WITH former England manager Sven-Goran Eriksson’s surprise appointment as Azkals head coach, one of the biggest winners in this development is the team’s coaching staff.
That includes erstwhile head coach Scott Cooper and assistant coach Anto Gonzales.
Eriksson might be in the twilight of his career, judging from his stints over the past few years. After steering two Chinese teams to historic highs at international club level, he was sacked following a poor run with a second-tier club. It is the mark of a decorated man who seems to be taking it easy, a man just a few years away from delivering his swan song.
But Eriksson’s wealth of experience, nous and wisdom in the sport can prove valuable not just to Azkals players but to those who will assist him during two successive campaigns: the Suzuki Cup 2018 and the Asian Cup 2019. This is football “technology transfer” of the highest level, coming from one of the modern-day masters of the sport.
Hopefully, if internal politics does not get in the way, the lessons that Eriksson imparts would cascade effectively within the coaching organization. And more than that, the Swede’s presence should be one that would inspire confidence and hope not just with the team but throughout the Philippine football community.
Having Eriksson on board undoubtedly is the best thing that happened to Philippine football at this point in time. And the Philippine Football Federation deserves a stiff handshake for pulling off this coup, never mind if it’s one expensive coup.
In 2013, Eriksson was reportedly paid in the vicinity of $2.5 million a year with Chinese Super League Club Guangzhou R&F, so one can only speculate how much the Swede is getting for his services here. It is a big gamble for the PFF, but as long as Eriksson doesn’t do a Butcher, it could pay off big-time. The trade off is that expectations for Eriksson to deliver are high. Some must be mumbling right now that the undisclosed amount would have better use elsewhere.
Let’s make it clear that Eriksson is no ordinary coach. Pundits once regarded him as one of Europe’s best at the height of his career, mainly with England. His curriculum vitae is something most football managers in the world can only dream of, so for Philippine coaches and the team to work with a man of Eriksson’s stature in the same pitch, you cannot put a price tag on that.
Still, the more discomfiting question remains: will Eriksson actually deliver? The Asian Cup could be his swan song, and if it were to be, men like Eriksson would rather leave a legacy without question. Imagine the Philippine Azkals as a defining part of that legacy.