I am not really a football fanatic the way I follow tennis or the NBA as these are the sports I grew up playing.
But, ever since the Philippine Azkals was formed by inviting foreign players with Filipino blood to play along side full blooded Filipinos and opting for a foreign coach for a mentor, and started making waves on the football fields in Asia, my interest in football got aroused.
It may not be flattering for the team to be called ‘Azkals’, a term relating to mixed-breed street dogs in the country, which in turn ascribes to the mixed-race Filipinos playing for the team, but, what the heck – what is there in the name anyway if it makes the country proud?
Well, nothing really except when a few Azkals show some obnoxious attitude.
This is what seems to be happening between the Philippines’ national team head coach Thomas Dooley and Azkal players Stephan Schrock, Dennis Cagara and Neil Etheridge.
The falling-out seemed to have started when these foreign-born players felt they were not being used as much by Dooley anymore in the games. And because of their perceived reduced roles in the team, they went on social media announcing their disappointment with and grievances against Dooley, saying, they have played their last with him as coach.
Now, what has Dooley done to deserve this arrogant reaction from these Azkals?
Apparently, the discontented Azkals accused Dooley of favoring the local players, who obviously are much younger than them, instead of those footballers who have played in the European leagues.
Perhaps, the accusation came about because Dooley, who was hired as coach by the Philippine Football Federation in February this year, has turned the fortunes of the national team around as they narrowly missed out on a place in next year’s AFC Asian Cup, losing 1-0 to Palestine in the final of the AFC Challenge Cup.
Whether or not the allegation for ‘favoring the local players (full-blooded Filipinos)’ is true or that injury got the better of the griping Azkals, the fact is that Dooley, a veteran player himself and coach, knew what he was doing.
A coach sees things not just for an immediate success but for more successes in the long haul. And this is probably why he took the risk of letting the younger players play because, as he says, the younger players need to be developed.
Can one blame Dooley if he starts looking at the future for a stronger national team when he blasted at the disgruntled Azkals, saying, “There’s no guarantee in playing for the national team because you are playing overseas. It is not about what you did five years ago for the team. It’s what you do now.”
Dooley, I suppose, has nothing but the best interest of the Philippine team.
Calling the attitude of the complaining Azkals as “unprofessional and selfish” are apt descriptions.
“If the player is selfish, then the team would have a problem,” Dooley said.
Of course Dooley never denied the tremendous contribution each mixed-race Filipinos has given to the team in terms of talent. But when ego and self-importance starts swelling ones head, brakes should be applied and this is what Dooley did.
Dooley knows whereof he speaks.