A case for Raddy Avramovic as head coach for the Philippine Men’s Football National Team
(with a glimpse to the future)
by rick olivares
Fellow media man Mike Limpag tells me that there are two names being considered for the head coaching position for the Philippine National Men’s Football Team – German-American Thomas Dooley who is a legit Bundesliga and Major League Soccer veteran and champion and Serbian Radojko Avramovic who steered Singapore to three AFF Suzuki Cups including the last championship in 2012 before he decided to enjoy his coffee while watching the world pass him by along Orchard Road.
Obviously, with the title of my column alone, you know who I am rooting for but I will get to the whys and wherefores later.
For this, I will liberally re-write some of my thoughts that I wrote for ABS-CBN’s website immediately after the 2012 Suzuki Cup where the Azkals made the semifinals but was booted out by Avramovic’s Lions.
There are a lot of questions that should be posed when considering this most important job. Whoever is the answer to the lot of them should be named to the position of head coach post-haste.
Can the coach take the national team to the next level?
This coach should possess the know-how, skills, experience, and grand plan to take us to the next level. However, he should be more than a coach. He must put on several hats – he should be a teacher, a great motivator, a disciplinarian, and a tactician.
The coach must have a coherent and doable three-year plan that should be presented in great detail and not just words. He should take a look at the current team and their strengths, weaknesses, growth over the years, age, and commitment. Once he learns that, who else is coming up the pike? Who do we have in line to play keeper, top striker etc.
He should also look across the seas to the competition and how we can best defeat them.
In short, there must be reams of data that should be studied, charts to be made, and workshops and training to be done.
Furthermore, there should be a regular evaluation to determine whether the program is working or not.
We are not looking for a savior. We are looking for a HEAD COACH.
Is the coach a winner? Did he win as a player? Has he won as a head coach?”
It is easier to be able to communicate things when you’ve won. Take a gander at Pep Guardiola who won as a player and later as manager of Barcelona. Ditto with Alex Ferguson who was successful in the Scottish Premier League before moving over to Manchester United where only transformed the Red Devils into the winningest English side.”
Conversely, Diego Maradona won with Napoli, Boca Juniors, Barcelona, and Argentina but has been a bust as coach. So it doesn’t work all the time. That is where the teaching aspect and the strength of character come in.
It is easier to teach a team to win when you’ve won.
What about the newbie coaches who are talented but haven’t won anything?
I say, no. We’ve gotten young coaches the past few years. What we need is someone to take this team to the next level. We are not in a rebuilding phase. The strides gained since 2010 MUST NOT BE let to waste.
What does the coach stand for?
Does this man have integrity? Can he best represent our country? Does he possess the humility to accept mistakes and failure but at the same time have the requisite vigor to bounce back?
INTEGRITY counts for a lot. Gotta have that.
Should the head coach be Filipino or foreign?
If the coach is Filipino, then he must not be affiliated with any school so he does not use the national team as a feeder program for his school program. It goes without saying that this is a conflict of interest.
In my opinion, it should go to whoever is most qualified to take the job. Let’s not look at colors or ethnic lines here.
The world is a much smaller place. We live in a global market. In our country, we have Koreans for pop stars, Brazilian supermodels, and African basketball players to name some examples of our homogenous culture. So what’s wrong with football that is the world’s sport?
Should the coach understand Southeast Asia?
Of course! Before we can even think of World Cup berths we have to get out of Southeast Asia.
Understanding Asia means knowing the people, culture, character, and lifestyle and respecting it. When you respect the game and your opponents then it will be good for you. One cannot throw the ball at a fallen opponent then walk away while making washing one’s hand motions.
In terms of competition, the immediate task of whoever our head coach is to win in Southeast Asia. How can we even dream of qualifying for the World Cup when we cannot leapfrog past our corner of the world? Therefore the coach should understand the competition in the region.
In that article for ABS-CBN, I named four possible coaches who I believe can take over the Azkals -- Raddy Avramovic, Edwin Cabalida, Norman Fegidero Jr., and Rob Gier. And here’s why.
Radojko Avramovic – The Serbian’s swan song with Singapore was the perfect way to go out. His departure was years in the making but Avramovic has signified a desire to continue. If Singapore, four-time regional champs, is the current class of Southeast Asian football, who better to help the Philippines finally slay the Lions than their former head coach?
Edwin Cabalida - He's served as an assistant to three head coaches in Desmond Bulpin, Simon McMenemy, and Hans Michael Weiss. He's won with Ateneo and with Air Force. He also showed he is capable when he guided the Philippines to a win over Vietnam when Weiss was prevented from sitting on the bench after being suspended from the match. The man is bright and has integrity. He will also give the homegrown players an opportunity. But does he have a strong personality so the players cannot put one over him?
Norman Fegidero Jr. – He once coached the Azkals and did not tolerate any star complexes. Left when he football officials tried to interfere in the coaching. Much like former national coach Desmond Bulpin, he is a no nonsense coach who thrives on discipline and preparation. Like Cabalida, Fegidero will give the homegrown players a chance and keep everyone on their toes. He will brook no primadonnas for sure and they will not like him precisely because primadonnas think that the national team is some exclusive boy’s club that cuts them slack because they are Fil-foreigners or star players.
Rob Gier – He already does a lot for the team with his scouting reports and recommendations for tactics. While he is said to be not yet ready as he has a lot on his plate back in England, a few of his teammates believe that he will be up for the job in a few years’ time. Gier certainly commands the respect of his teammates. If true, then he should already be brought aboard in an apprentice status so he will gain experience. It is different sitting in the coach’s seat as opposed to the players’ spot.
Now, I’ll throw another name in that hat… Chris Greatwich.
Greatwich has the makings of a very good coach. Like Gier, he’s been with the national team but unlike Gier, he has seen the team come up from the dregs of minnow-ity (I am making up that word) all the way to its current top form. He’s an excellent teacher. I just wonder how his peers will take to him patrolling the sidelines.
Nevertheless, he must apprentice along with Gier with whoever the next head coach is. Then I’d say he’d be ready.
Reports have it that German-American Thomas Dooley is likewise being considered for the head coaching position among others. That’s a good choice too.
But for now, I believe that Raddy Avramovic, despite being at 64 years of age still has what it takes to help the Philippines conquer Southeast Asia.
Look at his resume:
He was a goalkeeper for Notts County in England after playing in Yugoslavia.
He earned three caps for Yugoslavia. So he knows what it’s like to be a player for the national team.
He led Kuwait’s youth and Olympic team to the final rounds of the 2000 Sydney Olympics. Kuwait were crowned West Asian Games champions under his watch. He also led their national team to the quarterfinals of the 2002 Busan Asian Games.
And there’s the matter of three AFF Suzuki Cup titles (2004, 2007, and 2012).
Sure he’s also known failure. What coach or what player hasn’t known that? But it is important to bounce back. And he can sure adopt a better tone with media as he has been known to give testy answers. It’s the PFF and national team management that has to help him go through the ropes here.
But he’s won with two countries – Kuwait and Singapore. Two countries that have barred us from World Cup and Suzuki Cup glory.
So that answers four of the five questions.
Now lastly, who is Raddy Avramovic and what does he stand for?
According to Gary Koh, a friend who is a football journalist from Singapore, “You guys should sign him whatever the price - you are getting a real winner. With players who can think during the match, his strategic thought-outs before games will be the Azkals' fundamental difference between Asean top four and Asean king pins and Asian Cup finalists. There were critics inside the local game who said Raddy used so much foreign talent. But I will say he had used them shrewdly. So why would I complain? Off the pitch he has tremendous character. As long as you don’t get on the wrong side of him - he can be very sensitive - you will do well. And he has a particular charm with ladies, so I will say ladies… better be alert."