KNOWING your team, passion for a common goal, practice and pressure.
These were the four ingredients Philippine Azkals team manager Dan Palami said they needed that catapulted the national team from being whipping boys of Asia to the dark horses as he talked about building champions during the LH Leadership Conference at the Oakridge Pavillion yesterday.
"The Azkals started at the lower ranks until we had this winning mentality within us that helped us move forward," said Palami.
From the surprise semifinal appearance in the 2010 Suzuki Cup in Vietnam, the Azkals had gone a long way. Aside from putting football in the consciousness of many Filipinos, it has finished third in the AFC Challenge Cup.
"But before our overnight success in Vietnam, we practiced. And we practiced hard," he said.
Palami was joined by Chieffy Caligdong, Eduard Sacapaño, Paolo Pascual, Marwin and Marvin Angeles and Misagh Bahadoran.
The other guests were Dyan Castillejo who talked about the heart of the champion, and couple Paolo and Suzie Abrera, who talked about raising champions.
"We may not play like the Germany or Spain but we suit up to a different style," said Palami.
From ranking ninth in the Southeast Asian countries, the Philippines moved to third place and in Asian rankings, from 34th it now enjoys the 22nd position.
"These are just baby steps but towards the right direction," said Palami.
As they gear up to a new challenge on the Suzuki Cup this November, they used the pressure from the people's expectations as motivation to perform better.
"From being a nobody, we are now treated as the surprise team and even the favorite one. We would rather have this pressure than having nothing at all," said Palami.
Palami added that with the hard work and sacrifices, the Azkals will be poised for greater things.
“We are not just some poster boys like other people think, we train hard, twice a day.
It’s a tough job to be part of the team,” said Pascual.
Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on July 28, 2012.