He clearly said that, though he's interested, his dream of playing for Denmark didn't end and he would talk about it later.

    All the PFF has to do (and can do) is just making a proposal and waiting for their answer. That's all. They're good not because they got some fil blood, but becuz they were trained in good circumstance under good coaches. The country didn't do anything to produce them. So just keep the mouth shut until they make decisions themselves.

    BTW, it kinda feels embarrassing that we even need a 18-year-old boy who plays for reserve team under a German 2nd-3rd division club in our senior national team. I mean Manuel Ott. This just shows how our local players suck. It would be a South East Asian version of El Clasico if we face East Timor without these foreign supplies. lol

    OK let me say what i really want to say. Though i know i sound like a hater now, i'm actually grateful to these fil-for players for playing for us and giving us some victories. But we should just consider this as a TRIGGER for our real improvement in this sport. Where do you think these some fil-for players will take us to ? Nowhere. It's just some temporary competitiveness only among SEA or South Asian region. We should concentrate on a long-term plan to establish our own football before it gets cold, rather than sticking to seeking for another foreign recruits. "We make a dream team once we collect every possible Fil-For players" ?? How pathetic it sounds..

    We should not blow this golden opportunity that our fil-for players are giving us.

  8. De Guzman - better for Philippines. In the Netherland, he has no chance, there are too much better players. And if he still hasn't been called by teammangers from Canada and Jamaica - then they wouldn't call him now as well. So better go for the Azkals - almost a 100% quarantee to play then and not warming the bench..........

  9. Cagara is definitely considering joining the Azkals. He said so in an email last December. He did harbor hopes of playing for the Danish national team as he played for their youth teams when he was younger. His main priority however was to find a job after being unemployed since last August(as he was still recovering from a serious injury) which he did recently with Randers where he signed a contract to play for until June. Basically he just postponed his decision to join the Azkals. Hopefully he signs a long term contract before WC qualifying so he can join the team in June. He does have a history of being injury prone so he might not even be available bec. of this.

    Another person who can also play left back like Dennis as well as left mid and central defense(where we need an experienced backup) is Angel's brother Juan Luir Guirado who is tall like his brother at 1.91 m. In his facebook account, he recently listed the Azkals as his favorite team and his brother Angel as his favorite athlete so he seems to be interested. The team should give him a trial to see if he fits in, as he plays in the same level of Spanish football as Angel. He apparently has a sweet left foot who can help provide service from that side of the pitch.

  10. At the moment there's no other option for us. we need the Fil-foreigners. They have done a lot for Philippine football. The brought us back on the map of football and because of them we are no longer the whipping boys of Asia who already lost the match before entering the pitch. Of course we need a long term plan but this needs finally the inauguration of a league with some 2nd and 3rd divisions....but we still need the reinforcements of Fil-Foreigners and for me they are always welcome. See what Singapore did: they just naturalized several players which increased their level a lot.

  11. Actually Canadian management has an open invitation for Jonathan De Guzman to join their team and still keeps in close contact with him in case he changes his mind. The appeal there is the opportunity to play with his brother in a mid level team whose standard continues to improve with realistic chances in the coming years of making the World Cup and who gives financial compensation to their players which we cannot match. Jamaica also has made the World Cup in the past and is fairly competitive in the CONCACAF. It is hard to see what we would have to offer that will entice him to play for us, compared to these teams as well as the Dutch who makes the WC almost every time.

  12. Sammy -

    the rest of the peeps including meself are in denial that's why it's preferable to ignore your most helpful and painfully important observations. Of course you are not hating, na-a. I think you are a true Philippine Football fan! A guardian. But not a lot of peeps in here sympathize with you, with us.

    The "spark" is there, the trigger has been pulled. Long term plans has tp be set in motion while there is good time.

  13. Dennis Cagara news:

  14. Our Filipino blood is a stronger bond than that of of any naturalized player. I think it's better that we have Fil-foreigners to turn to to raise the level of football in the country and that we don't have to resort to naturalizing total foreigners. It's a sound plan, considering our perennial lack of funds.
    It's the fastest way to build a competitive team without having to wait years for a high level league and local players to mature.

    Btw, since we are recruiting Fil-foreigners, why doesn't anybody scout for any Fil-Brazilians or Fil-Argentinians? There are bound to be some. There are Filipinos everywhere around the world. Think about it, an azkal who plays Ronaldinho or Messi -style.

  15. The way people talk about Fil-foreigners is as if we should use them while they are there and when local football improves, then the locals should/will be played. In others, it's as if the Fil-fors will be phased out if/when local football improves.

    It doesn't matter how developed local football will get, at the end of the day, if there is a Fil-foreigner who is a better option than a local player, that player should be brought in and be used. Locals shouldn't be called up for the sake of having locals.

  16. Well,Ive always stated my stand on the Fil foreigners and I continue to think the same way. If they are available, they should play and we ride it as long as it will take us. But to have a truly good football program, we can not rely on them forever. Sooner or later, the PFF has to roll up it sleeves and put the house in order. These arguments will always be the same. We can continue to look for players abroad. However, even our latest and brightest find so far (Aldeguer) is playing in the Spanish 3rd Dvision. Much like the situation of Phil and James and the others before him. If we do find somebody who is decent enough to play in the top leagues, the question will always arise, will he give up the possibility of playing for England, the Netherlands, Spain or what have you to play for the Philippines? Just like this guy Cagara. Maybe if we were not in the "developing country" category and in the top tier of Asian football it would be an easy decision. But right now, there is not much incentive for them to play in this category. I am bound to strike a few nerves again but thats the simple truth. Would you play here, risk injury, playing Bangladesh in the AFC Challenge Cup if you are good enough to play say, in the Premier league and always have the England Manager in the stands watching you play and having a possibility of a call up? Even for the Fil foreigners here who are young enough to go to the next level, how dedicated will they be for the Azkals if they become superstars in the top leagues? I have nothing against Aldeguer or Phil, I believe they are heroes just as much as Chieffy, Araneta and the rest of the boys. Niel is the best player we have arguably as he has a live contract with Fulham. But he will never play for England (which is good for us but I hope you see how bad our situation is). Can we be world class with Aldeguer and Phil leading our attack? In the real world, its these level of players we will attract unless the Philippines develops its own program and can produce from its ranks players in the class of Park Jee Sung and Lee Chung Yon who are good enough to play in the premier league and lead their country to the world cup. If you are a pessimist, you can say, it will never happen. If you are a realist you will say, the only way it can happen is if the Philippine develops its own program. The way I see it, fil foreigners will take us up to this level wherein we are better than some of the teams in South East Asia. It will take something more to make us as good as the better teams in Asia even with the dream team Weiss wants to put together. If this is as good as it gets, i accept it with a heavy heart. As an Azkal fan, you want them to get to that level but cant expect them to do miracles. I thank them for bringing the level up from where it was for decades and elevating the national consciousness that indeed there may be an alternative sport we can excel in. But you ask yourself now..what do we need to do?

  17. very good points, jayman! this bit of comment should be an entryblog instead of here in the backdoor alley. what do you think, johny?

    its the case of "shortcut easy wrongs vs. long and painful hard rights" the way i see it, just to add a bit of bullet line to reinforce jayman's worthy observations.