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