This appears in the Monday January 13, 2014 edition of the Business Mirror.
A Weiss decision for a change
A Weiss decision for a change
by rick olivares
At first glance, it sounds inane to let go of the most successful football coach in Philippine Men’s Football National Team history.
Since German coach Hans Michael Weiss took over the job from Englishman Simon McMenemy in 2011, he has compiled a 21-12-13 win-draw-loss record. That’s a pretty astounding 45.65% win rate for his matches and is the best for a Philippines head coach in any era. As of the last FIFA world rankings, the Philippines had finally achieved team manager Dan Palami’s goal of landing in the 120s – at #127. That’s not bad. Not bad at all.
So what gives? Why the pink slip?
Behind that record and his three-year tenure in the Philippines is one long story of coaching bizarreness and lunacy as well as countless feuds. In between there was some great football played and in my opinion, not because of him… but in spite of him.
You have to admit that with or without him, the quality of local football and our players has gone up. This is where Dan Palami is lauded for giving the national team a lot of exposure by playing overseas. The influx of talented Fil-foreigners and foreigners into local football has also improved the quality of the game. Now those who argue against this are shortsighted in their look at the big picture. What do they want – to play the same long ball style while trying to roughhouse the opposition? That never got us anywhere to begin with.
Back to the issue at hand, the Philippine Football Federation and national team management has yet to come out with a formal press release on why the German is being let go. But you can bet your bottom peso that it will be politically correct and sugarcoated. Just like the same manner on how they couldn’t release him late last year so they offered him a crappy and downright insulting three-month contract then were shocked when he accepted it.
So what was wrong with the coach? You’d think that he’d bring German efficiency into the mix. Except, my answer to that is what efficiency? Here in my opinion are the reasons why this is a long time coming.
For someone apparently as schooled in the game, he has shown a startling lack of tactical nous.
I won’t break this down into Xs and Os because that is altogether another paper. But I will go into the basic things.
In the months after a triumphant Suzuki Cup in 2010, the Azkals prepared for two huge campaigns – the AFC Challenge Cup and the World Cup Qualifiers.
Beginning with the massive 2-nil home match against Mongolia to open 2011, the Azkals rode a tidal wave of success as they plowed through the opposition in the Challenge Cup and the team had advanced to the second round of Asian World Cup Qualifiers for Brazil.
There were already whispers of Weiss’ lack of tactical guidance or game strategy. But winning cures all ills as they say so the whisper had not yet turned to a scream.
I believe it all began in Kuwait during an away match for the second stage of the Asian World Cup Qualifiers. During the team’s first film session where they watched a match by Kuwait the coaches not once stopped the viewing to explain what Al-Azraq was doing or how they intended to stop their forwards or midfielders. “What was the point of this,” asked one player then.
Well, actually, Weiss did stop it. Some 10 minutes into the session, he said without raising his voice that if any player was not interested in watching (some were texting while some were gabbing) they can leave and forget about playing.
Before kick off in the bowels of the Mohammed Al-Hamad Stadium in Hawali, Kuwait, they finally discussed strategy. But to my knowledge that should be game reminders and not hearing out what one wanted to do for the match. Later on, he would change his pre-game tactical discussions only for the starters. How do you expect the reserves to pitch in when they don't have a clue on what is happening?
There is another instance (out of many) that says this was the norm. During the 2012 Suzuki Cup in Bangkok, Thailand, the team was made to watch the German National Team’s 2010 World Cup matches in South Africa. Not once did the coach explain what to look out for or what he hoped the team could do by watching say Bastian Schweinsteiger or Mesut Ozil. Nothing.
What had happened was Rob Gier was doing all the scouting reports that he distributed to the team. Of course, with Weiss’ approval. As I wrote some time ago, Gier will eventually be the head coach of our national team. He has the right temperament, the experience, smarts, know-how, and furthermore, leadership qualities.
If you ask me, that is a bad sign for the head coach when one of your players does the scouting reports and not you. Furthermore, there were the questionable substitution patterns and tactics (see the match versus Kuwait in the World Cup Qualifiers and the use of Matthew Hartmann as centerback during the 2011 Southeast Asian Games to name a very few).
And during that Suzuki Cup, the players would take it upon themselves to discuss about game tactics in their own hotel rooms because the coach was oft busy scouring the internet for criticism against him (no joke).
Said one player who refused to be identified, “If other teams wanted to scout us, all they would see were drills and monkey monkey in the middle. If they thought we were hiding something there was really nothing to hide in the first place.”
Hence, the feeling that we won because of the sheer talent on the squad.
During that Suzuki Cup, he once gave a 20-minute pre-game speech entirely in German! Then horrors, he asked Fil-Dane Dennis Cagara to translate it into English. Said Cagara to me, “And my German isn’t even that great.” The kicker there is Cagara condensed the 20-minute speech into two minutes. Whatever was intended was literally lost in translation.
And to think that Fil-German Patrick Reichelt was present and he could have done the translating.
For friendlies including meaningless ones, his insistence on playing his regulars and not even giving meaningful minutes up and comers did not do any favors to the team or the players’ confidence.
So what was the plan here? To ride your regulars (some of who are getting in on the years) and not prepare the next crop of players?
I really cannot fathom the short or long term plans.
Complete and utter disrespect for Filipinos
What really riled me against Weiss were his racist views and comments that were never fully investigated or simply cast aside.
He once called OJ Porteria a “brown monkey” (and he wasn’t the only player to be called such).
During the 2011 SEA Games he told the homegrown contingent, “Sit back and enjoy the ride because the Europeans will show you how the game is played.” Local players came home after that recounting Weiss’ scathing remarks about locals.
Why didn’t any of them report this? Really? Some PFF authority was going to do something about it? They had heard of this but never fully launched an investigation. Right there and then he should have been shipped back to Rwanda for comments like that.
For someone who represents the cream of Philippine Football, he never bothered to even watch the UFL (until much later when the criticism reached him). And when he did, he tried to “coach” from the sidelines where he even ran to the warning track to instruct some players of one team!
When former head coach Simon McMenemy was back in town for a coaching course, when the opportunity arose, he watched an UFL match. In fact, you would find former national head coaches Juan Cutillas, Maor Rozen, and Zoran Djordjevic (and even Dan Palami) regularly watching the UFL, UAAP, and NCAA games.
The last word on this “disrespectful nature” was that 2012 Suzuki Cup. Two days before kick off, in a panel interview that included fellow journalists Cedelf Tupas, Jonas Terrado, Mark Escarlote, Karlo Sacamos, and myself (and two Malaysian television journos), he categorically stated that this tournament wasn’t important at all and he said that he was looking more towards the AFC Challenge Cup.
We were shocked because this was the tournament that not only started it all for the Philippines but also got him his job. We all agreed not to write about it because it would inflame passions against him at home and abroad. The national team did not need the distractions at that time. Can you imagine what the Thais would have said and done had this come out.
I will not speak for my colleagues here but I suspect that Weiss wanted to deflect the pressure of once more making the semifinals and equaling McMenemy’s feat (that he constantly battled and commented about). If you recall during the months leading up to Thailand, he kept talking about getting ready for the Suzuki Cup. And wasn’t that why he took the Younghusband brothers out because they were not getting ready for the Suzuki Cup (in his opinion)? That was another malicious move on his part and is altogether another story.
When the Azkals finally returned to the semifinals, then he talked about what a great and meaningful tournament it was. Of course! He had now equaled the 2010 accomplishment and was in a position to better the finish.
He never accepted defeat or blame. In fact, he always had an excuse.
After the two loses to Kuwait during the World Cup Qualifiers, Weiss shockingly went on national television where he took shots at his detractors and not having full team. He said that there were a lot of armchair generals who did nothing criticize and that he was missing Paul Mulders, Dennis Cagara, and other Fil-Europeans! But some of them never even played yet with the national team! He didn’t even know their quality but he was already pinning his hopes on them or even fielding a supposed dream team.
Maybe it didn’t occur to him that Kuwait or our other opponents were also nursing some injuries.
And he would use that excuse time and again for not having a complete line up. It was as if something always conspired against him.
There too was the matter of his poor conduct as a head coach.
During the loss to the Thailand in the 2011 Suzuki Cup, he deliberately threw the football at a Thai player nearly setting off a brawl. After the match, he said that he merely rolled it at him unintentionally.
Weiss was suspended for his actions during that match against Thailand and in the post-match and pre-Vietnam press conferences, all he did was talk about his intentions or what other players did. Never did he use “we”. It was like him and everyone else.
Yet following the 1-0 win over Vietnam with Diding Cabalida taking his place on the bench, Weiss was the one at the presscon where he suddenly used the pronoun “we” in achieving that goal.
He constantly feuded with players, coaches, and the media.
I have never seen a national coach make insane demands on the national team.
In fact, he fought with the UFL insisting that the players always be made readily available for camps (of which they planned once a month) and their touring sked. There is a disregard for the league that pays for their players’ salaries and works hard to maintain their fitness. Weiss even questioned the coaching chops of UFL coaches earning an earful from Juan Cutillas who was coaching Kaya at that time.
During the Manila leg of the match against Singapore in the 2012 Suzuki Cup, he took some shots at former Lions boss Raddy Avramovich wondering about the need to respect an opponent because of their previous accomplishments (yet by the same token he kept defending himself because of his record with the Azkals). Avramovich didn’t take too kindly to this upstart coach.
Weiss backtracked once we got to Singapore where he was oozing with graciousness. Of course, you have to be. We got beat in Manila and we were now in their territory.
While in Thailand, he even verbally mentioned during post-match presscons about the criticism levied his way. He conveniently forgot that all his comments were on record and that media only reported what he said.
Weiss feuded with his players (too many to mention), the UFL, the media. I do not know of any other coach – local or foreign or in any other sport – who has waged war on so many fronts.
He talked about how his players were not focused and that they concentrated on commercial shoots etc. Yet when he launched one diatribe, he was in Boracay.
During one local match, he led the team to watch New Kids on The Block and was upset that others didn’t go. When it’s him behind these gimmicks there is no problem. When it’s others who go out on their own, he has a problem with it. I thought that there was need for focus?
If you think what I wrote is a lot you don’t even know the half of it. There’s a whole lot more but that would be belaboring the obvious. He eventually dug his own grave by talking too much and not really backing up his talk. This is one instance where the coach got far too much credit than he actually deserved.
Having said all of that mouthful did Hans Michael Weiss do any good at all?
For what it’s worth, he was at the helm these past three years. He definitely improved on the fitness and conditioning of the team and that is something that cannot be taken lightly. He guided the team during a particularly challenging time. That record cannot be taken away from him for sure.
I had high hopes for the German and I wanted him to succeed not just for himself but also for us.
But there was just too much in between. Furthermore, if you feel that the Azkals still pretty much play the same as a few years ago that is because the team isn’t taught much. One would like to see improvement on possession, defense, and attacking. I really cannot see what we are trying to achieve and what system/game philosophy we employ.
What we need is a coach who can take the time to really teach and I do mean teach the nitty gritty. And that means taking this team to the next level. What we need is a coach who gives equal opportunity and not false hopes to local players. What we need is someone who treats the game with the respect it deserves and in doing so will make followers out of his players. What we need is a coach who will command the respect of all.
I don’t think that Weiss fit that bill.
Hopefully, the next coach will have all of those above qualities or the lessons of the past three years will not have been learned.