Villaflor: Time for Azkals to move on sans bitter stars

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Thursday, August 7, 2014


WHEN the issue about midfielder Stephan Schrock – and then Dennis Cagara – resigning from national team duties broke, I was hardly alarmed. I explained my reasons in my column last Tuesday, which was penned before Schrock and Cagara went huhubels all over social media.

The online rants of the two foreign-based players didn’t sit well with the Philippine Football Federation, which held a press conference in Manila yesterday to clarify the issue. According to a Tweet from Inquirer sports reporter Cedelf Tupas who attended the presscon, Azkals manager Dan Palami found it “unfortunate it’s on social media.”

Palami said that “as far as communication is concerned, it’s a matter of playing time grievances” against Coach Thomas Dooley, whose system apparently didn’t sit well with mainstays Schrock and Cagara, who complained about their lack of playing time during the AFC Challenge Cup last May. Dooley had told Schrock he was injured and wanted to “save” him for the finals. To Cagara, the coach said Daisuke Sato was playing better than him.

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Tupas further tweeted PFF president Nonong Araneta’s statement on the matter: “PFF stands behind National Teams Committee chair Dan Palami and Thomas Dooley. It’s a team sport. We want to put up the best team.”

“We respect the decision of players not to play because playing for the national team is voluntary. They are part of history,” Araneta added.

Those statements couldn’t be clearer. Dooley’s system that opts for footballers who play well over star players who aren’t fit enough to deliver, prevails.

That means it’s time to put the issue to rest and heed calls to support the national team as it focuses on the bigger challenge at hand: the 2014 AFF Suzuki Cup this coming November.

The Philippine Azkals have been drawn alongside co-host Vietnam and Indonesia in Group A. The last slot in the group will go to the runner up of the qualifications in October. Group B has co-host and defending champions Singapore, Thailand, Malaysia, and the qualification winner.

As in previous editions, the Suzuki Cup will be a tightly fought tournament with its trademark high levels of excitement and drama.

Does the Philippine team have a chance of winning the tournament? Yes, even without Schrock or Cagara or Neil Etheridge. Then again, this is football and anything can happen.

The question now is this: will you still support the Azkals even without the star players you loved to the point of tears?

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on August 08, 2014.

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