Fair Play: Is 10 days enough time for the Azkals?

(This is my Fair Play column for Sun.Star Cebu's May 27 edition)
THE Philippines' campaign in the 2018 Word Cup qualifiers begins on June 11, and the training camp will start on June 1. Are we back to the old days of taking these things for granted?

Pre-2010, we'd love to bash the PFF for spending less than a month to prepare for tournaments, resulting to our boys getting beaten black and blue and going home with their tails between their legs.

Now, if we're lucky, we'd get 10 training days before we take on dangerous Bahrain at home. Aren't we cutting it too close for comfort?

Times have changed. They surely have. Gone are the days of culling players from the Armed Forces and the major schools and team manager Dan Palami says 10 days is enough.

"We are utilizing players who are currently playing in leagues. I brought up the aspect of lack of preparation but coach assures me that the quality of players coming in will be such that it won't take too much training time for them to adjust to the system or the team," Dan told me.

Among those coming in are Stephen Schrock, prodigal Azkal Javier Patino, Iain Ramsay of Australia, Stephen Palla, who got referred by David Alaba, Luke Woodland of England and Kevin Ingreso of Germany. The squad is virtually a wish-list of the best players available the team can get.

So, is 10 days enough?

Before, there was a need for longer training camps to get our players fit. Now they are fit and the concerns are on chemistry as in the past, the lack of it was made obvious when one player went left, while another passed the ball to his right. Little things like that.

Dan said they have difficulty getting players for non-Fifa dates and because of club duties, so “the difference in training days” is actually minimal.

We got the fittest players possible. Now, coach Thomas Dooley has 10 days to make a team out of them.

As to the friendlies—made difficult because other team’s first qualifiers aren’t in the SEA region—Dan said it was impractical to hold one as the starters would arrive on June 1.

“I’ve gambled on experience and quality to be the focal point of team composition,” he said.

I hope the gamble pays off and I hope he hasn’t forgotten what he told Sun.Star Cebu five years ago before the Azkal craze broke.

Asked what his long-term goal for the team, he said simply in August of 2010, “Qualifying for the 2018 World Cup.”

Dan’s dream starts in 10 days. 


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