BY BONG PEDRALVEZ
GERMAN coach Michael Weiss will continue to handle the Philippine Azkals until at least the AFC Challenge Cup next year, according to national football team manager Dan Palami.
"It would be impractical to change coaches now with the Challenge Cup just three months away," Palami said in yesterday’s PSA forum at the Shakey’s UN Ave.
"There are many variable factors in forming a national team and a coach is one of them," added Palami, pointing out the achievements of the Filipino booters since Weiss, 45, took over at the start of the year.
"Under Weiss, we were able to reach the AFC Challenge Cup for the first time, reach the second round of the World Cup qualifiers and even placed second in the Taiwan Long Teng Cup, where we lost all our matches last year," he said.
He said there were things Weiss had no control, "like players coming in a few days or even a day before a major match so there is the lack of cohesion and chemistry, which is why I am leaving shortly for Europe to talk with the clubs of our players based over there."
These players are Fil-Germans Stefan Schrock, Roland Mueller, Manny Ott, Fil-Danish Jerry Lucena and Dennis Cagara, Fil-Dutch Paul Mulders and regular goalkeeper, Fil-Brit Neil Etheridge, who have all commitments with their respective clubs.
Palami is hoping all seven players would be available for the AFC Challenge Cup starting in Katmandhu, Nepal on March 9 next year and the training camp preceding it.
He said that while they were bracketed in the tougher Group B with past Challenge Cup champions Tajikistan (2006), India (2008) and North Korea (2010), the schedule they were given would enable the European-based players to see action in all three matches.
"We play on March 9, 11 and 13, so they will only miss one game with their respective clubs," Palami said. "This is why I believe we can assemble a very strong team for the Challenge Cup notwithstanding our tough opponents."
To address the issues of teamwork and chemistry, Palami said, the nationals will have a three-week training camp somewhere in the Middle East from Feb. 8-18 before flying to Nepal five days before the tournament to adjust to the possible sub-zero Nepalese weather.
The Azkals will kick off their build-up for the Nepal tournament with a friendly match on Jan. 7 against a Spanish Third Division club and wind up their training with another match on Feb. 29, a date marked as an international friendly date under the FIFA calendar, possibly against Vietnam, New Zealand or Malaysia.
"Once we’ve addressed issues like teamwork, cohesion and conditioning effectively, only then can we consider other factors in forming a good team like coaching," Palami said.
The Azkals are also seeing action in the Suzuki Cup Asean Football Championship in December, having gained an automatic slot due to their semis finish this year.
"Despite some setbacks, it’s been a very successful and active year for Philippine football," said Palami.
"We hope to continue this momentum for us to see the true potential of Philippine football," Palami in the public service program presented by Smart, Pagcor, Outlast Battery and Shakey’s.