“This is the worst thing that can happen to a team.”
That was how Philippine national men’s football team coach Thomas Dooley summed up the latest controversy that hit the Azkals after some of their star players decided not to play for the squad until he is taking over the sidelines.
Azkals stars Stephan Schrock and Dennis Cagara announced on social media last Monday that they have left the team and won’t wear the national team jersey again until Dooley is at the helm.
Goalkeeper Neil Etheridge also blasted the team on Twitter after not being included in the training pool for the Philippine Football Peace Cup in September.
Dooley called what the players did as “unacceptable, unprofessional and selfish.”
“I’m sad that this situation has happened and look the work we did so far and you have three players who are selfish and putting themselves in front of everything, making everything bad, making stories,” Dooley said. “What (the players) did is unacceptable, unprofessional, and selfish.”
Schrock’s ‘a liar’
Dooley took shots at the three players, especially Schrock, whose feud with him started when the coach decided not to start the Filipino-German in the Asian Football Confederation Challenge Cup last May.
Dooley recounted that Schrock was already hurt prior to the semifinals match against Maldives, and told the player that he won’t play in the game to rest his injury.
But Schrock didn’t like Dooley’s decision, the coach said, despite subbing in eventually in the game which they won.
“Stephan said something, he’s a liar too,” Dooley said. “Obviously he’s not happy (with the playing time). He’s pissed off.”
Dooley also questioned the work ethic and playing abilities of Schrock, who is considered as one of the most talented players in the squad.
“He’s not the best player. He can only play two positions. He can only play center-froward and maybe number 10. All the other positions that he plays, you have to be tactically good. But he is limited in tactics, that’s why (he’s now out of) Bundesliga because of his lack of tactics,” Dooley said.
Dooley also recalled one incident involving Schrock which the coach said was “disrespectful.”
“It’s an honor whenever you represent your country and represent your team. That’s what you have to do, that’s why you in the first place wear this jersey, to represent this country. Now you’re sitting on the lobby, shirtless, smoking with a cigarette with all the team and the fans there. Who wants to be involved in that? That’s unprofessional, no respect at all. That pissed me off so much too,” Dooley said.
Not enough playing time for Cagara, Etheridge
Dooley said that Cagara also had rumblings about his playing time. During the Challenge Cup, younger defenders such as Amani Aguinaldo and Daisuke Sato played more meaningful minutes than Cagara, who had to leave the in the middle of the tournament because of his club commitments.
Dooley said that he assured Cagara that his future stint with the Azkals won’t be affected because of his early exit, but the coach also didn’t guarantee him a spot in the next tournaments.
“Does it affect his future with the national team? No way. But that doesn’t mean that he will be included in the Peace Cup,” Dooley said. “I never said that you can join the next tournament.”
Dooley was also critical of Etheridge, whom he said has yet to gain playing experience to become the team’s top goalkeeper.
“How many games did he play? Three? That’s a lot,” Dooley said, adding that he talked to Etheridge’s coach who said that the Filipino-English keeper would need to play at least 60 games in a season to become experienced.
“Neil is talking disrespect on my end. I think it is also disrespectful for him to use social media (to air out his displeasure),” Dooley said.
Etheridge only played in one match in the Challenge Cup before being replaced by Roland Mueller for the rest of the tournament.
No guaranteed spot
Dooley stressed that the foreign-based members of the national team are not guaranteed to be included to the team in their future matches, and every player should earn their spots in the lineup.
“There is no guarantee for playing for the national team because you’re playing overseas,” Dooley said. “It’s a competition, everybody will have a chance to play.”
He also saw “no sense” of bringing in the players based from Europe if they will just end up sitting on the bench due to injury, or if some local player happens to outplay them.
“Do we have to spend thousands of dollars for him not to play? That doesn’t make sense,” Dooley said.
Despite the controversy, Dooley said that this won’t affect the Azkals’ preparations for their upcoming tournaments this year.
“Not at all, It won’t affect at all. It doesn’t mean anything,” Dooley said.