Hail to the Chief(fy)!

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ROMY P. MARIÑAS

ROMY P. MARIÑAS

It’s better to start them young.

We’re not talking about players but Chieffy Caligdong.

Chieffy, much decorated on and off the pitch, retired in 2014 as a revered Azkal at the “ripe old age” of 32, a time when most other football players are reaching their peak and maturity.

He is now 34 and one of the assistant coaches of the national team Philippine Azkals, making him probably younger than or the same age as the stars of the squad at present.


Ahead of the group stage of this year’s Suzuki Cup that will be held in the Philippines starting this Saturday, November 19, Chieffy, in an interview, said the Azkals are “70 percent” ready for one of Southeast Asia’s top football tournaments.

Apparently, he was trying to challenge the Azkals to man up for a competition by being 100 percent ready and reach for the title in the Cup’s 11th edition after making it to the semifinals for three editions in a row beginning 2010.

Some of his former and equally respected team mates the Younghusband brothers, Stefan Shrock and Misagh Bahadoran, to name a few, perhaps, would not mind taking a few pointers from Chieffy, a winger during his playing days.

After all, he is now, well, an assistant coach, and only Coach Thomas Dooley can overrule him.

One pointer that Chieffy gave during the interview is that Phil and company should know what “position” they are supposed to play and not forget it during the Suzuki Cup.

Of course, every Azkal knows that a midfielder should stick to that role and so should a defender to holding the fort.

It is said that it is easy to panic during a game and Dooley’s charges would not be exceptions to succumbing to that sudden uncontrollable fear.

You can blame it on the pressure of playing before a home crowd and of trying to do better than being a semifinalist again after being already one in 2010, 2012 and 2014.

Matches for Group A where the Azkals have been bracketed along with Singapore, Indonesia and Thailand will all be played at the Philippine Sports Stadium in Bocaue, Bulacan (Group A games will all be played in Myanmar and feature the host, Vietnam, Malaysia and Cambodia).

Another pointer from Chieffy is that “attitude” is important in the Suzuki Cup.

Maybe, he was pointing out to his former teammates that football cannot be won by just one player and, therefore, an Azkal should consider another Azkal as vital as any other in making or breaking a game.

Chieffy, probably, is the only assistant coach in Philippine football to have been a go-to player before hanging up his jersey (No. 13), and not that others who had not been priceless players did not deserve to be an assistant coach.

Still, we can say that he knows and understands the game better than most of the better coaches or assistant coaches for that matter.

Chieffy’s first touch, for one, is sublime, if that counts at all.

Check out the nutmeg that he delivered for the Philippine Azkals against Mongolia in a FIFA qualifier.

Meanwhile, here’s to Assistant Coach Chieffy!

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