Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Weiss: We are not ignoring local players

PHILIPPINE national team head coach Michael Weiss has signed the contract extension to handle the team for six months, more than six weeks after his initial two-year contract expired.

Without going into details of the new deal, Weiss said the contract calls for an extension if the Philippines makes it to the AFC Challenge Cup 2014 in Maldives.

"If we qualify, I will still be in charge until July 2014," Weiss said in a phone interview.

In two years under Weiss, the national team finished third in the Challenge Cup, won the Peace Cup and made its second straight semifinals of the Suzuki Cup.

Weiss said that aside from signing the new deal, he managed to bring in a technical director from Germany who will oversee the youth competition system, coaches’ education and referees’ education.

He admitted that he was disappointed when he initially got the six-month offer because he wasn’t able to present his two-to-three-year program.”

“I will do my best to give my all for this country,” he said.

The coach, who led the national team to third place in the 2012 AFC Challenge Cup also said he could still be in charge if the country wins the Challenge Cup and makes it the 2015 Asian Cup, which is the ultimate target.

"That has always been the goal,” he said.

As for the Challenge Cup, the coach is hoping to get one final tuneup match, but that is getting unlikely.

"The big teams are in the Asian Cup qualifiers and it’s very difficult to arrange matches this late.  We are still hoping to play either against Vietnam or Hong Kong on March 15 at the latest," he said.

Without a friendly, the national team will have to do with its preparation and a final training camp on March 15 to 21. The team also has also been conducting regular weekend trainings.

The team had a chance to face Azerbaijan in a friendly but Weiss said the PFF didn’t follow it up when he pushed for a friendly last December.

“That would have been a good match because they are also from a former Russian country,” he said.

Coach Weiss said he expects a full strength team for the qualifiers and expects Europe-based players like Neil Etheridge, Rob Gier, Stephen Schrock, Jerry Lucena, Roland Mueller and Angel Guirado, who is in India, to arrive on March 16.  Paul Mulders, who has a game on March 17, will arrive on March 18.

"We have all the options," he said, while pointing out that local-based players will be in the squad too.

Coach Weiss also answered criticisms about local players being ignored by the national team and said that is not the case.

Weiss said the national team has never ignored local players but are always in the lookout for local standouts but some who get invited to the team don't show up or leave camp without informing the team.  Those who make the camp, too, have to prove they deserve a spot.

"What can you do with players like these?  Their places are not guaranteed.  Everybody has to prove himself," he said. "We have never ignored local talent.  That's what I've done in the places I've been, in China and Japan.  I have always developed local talent. We are not ignoring anyone but players must also want it themselves."

The selection for the team that faced Myanmar in a friendly last month, was criticized but Weiss said the players in the team are there doing their jobs and are not "being over-hype" and they make no complains.

"To make the national team, it takes more than football skills.  It's not just the performance level, you need to have the right behavior, attitude and you need good character," he said, adding that there are a lot considerations and stories behind the decisions the team makes.

Coach Weiss, who said he envisions a Philippine national team that will have more local players in the future, also said he's been scouting college football and has spotted a few standouts like a 17-year-old tall defender from FEU and another striker.  He also said he’s looking at a couple of players from the Green Archers.

However, one of the problems is that schools won't release their players for the national team.

"This is something I don't understand, schools refusing to release their players," he said, while adding the advantages the young players would get from training with the national team.

As to the criticisms of him putting in players not in their natural positions, he said, "What they are also not saying is that we have managed to develop players, like Jason de Jong into a central defender, or (Jeffrey) Christaesns into a left back."

The Philippines will face Brunei, Cambodia and Turkmenistan in the Challenge Cup in March and Weiss said the tournament is not only important for the national team, but for Philippine football as well.

“This is not just about the coach, this is about Philippine football.  Where we are,” he said.

Turkmenistan scored two goals in the final 10 minutes to beat the Philippines in the semifinals of the AFC Challenge Cup 2012, 2-1, but Weiss pointed out that we have a chance for redemption.

“That loss was under very, very difficult circumstances. In that game, we didn’t have James (Younghusband) and Angel (Guirado) because of yellow cards,”  he said, while adding that playing in front of the home crowd will be an advantage.  “I’m very positive that we have a good team.”

However, he said, they are not just looking forward to a rematch against Turkmenistan and ignore Brunei and Cambodia.

“This is not an easy walkover and that is not how you prepare,” he said.

The top teams in Groups A, B, C, D and E will advance to the AFC Challenge Cup along with the two best second-ranked teams.

“I am also hoping that you people in the Visayas or those in Mindanao will come and watch the team.”

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