Azkals woes highlight need to develop home-grown talents

By Olmin Leyba

The lack of cohesion bogging the Philippine under-23 Azkals in the 26th Southeast Asian Games has emphasized once again the need to develop more home-grown talents committed to train together for longer periods.

“(Team manager) Dan Palami and (coach Michael) Weiss have the best of intentions. Dan spent to get the best (players from Europe). But football is teamwork. You can’t achieve it in three days or one week of practice,” said Philippine Olympic Committee (POC) chairman Monico Puentevella, also a member of the advisory council of the Philippine Football Federation (PFF).

For this campaign, team management has assembled a combo of local-based players and pros plying their trade in Europe, like Roland Muller, Manny Ott, Jeffrey Christiaens and Carli de Murga. The Euro-based booters only joined the team in Indonesia already, in time for their first game.

The U23 Azkals dropped a 1-3 loss to Vietnam and a 1-2 setback to darkhorse Timor Leste as their semifinal bid got dimmer each game day.

“Our players in the under-23 are not short of talent. But to put them in the field to play as a team, you need more time of playing together,” observed Philippine Sports Commission chairman Richie Garcia.

Puentevella batted for a stronger grassroots development program.

“I guess we can’t rely on the guys from outside all the time. Grassroots must be strengthened. We must go back to the drawing board,” said Puentevella.

Weiss said he’s already entertaining the idea of tapping more locals next time, but asked for a more tempered expectation from Filipino fans.

“A lot of these boys are very young; they can still play in 2013 SEA Games. The hopes in the Philippines now are way too high; we should lower our expectations, work hard, and continue to build up players who are having the right heart beat and not thinking themselves as superstars because somebody admires them in the Philippines.

“I should very well think who to bring here for this tournament, one idea is to bring more local players and see how they can compete in international exposure,” he said.

The U23 Azkals stand at the rear in Group B with no point to show after two games. Timor Leste holds the unlikely lead with six points (two wins) followed by Vietnam and Myanmar with identical four points (1-1-0), and Laos and Brunei with one apiece (0-1-1).

Phl XI battles Laos on Friday, Myanmar on Sunday and Brunei in Tuesday, gunning for victories while hoping the leaders wouldn’t pile up the points to keep their slim chance for the semis.

But Weiss himself is practically conceding a place in the medal rounds.

“We have to think now of the immediate strategy as the tournament is most likely not on us. We do not even have to think of the semifinals,” the German mentor said. Published in The Philippine Star