Wednesday, March 07, 2012

Fair Play: Chris G talks about Azkal experience

(This is the draft of my Fair Play column for Sun.Star Cebu on March  8)
I FINALLY got to interview Chris Greatwich, one of my favorite players in the national team. Unfortunately, Chris won't be joining the Challenge cup due to commitments at work.


"Coach Weiss and I have been in contact and we were trying to make it work but it just wasn't feasible with my workload. I hope to be involved again in the very near future once my work situation is more conducive," Chris told me via e-mail.


Chris joined the senior team in 2004 and the U23 in 2005.


And playing for the flag in 2004, was a dream come true.  Aside from Chris, his brother Phil played in the 2005 SEAG and scored a goal, and had his senior team debut a year later. Simon joined the team in 2011.


"When I made my debut vs. Malaysia, at times, I had to remind myself that this was my international debut and I had achieved a life-long goal," he said.


Chris has had many great experiences with the team, especially the 2010 tournament but he also counts the Bacolod qualifiers of the AFF Championships (before it was renamed the Suzuki cup) as his best because of the atmosphere in Bacolod.


And as for funny experiences. Let's just say, boys will be boys.  He and his brother Phil once dressed their kit man in Aly Borromeo's jersey--complete with the headset and that walk--and filmed his reaction for youtube. He wasn't too pleased.


"Ray Jonsson played a great prank on Neil in Indonesia where he wrote Neil a note by a fake female fan who wanted to meet him for a date. When Neil went down to the hotel lobby to meet her, needless to say the fictional person did not show up!"


What was the most interesting part of his answers was when he mentioned something that has lately cropped up to our consciousness because of what they did in 2010—winning the Suzuki Cup.


“When Coach Aris and I first worked together, he made it a point that my class (Aly, Anton, Ian, Chieffy etc) would one day win the Suzuki Cup... We definitely have a team that can challenge for it, but Indonesia have never won it and Malaysia only won it for the first time last competition-its not just about having a good team. On our day, we can beat anyone in SE Asia and I believe we will win it in the near future.


Here's the transcript of my questions and Chris's answers.


How/Who contacted you first to play for national team?My mother went to the Philippines for my Grandmother's funeral and ended up meeting with some officials at the PFF and they put me in touch with Aris Caslib who invited me to the training camp in 2004 prior to the Tiger Cup in Malaysia. I trained in Ultra for a month and made the cut and have been involved with the NT ever since.
Are you playing in the Challenge Cup?


Unfortunately no. Coach Weiss and I have been in contact and we were trying to make it work but it just wasn't feasible with my workload. I hope to be involved again in the very near future once my work situation is more conducive.


When you got in the team in 2004, what was it like?


It was surreal because I always used to say when I was little that I wanted to play for the Philippines and I remember being in Vietnam for the camp before we left for Malaysia and I got my shirt and it was a strange feeling. When I made my debut vs Myanmar at times I had to remind myself that this was my international debut and I had achieved a life-long goal.


As a veteran, what would you advise the new players? Especially those coming from overseas?


It is important that new players don't try and take advantage of the situation that we find ourselves in now compared to three or four years ago. Some players I feel are more interested in the trappings of playing for the National Team and not how they can make an impact as players on the team. It is important that they treat playing for the National Team with respect and give there all when they represent the team both on and off the field,


Aside from the goals against Singapore and Vietnam, what was your most favorite moments playing for the Philippines?


I have many- Bacolod '06 Asean Championship Qualifiers was a great tournament. We had a great team- Phil and James were still at Chelsea at the time (Phil and James played with the team—ML), Aly, Anton, Chieffy and myself were probably at our best too and the team also had the likes of my brother Phil, Antoc Gonzales, Jeffery Liman and Matt Hartman and I think we played some of the best football in that tournament. I also scored my first goal vs Laos in that qualification which was also a great moment but unfortunately we lost. However big wins vs Timor, Cambodia and Brunei meant we qualified and the crowd were amazing all through the qualification. The game vs Indonesia in '10 was also special, despite the results were also very special- playing in such a volatile atmosphere in such an important game was certainly very memorable.


What was your funniest?


I have so many--one was when my brother Phil and I dressed up our kit man in Aly Borromeo's kit and we filmed his reaction--he wasn't best pleased (it's on youtube somewhere). Ray Jonsson played a great prank on Neil in Indonesia where he wrote Neil a note by a fake female fan who wanted to meet him for a date. When Neil went down to the hotel lobby to meet her, needless to say the fictional person did not show up!


Is your brother Phil still playing football? He's not planning to try out anew?


Phil is busy working in Baltimore where he lives. I am sure once day he would like to get back involved but he has his other priorities at the moment. He has had some amazing games for the Philippines so hopefully he will play again.
What's your current full-time job?


I coach an Academy Team here in the US as well as being the Player/ Head Coach for our NPSL Men's Team, Morris County Colonials. With my hectic schedule and big tournaments and league games, I just can't justify leaving the team at the drop of a hat. Unfortunately, I have to pay the bills like everyone else.


Before playing for the national team, did you visit the country for vacation/homecoming?


I came to the Philippines twice when I was really young- but the first time I can really remember was when I came back in '04 for the training camp with Coach Aris.


You were with the team that played India and Tajikistan in previous Challenge Cups, how do you think the team will fare?


I wasn't with the team for the India game but I was playing when we played the Tajik's in the Maldives. They were big, well organized and technically very good. All the teams in the CC will be very good competition for us.


You played in SEAG, Tiger Cup (now Suzuki Cup) and you have a fair idea of what our Southeast Asian neighbors could do. Do you think we could be Suzuki Cup champions someday? What do we have to do to get there?


When Coach Aris and I first worked together, he made it a point that my class (Aly, Anton, Ian, Chieffy etc) would one day win the Suzuki Cup. If you think those guys, plus Phil and James have all been playing together since '05 and then Neil came in '07- the backbone of the team have played together for 5 years at least. Players in between have come and go and we're adding some genuinely quality players all the time. What made '10 so special was that team all came together for one tournament and it all clicked. In previous competitions, certain players could not make it and so we were always not quite at full-strength. Now we have a big pool of talent so when any given player is missing- another can come in and fill in.

To win it we need to have all our best players available again, play to our full potential and have a bit of luck. We definitely have a team that can challenge for it, but Indonesia have never won it and Malaysia only won it for the first time last competition- its not just about having a good team. On our day, we can beat anyone in SE Asia and I believe we will win it in the near future.

1 comment:

Wiking said...

Mike great read! You should do more of these, maybe with players like Chad Gould, James Leigh Gunn etc.