Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Fair Play: Off the record with Coach Michael Weiss

(This is the draft of my Fair Play column for Sun.Star Cebu on Feb. 22)
DAVAO CITY--I was supposed to write about Coach Graeme today, but I think my friend would understand if for now, I’d talk about Coach Michael Weiss.

Especially if just as I was to take my seat for to meet coach Weiss again the other night he says, “…especially when I’m reading this bullshit story,” while pointing to me, and, before leaving, he says, “I hope to educate this boy (again, while pointing to me) about football.”

Between those two statements, of course, we talked.  A lot. I pointed out a few things and he was thanking me for the stories (including that BS story) and he pointed out a few things that not even the most diligent fan who read anything about Philippine football may have realized.

And you know what? The funny thing is, those who criticize Weiss a lot would be surprised to know that they share the same points with the coach.

And I told Coach Weiss about this.  I want to get him on the record! I wanted to do our talk again because what he had to say about Philippine football is something every fan—both those who like him and those who don’t—should know.

“No, no, no, no. Don’t write about this,” he said in that tough German way of his, as I was going for my pen and notebook to take notes of what he said.

And in this business, when somebody says that, you have to respect it because guys like us are only as good as our word.

But you know what? Under that tough German exterior is a guy who is just like you and me, one who is looking out for his family. One who get hurts when the comments get too personal.

“I wear a mask,” he said. “But inside?”

Yes, it’s part of the job of being the head coach of a national team and the guy digs it. 

“At the end of the day, football is all about results,” he said.

Though most of our talk was off the record, coach Weiss also mentioned some things that he had already talked with the media about so I’m going to share it.

On the Challenge Cup expectations.

We are not going to say we are going to aim for the semifinals but we are not going to give up either.”On who’s playing.

It’s going to be a race against the clock on who can come. Every day, I am in constant communication with the players (overseas) and their managers. Stephen Shrock, I hope he can come for the last two matches. With him, we are doing it the smart way, we won’t be asking him to come for the Malaysia game because if we will, the club will say, ‘OK Shrock will attend Malaysia game but not Challenge Cup.’ That’s the same for the other players.”Neil Etheridge or Roland Muller?

I am confident with either one of them. For our back four, it’s going to be Juan Luis, Gier, Jonsson and Sabio or Cagara if he can make it. Sabio has been playing really, really well for us and has improved a lot. Against Kuwait, (away match, second round of World Cup 2014 qualifiers) he made mistakes but lately, he’s been very good.”

On Chieffy Caligdong’s injury.

He’s improving but right now, I think he’s good for 30 minutes.

On tactics and substitutions. 

We are going to get punished if we get too offensive….So like the game against Australia, I parked the bus, like everyone is saying, in the first half but in the second half, I made some changes….For the subs, every morning before a match, I meet with the subs for 30 minutes. I talk to them, I explain their roles, what is needed and what is expected of them and they understand it.  They are fine with it.” 

DAVAO SOJOURN. For the next four days, it’s going to be all about golf from my end as I’m covering the PAL Interclub men’s tournament for the sixth straight year.

I love covering this event because it makes me feel young. Football tournaments make me feel old, but golf, especially when I’m with guys who’s been covering this tournament even before I was born?

And this Saturday, I plan to introduce the editors of the Manila broadsheets to the UFL by tuning in to Aksyon TV during game day.

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