Someone asked me how my blog and newspaper column came to be titled "Bleachers Brew". It's like this, it's an amalgam of sorts of two things: The bleachers area in the stadium/arena where I used to sit when I would watch baseball, football, and basketball games and Miles Davis' great jazz album Bitches Brew. That's how it got culled together. I originally planned on calling it "The View from the Big Chair" that is a nod to Tears For Fear's second album, Songs from the Big Chair. So there.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Philippine football: Change. Again?

Eckard Krautzun, former Philippine National Coach offers inputs on Philippine football. PFF President Mariano V. Araneta is to his right.
This appears in

Change. Again?

by rick olivares

The French have this saying: “Plus ca change, plus c’est la meme chose”. In English: “the more things change, the more they stay the same”.

Last Thursday afternoon (November 24), I listened to German football official Eckard Krautzun's findings on what ails Philippine football and where it needs to be helped. Unfortunately, I came away disappointed. And they called a press conference for this?

With all due respect to Mr. Krautzun who coached the national team to a fourth place in the 1991 Southeast Asian Games, there is nothing new from what he said – how we need to have more fields, more equipment, more support, a grassroots program etc. I, along with every other football official have heard this before – in the Bernhard Zgoll report of 1978 as well as the Asian Football Confederation commissioned Vision Asia Report of 2008. I have heard that in a couple of PFF Congresses and seminars with local football officials (some of the current PFF officials were even around to assist the AFC in the Vision Asia fact finding in 2008). Unless there is collective amnesia from these same officials then this is déjà vu all over again.

And why does it take a foreign adviser for people to listen when all the local football officials have been reciting the litany of the same problems for years. This reminds me of how for years we have complained about the Ninoy Aquino International Airport and only when it is named the world’s worst airport that something is finally done about it. This is so mollifying.

Maybe you will argue that 2011 is different from 2008.

Sure it is. There are more sponsors now, more foreign support (the Japanese, Germans etc.), and there are people in the stands. Perhaps the best development is a positive feeling about the growth of football.

Then again. In some respect, it isn’t when you consider the disastrous stint of the Under-23 national squad in the 26th Sea Games in Jakarta, Indonesia. That team had better financial or fan support. Have we not learned anything from the past?

It was 2004 when the FBOC program of Aris Caslib, the current PFF Technical Director, was put in place. That call for the short-term augmentation of the national team by “Filipinos Based Outside the Country” or "FBOC" (a euphemism for Fil-foreigners) with the expectancy that the grassroots program will produce top-caliber players in the years to come. Even then, we had the same problems – players arriving late to camp, no chemistry, and the locals were displaced at the expense of some not so good players.

Seven years later, nothing has changed. Not even the preparation. And the homegrown talents are a shrinking cast! What's up with that and what went on during the football tournament of the 26th Southeast Asian Games?

In the senior squad, there is only one homegrown talent in the starting eleven. In the U-23, how many started – one, two, three maybe? The FBOCs arrive days before the tournament displacing the locals who have been training with the team. The locals gave up stints in the University Games to train with the national team. One even chose not to play with a UFL team to concentrate on the national squad. Now was the quality of the FBOCs better than the locals? A few. Then chemistry is non-existent.

And when forming a national team – please do not insult the locals by saying that they are inferior to the FBOCs. And some of them use the term “Filipino” as if it were pejorative. “Don’t be Filipino,” a few said. And please, when handing out the captainship, give it to the most deserving player rather than someone who does not command the respect of the team.

The Under-23 National Cup was disregarded. Who from the national team scouted that? No one. Maybe you can grant it that an assistant coach went to watch one half of a match. One half.

In the aforementioned press conference, I asked Krautzun and national head coach Michael Weiss if they thought that management and coaching of the senior and U-23 as well as the other age-group teams should be under one aegis. Krautzun first related how in Germany it is a problem when the senior squad’s Joachim Low has a different philosophy from U-21 coach Rainier Adrion and how it’s the same when you go down the other age-levels.

Yet it was Eckard’s belief that both the senior and U-23 teams should be under one coach/management while the others should be under another but all following the philosophy and blueprint mapped out by the PFF’s football program director.

I’m still scratching my head about that. They’re fractious in Germany’s FA yet they will be helping us in our grassroots program and telling us to be unlike them in structure.

And when I asked if they wanted to imprint a “German style of play” and if so what that was (for the benefit of those who do not understand the technical aspect), I got a vague answer. “Develop a Philippine-style of play,” said Weiss.

If there has been anything revolutionary about football in the last 60 years one of them has been the creation of the 4-4-2 formation that quickly replaced the “WM” formation. The other is the “total football” espoused by the Dutch.

Whether generic European or the current Spanish or German style of play, it has taken influences from Argentinean club River Plate’s 1950s teams to English manager Jack Reynolds to Ajax Amsterdam and Netherlands coach Rinus Michaels to ultimately Johan Cruyff who helped develop FC Barcelona’s La Masia Academy that has produced players like Andres Iniesta, Gerard Pique, and Francesc Fabregas to name a few. In short, modern football can be distilled into all-around efficiency and technical ability with as little wastage in its passing and movement. And any “Philippine-style of play” will resemble this.

For years Germany’s still of play was derided as sterile and boring until the 2006 World Cup when then head coach Jurgen Klinsmann opted for a more dynamic attack that successor Joachim Low has refined. And to Michael Weiss’ (as well as predecessors Desmond Bulpin and Simon McMenemy) credit, he has tried to install a more attacking system to the Azkals that for the most part has been successful.

The long ball that many deride is still played but not as a rule. I think even before the national team gained massive popularity following the successful 2010 Suzuki Cup, the quality of local football players has increased. That was because of a long and arduous process that began during the time of Andres Soriano Jr. as PFF President. From there, we’ve seen influx of foreign coaches and players as well as the overseas training local coaches and players. We’ve seen a change in tactics where there’s a more ground-based style of play.

Former national player and coach Bert Honasan shared that it personally took him four international tournaments to get over his nerves in playing in front of a stadium of thousands. That experience helps and the creation of bigger stadia and playing in foreign tournaments will help. The Chieffy Caligdong that we all see now is much better than the one that debuted in 2004. That comes not just from maturity but also the training and exposure that he’s received.

In that respect, Coach Eckard is right. More exposure will help but I do not see the point in taking shots at basketball (as they did in the presscon). Excuse me but in case you missed it, Sinag won a gold while the Under-23 team to use Weiss’ words “was a failure.”

Should that comparison stand, then know that Smart Gilas Pilipinas head coach Rajko Toroman was the ultimate hoops junkie as he watched not only the PBA but the UAAP and the NCAA as well. And when he got home, there was the NBA and the Euroleague that he watched on television or on his laptop. As for our football officials, they never even watched the Under-23 or Under-19 tournaments last summer. And Weiss hardly watches the UFL.

I think that we all know what changes Philippine football needs. We’ve known it for years. What we really need is a “can do” attitude and a change in mindset. And maybe a personnel change in many of our officials.


  1. BRAVO Rick on the article! i remember during the Suzuki Cup U23 National Finals last summer there was only 1 assistant coach of the Azkals that came to scout for players! problem is he stayed only for awhile and watched only 1 game his whole stay! that was in bacolod city.I don't know if there was any national coach that scouted players in Laguna and did he or they watch ALL the games to look at ALL the players? Seemed like the coaching staff otr Weiss had players in mind already and mostly fil-fors? i really don't agree that Weiss is also the head coach for the U23. why not give his staff the chance to coach? aren't there any local coaches that can call the shots? I can say a few more things but Rick, you hit it on the spot! i really do hope and pray that Nonong Araneta will do the right thing and fix a few things! sayang the talent we have!

  2. We must get rid of Weiss but damn that guy is lucky to have a $10 million dollar backing from DFB! PFF love ka-ching more than anything!

    We can now say "Goodbye Challenge Cup and Suzuki Cup!"

  3. Nice blog sir rick, Yes I think they totally dis regarded the value of u23 championship .

    To think few did have a good quality time at u23 national team. (beloya , leonora i think is the most common)

    here is another thing, everybody just wanted to have a good grassroots program or what so over, grassroots program don't even work without a goal, example , basketball not all players in PBA , did want because of the national team. they have to make it first to UAAP/NCAA or PBL/PBA , then make a jump for the national team.

    here is another common "grassroots" program and most successful grassroots program in the philippines , billiards (grassroots program don't exist in billiards ,:) ) why do filipino cue artist are so good? One simple reason I think, because billiard is a part of their everyday lives. just like boxing , billiards is some sort pan tawid gutum ng pinoy.

    just like in brazil , football is one the most common way to get out of poverty.

    yup , football from other countries might be "angat" from philippine football . but philippines should start playing with locals as the core of the team.just like the spanish team that won the world cup(the core players play in a single league(for the exception of torres , who i think did not have a good world cup) .
    Philippines have some football dilemma like brazil and argentina , so much talent no cohesiveness . in our case , medium talent(no offense but that's the truth i think) + no cohesiveness . = total debacle,

    this debacle happens to powerhouse country like brazil and argentina . talent drain in short.

  4. I agree , the style should be Philippine style of play. we couldn't play like the technical northern style of football germany does or latin style of football. Philippines should develop some sort of spanish + germany style of football for the grassroots .
    each league in the world has its own style of football

    brazil : more skill and freeflowing
    italy : defense + unwanted tackles
    england : battle of the midfielders
    spain : possession attack
    germany : technical side of football

    I wonder what will philippines imply ?

    UFL has a lots of breeds of football qualities the most common is the african style.

    UFL must fuel this grassroots program , just like , from a dream of a elementary kid, like I wanted to play basketball and in the future I want to play for San Miguel or Talk and text.

    it would be nice to hear if some kid from elementary say "when I grow up , i wanted to play football for Kaya FC or Global"

  5. here is another from the history books back in 1970's a group of u17/20/23 filipino footballers is brought to germany ,coach by a german isgol .the team is some sort of a dominant team, too bad , they are denied to go back to the philippines because of the new philippine government and other stuffs.

    for the record the team was strong enough to compete with other german clubs.

  6. People should support UFL first(maybe change the name to a more filipino or pinoy style) grasroots in team games could not work if there is no league that will buy the product of the grassroots . kahit ang support good thing to see the UFL ad , it will boost the football in country. auz nga ang UFL dahil mix culture , my african , korean , european and pinoy.

  7. support UFL , it maybe a football league that's struggling. but remember 1998 football in japan. a writer in time magazine called j-league as "heading to nowhere league". but after 10 years? rising stars of asian football came from japan , shinji kagawa for example.

  8. Great article hope this will be an eye opener for PFF. At first I thought that they had the U23 tournament for seagames purposes and plan to use U23 Champion (Negros Ceres Team in this case) as the core of the SEAGames Selection at first. Coach Norman is an able coach if given good players and was also under Krautzun in that ´91 team.

  9. his name is Bernhard (or something like that) Zgoll

  10. I agree...let us support UFL first...and make it national...where other team from different provinces can also participate.

  11. That long term program work for germnay. I hope it will work for philippines. germany is the most successful team in the last 10 years. sayang ang goal project na yun is zgoll. but why is spain successful ? not brazil or argentina. the reason is keeping the core talents at home. unlike brazil and argentina , the core of the team didn't play the same style of football(best example Messi)

  12. I'm tired of this usual analysis: After a disappointing stint of the National team in an international competition - that the priority should thus be developing the grassroots program. What?! The elite athletes' teams don't fare well because of a young and incomplete elite training program, not a defective grassroots program.

    Then when the grassroots program bears fruit, like the recent U23 National Championships, those who are supposed to , do not scout for possible National Team recruits?! Tinanim tapos hindi pala pipitasin?! Incredible. Sayang.

    Improve the elite training program. Besides, with a successful elite training program the PFF will not have to spend as much for grassroots - the parents of the youth and their supporters will gladly pay to learn and will be more motivated to excel.

    This is not to ignore and acknowledge the gains of the National Team during recent years, which became very visible this past year, which made many of us very happy and proud. This is not to ignore the valuable support of many, specially Dan Palami, and the leadership of Nonong Araneta. The National Team has improved by leaps and bounds. Hopefully though, more importance can be given to teams who compete in Southeast Asian competitions (like giving the SEA Games bound team their own coaching staff, and not share with the Senior Team - the preparations for the SEA Games was probably delayed because the coaching staff was busy with the Senior team). After all, at this time, it's only in Southeast Asian competitions where we have a fighting chance to win medals and trophies. Sadly, with all the strides forward of the National Teams in the past year, there is not a single medal or trophy to show yet. Silverware will mean a lot, not just to the country , but to the players and teams.

    As for "legislating" a style of play for the Philippines - ano?! No style has been proven to work for the Philippines, yet a style will be forced on the whole program by some arm-chair philosophers, in the process stifling the creativity and innovativity and motivation of players and coaches?! Spain, Italy and Germany (to name a few) implemented a uniform program from grassroots to elite, but they have a rich tradition and experience of success behind them. At this point in Philippine Football, we don't have that legacy behind us yet. Sure, training of the basics should be uniform, but the style has to be allowed to evolve, in my opinion.

  13. Have a unified style of football for the philippines is the key , so that it won't suffer like brazil or argentina, all talents but no unified style.

    Italy - Defense Defense
    Netherlands - Total Football
    Spain - Total Football +++ tiki taka
    Germany-all around efficiency & technical ability
    England - Midfielders
    Brazil - samba football (the problem now for them is , they are playing samba football in different beats.
    Portugal - wingers are midfielders but no very efficient strikers.

  14. I pray for more support for homegrown local players, more focus on UFL and finding our style of play. We have a smaller physique so we should hone in on more passing/ground play, touch and pass technical play. A combination of tiki-taka Spanish style and the German counter style of play would be ideal! I hope by 2020 I see open fields from Ilocos, Pampanga down to Zamboanga full of kids playin futbol! More local! Less Fil-Foreigners! Grassroots!

    Mabuhay Pilipinas Futbol!!!!