The catastrophic exit of the Philippine Azkals from group play of the 2016 Suzuki Cup must have broken the hearts of coach Thomas Dooley, assistant coach Chieffy Caligdong and thousands of football fans (who, incidentally, were not at the stadium where the Philippine national football team battled recently for another Final Four appearance at Southeast Asia’s premier football tournament).
Dooley was probably hoping that his boys will give him at least another semifinal finish—the fourth since 2010 in the biennial competition.
His hopes were dashed because he had not been a unifying element behind the Azkals and one who should have been an inspiration but instead chose to be frustrated and desperate.
Before the penultimate game in Group A against defending champion Thailand and after under-achieving draws against Singapore (0-0) and Indonesia (2-2), the German coach of the Philippine eleven went to town and took the boys to the cleaners.
Dooley said the Azkals were not talking to each other on the field and further rubbed it in by ruing the absence of Filipino-Japanese Daisuke Sato (who is playing for a football club in Romania) and Filipino-British Rob Gier (retired and during his playing days has had stints as player and skipper).
According to him, either Sato, 21, or Gier, in his 30s now, could have been been the leader, not necessarily team captain, of the embattled Azkals.
How did Dooley washing dirty linen in public affect the performance of the team?
A lot and not much of it for the better.
He should not have been comparing players, in the same manner that you don’t pit an over-achieving son against his brother whose IQ is below 70, unless you want the clueless son to be a delinquent or worse.
Besides being outspoken for the wrong reasons, Dooley in the Philippine Azkals’ last outing with Thailand—they lost, 0-1, to bow out of this year’s Suzuki Cup—fielded at least one player (no offense meant to the young Casambre, who, as far as we know does not have domestic or international match experience) against a Southeast Asian powerhouse.
An international is not an exposure game or meant to be a baptism of fire because it is just too risky to experiment, even if Thailand reportedly fielded second stringers against the Azkals, which the urban legend of a report is hogwash.
The Thais, who ironically are outranked in the region by the Filipinos (No. 1) in the FIFA ratings, were just psyching up their other semifinal opponents next month in a bid to retain its Suzuki Cup crown.
Shaken up probably by the debacle at the Philippine Sports Stadium in some forsaken corner of Bocaue, Bulacan, where the Group A games were held, was Caligdong, an iconic Azkal who retired a few years ago.
Also, ironically, Chieffy was partly responsible for the evident resurgence of football in these parts, having helped shame the defending champion Vietnamese in front of thousands of wildly cheering fans in Hanoi in 2010, the first time for a pre-Azkals Philippine team to make it past the quarterfinals of a Tier A international tournament.
It must have been a personally shocking debut for Caligdong as assistant coach.
He might end us as the man who would also be partly responsible for football fading way from the consciousness of Filipinos, thanks but no thanks to Dooley.
And don’t blame the fans for their not so surprising absence in the matches at the Bocaue stadium (maximum seating capacity, 25,000), which was filled by more than 4,000 fans in the Azkals match against Singapore and more than 2,000 against Thailand.
We suggest that all future games of the Philippine Azkals be held at the Rizal Memorial Football Stadium in Manila before it is turned into a mall.