Here and now.
On the eve of the Philippines-Indonesia match.
by rick olivares pics by brosi gonzales
Both teams say that the past is the past. The semifinals of the 2010 Suzuki Cup saw Indonesia defeat the upstart Philippines 2-0 via aggregate score. The controversial “home and away” series – as both games were played in Jakarta – was played by vastly different teams.
The Philippines’ Chieffy Caligdong and Rob Gier downplayed those games. So did the Merah Putih’s Irfan Bachdim as eloquently as he could. But Azkals midfielder Manny Ott actually said what is in every Filipino’s heart.
Ott played in the qualifiers of that Suzuki Cup in Laos but missed the momentous and historic group stages in Vietnam because his German club did not release him. He watched on live streaming the semifinals stage against Indonesia where he felt bad about being unable to help his team. “Tomorrow’s a different game but I’m excited for it. And I am sure every one else is,” said Ott in a tone where he couldn’t wait to get it on.
Two years ago, our regional neighbors were discussing how many goals they will score against the Philippines in the Suzuki Cup. Flash forward to today, Malaysia head coach Krishnasamy Rajagopal is downplaying his team’s chances (which is actually ridiculous to consider the Tigers as underdogs when they have been regional champs for four years now) in the upcoming Suzuki Cup. Indonesian fans are predicting an Azkals win in their team’s Facebook page.
“That is dangerous,” cautioned Azkals head coach Hans Michael Weiss while watching the contract signing with Puma from the sidelines. “Every one is now expecting a win. I think that we are still a work in progress. The game against Malaysia showed that. One game at a time. I think the expectations are not realistic. But we are going in the right direction.”
It is the sobering truth that is at once uplifting. Imagine that – to actually say that we are headed in the right direction. Weiss goes on to talk about how the current national set-up is both a jumpstart and a band aid. The true source of strength will be the grassroots program that is being put in effect.
However, it is the here and now that matters.
“The Philippines is getting better,” offered Indonesia head coach Nil Maizar. “The recent results against Malaysia show how good they are. You cannot under estimate them.”
Gier refused to be lulled into a false sense of superiority. Like Weiss, his voice is of pragmatism: “Until we win games against them then it’s just someone’s prediction.”
About a decade ago, current Azkals striker Ian Araneta made his debut with the senior national team. The Philippines was coached by Japanese coach Sugao Kambe. Against Indonesia in Group A action of the Tiger Cup (as the Suzuki Cup was then known by), with the Philippines already eliminated with a 0-3 record, Kambe opted to rest his veterans in the final match against Indonesia.
It was a costly mistake where the national side was lit up by the Merah Putih 13-1 (the only Philippine goal was by Aly Go in the 78th minute with the score 12-0). Indonesia stars Bambang Pamungkas and Zaenal Arif each scored four goals during the rout. “That was simply a terrible beating,” recalled Freddy Gonzalez who was Go’s linemate up front for the Philippines. “It was so bad and embarrassing that we all couldn’t wait to get off the pitch.”
Inside the locker room, a morose Kambe apologized for his mistake.
That was then. This is now.
The days of double figure routs seem to be over. Sure there are still loses. But no one takes the Philippines for granted.
“And neither will we,” added Gier about tomorrow’s match that is whether the team downplays it or not, a long time coming.
With Indonesia team captain Irfan Bachdim (above) and the Philippines' Rob Gier at the pre-match press conference held at the Discovery Suites.
Supplemental reading: The PFF's statement on the sudden departure of Stephan Schrock.
It's time for payback against Indonesia!
Breaking down the Azkals-Tigers match in KL.