ON a warm Saturday morning on an unkempt patch of grass, dozens of Cebuano children had an experience of a lifetime: being trained by members of the Philippine Men’s National Team in a free football clinic.
Team manager Dan Palami brought five core players—including team captain Ali Borromeo and Emilio Caligdong—to help development organization Global Exchange with its signature campaign to send millions of children to school through football.
“The Men’s National Team is aware of its social responsibilities,” said Palami, who spends his own fortune in running the national team.
Asked why he does it, the unassuming president of the Leyte Football Association said: “I’ve always felt that the private sector should be involved.”
Palami’s dedication to the sport is beyond question, as he runs the team like a professional club.
Right now, the team’s energies are geared towards the AFC Suzuki Cup that kicks off on Oct. 20. A week before that, the team will join a tournament in Chinese Taipei on Oct. 8 to 14.
One of Palami’s most pressing concerns is finding a head coach, following the surprise resignation of Englishman Des Bulpin last month.
Palami clarified that Bulpin still serves as the Philippine team’s consultant and “continues to communicate with the coaching staff, with Edwin Cabalida serving as acting head coach.”
Palami left Bulpin’s departure at that, and zeroed in on finding his replacement.
“We now have a shortlist of head coaches from the UK, US, Italy and Spain,” Palami said. “We want somebody experienced in coaching ranked clubs.”
“By hiring foreign coaches, we get to transfer knowledge from experienced foreign coaches to Filipino coaches, who are actually qualified but simply lack experience,” said the team manager, adding that the national team can expect a new coach by September.
In agreeing to manage and finance the team, Palami told the Philippine Football Federation (PFF) to give the National Team Management Office “autonomy.”
“We want to operate independently,” he says. “So far, the PFF has been respecting our wishes.”
“We want to make sure we’re focused on our short to medium-term objectives of raising the Philippine team’s FIFA rankings by winning international competitions,” Palami said.
So what’s his long-term goal?
“Qualifying for the World Cup 2018,” Palami said, with a wry smile, and left it at that.