an interview on the state and challenges that face philippine football

This interview will appear in the souvenir issue of Football Philippines magazine which will be distributed at the Philippines vs. LA Galaxy match. Much thanks to Angelico Mercader and Football Philippines for allowing me to post this on my blog.

 

Photo courtesy of Football Philippines @ http://www.facebook.com/footballph

Football Philippines (FP): How do you see the LA Galaxy match affecting football in the country, the performance of our national team, and the support of Filipinos for the sport? Do you see more international friendlies such as this in the coming years?

Bonnie Ladrido (BL): The Philippine Football Federation (PFF) is obviously enthused at having the Los Angeles Galaxy play against our Men’s National Team (“the Azkals”) in Manila. We could not have foreseen at the start of this year the prospect of this match capping off a year which has seen a tremendous leap not just in the progress of our team but more so the meteoric rise in the popularity of the game in our country. It will have a tremendous impact in terms of the collective consciousness of Filipino sports fans.

The Azkals look forward to playing this match against the recently crowned Major League Soccer champions. When the negotiations to bring the Galaxy over became public, we had several of our players lobbying to make this happen. This will obviously be a great experience for them as well. While the game itself will have no bearing on our FIFA ranking, our players will be in this not just to play but to win the match.

It is our fervent hope that this match against the Galaxy will continue to firm up the foundations that have been laid this year and generate even more support and more important, participation in the game in the Philippines. This will be a necessary step towards attracting a wider base of players from which we could select fresh talent for our various national teams. The PFF is already in the process of cementing a grassroots program which will be launched next year with the aim of qualifying for the 2019 FIFA Under-17 World Cup. This program will provide the infrastructure which will allow us to capture much of the increased interest as a result of this match as well as the popularity of the Azkals.

It is no secret that for us to improve, our teams will have to play more matches. So yes, the PFF will take advantage of the scheduling windows in the FIFA calendar to organize more international friendlies on home soil. For 2012, we are eyeing at least 2 and maybe 3 international friendlies in the Philippines. With the proper infrastructure in place, the PFF also hopes, at some point, to host matches in other areas of the country.

FP: What are some of the significant highlights of the year that you would consider milestones for Philippine Football and why?

BL: This was a historical year for Philippine football. Some of the more memorable moments included:

  1. The victory over Mongolia at the Panaad Stadium in Bacolod;
  2. The advancement of the Azkals to the final stage of the Challenge Cup which will be held in Nepal in March of next year;
  3. The holding of national level tournaments including the Smart Club Championships, the Suzuki Cup Under-23 Championships and the Under-19 National Championships;
  4. The victory over Sri Lanka in the first round of the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil qualifiers (the first time we had advanced to the second round ever);
  5. Our hosting of 2 World Cup qualifying matches for the first time in over 10 years;
  6. The renovation of the Rizal Memorial Football Stadium for which the PFF and its corporate partners invested over P9 million;
  7. The signing of a multi-million peso broadcast contract by the United Football League with TV5/AKTV bringing live coverage of league matches for millions of Filipinos;
  8. The approval by FIFA under its Goal Project program of two (University of Life and Valencia, Bukidnon) projects providing $1 million for new facilities;
  9. The signing of corporate partnership programs with Smart Communications, Air21 and the MVP Sports Foundation providing over P100 million in financial support over the next 10 years;
  10. The arrival of Eckhardt Krautzen, a recognized expert in grassroots development, to assess the state of the game in our country and provide direction towards a credible and sustainable grassroots development program for the Philippines;
  11. The LA Galaxy match; and,
  12. The election of Mariano Araneta, Jr. to a 4-year term as PFF President.

More than the individual significance of each milestone, the contribution of each to the totality of what has happened is what is more significant. All these as well as other less luminous events point to a dynamism which football has not had in the Philippines. These serve to provide a momentum that with the proper direction and support can only lead to even greater heights for the beautiful game in our country.

We must also remember the setbacks that we encountered during the year. While I do not wish to dwell on these, it is important to learn lessons from these shortcomings to complement the lessons learned from the things that went right. There will always be challenges and we remain a distance from where we would like to be. The PFF remains grounded and aware that there is a lot of work that still needs to be done. It is this humility with which we admit to our mistakes and accept constructive criticism which will make us work even harder.

FP: How do you see the coming year for Philippine Football? What concrete steps is PFF taking to further develop the sport?

BL: The key to strengthening and building on what we achieved this year will be the launch of our grassroots program. We have to be able to take advantage of the fact that we are a nation that is 90 million strong. While the assessment of Mr. Krautzen pointed to the lack of facilities and equipment as well as the need for a more determined coaching development program, he also highlighted the natural talent of the Filipino in terms of our inherent agility and speed. The PFF will begin to institutionalize the framework for this grassroots program for us to have a greater chance of harnessing the innate talent of the Filipino and hopefully find the next Chieffy Caligdong, Ian Araneta or Ali Borromeo.

FP: What do you think are some of the important challenges that PFF must be able to address?

BL: The lack of facilities and equipment is the most obvious and tangible candidate among the challenges that the Federation faces. FIFA development representatives were in Manila last week and presented to the PFF a wide range of options which the PFF could tap to address this particular challenge. The PFF, however, remains cognizant of the fact that we have to help ourselves to spur facility development and the provision of equipment at a faster pace. This is where the PFF’s corporate sponsorship programs come in. Thus, it is critical that the PFF continue to guard its integrity and maintain the hard-won trust of its corporate partners by being transparent and professional in its actions. The PFF also needs to be able to widen its revenue base by building its nascent merchandising efforts. All these plans will not come cheap but we remain committed to investing in the game and will do what can be done to speed the process along while hopefully avoiding crass commercialism.

FP: How would you describe the positive financial support that PFF and football in general is getting from sponsors, and how would you attribute this to both the popularity of the sport and the confidence in PFF’s management/leadership?

BL: The PFF is grateful and a little overwhelmed by the outpouring of support that the game has received in this past year. The PFF was able to raise about P26 million, about one-fourth of its budget, from corporate partners. We admit that in terms of the growth of the sport, this has mostly been driven by the popularity of the Azkals. The Federation’s role has mostly been to provide the resources to put our teams in a position where they can be successful.

We also know enough not to take all of these for granted. We also know that there remain a lot of things that need to be done. The continued professionalization of the PFF’s organization remains a key initiative. The rationalization of the Federation’s internal processes will continue. The mindset of being transparent remains in place.

At the end of the day, we hope people understand and glean from our actions that the current leadership of the PFF does what it does to protect the integrity of the game, promote the game for all and work to make things better. We do what we do not for anything else other than our own love for the beautiful game. We do not ask for recognition or reward. We remain our own worst critics and the opportunity to serve the game and the Filipino nation is more than enough reward for most of us.

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6 Comments on “an interview on the state and challenges that face philippine football”

  1. Faitherz says:

    I hope PFF will work with DepEd to tap our future Azkals through schools, and as early as possible. Oo nga po naman, we have over 90 million Filipinos.

  2. jandrew says:

    Hello,
    I just wanted to thank you for all of your hard work that you have done for the PFF. I’m also thankful for the articles that you post. They are always insightful and well thought out and allows me to be encouraged about the growth of the beautiful game in the beautiful country in the Philippines.

    thanks and God bless

  3. cjeagle says:

    Interestingly enough Bonnie included Coach Krautzun’s arrival as one of the memorable moments in Philippine football and rightfully enough, completely ignored Coach Weiss. This means that there are officials within the PFF who are aware of whose contributions were positive and those who were found wanting.

    The one thing I found most significant in his comments is the PFF’s commitment to tranparency and integrity starting with the treasurer himself, Bonnie Ladrido. It is not mentioned in this article, but I believe that they have also hired an external auditor to make sure that all transactions are above board and to convince their current and potential sponsors that any contributions that they make will go towards their intended goal and not to somebody’g pocket as has been in the case in the past locally as well as in other FIFA organizations.

    With committed members and volunteers like these, who are willing to listen to constructive criticism, I think we have the right officials to lead football for the next four years. Well done. Now if they can only add an official website to update us on developments, it will help them look more professional and give them a venue to inform fans of their plans and programs.

    • criticaleye2 says:

      Sir, whatever anyone thinks of Mr. Weiss – I think many have missed the fact that it was he who pushed for Mr. Krautzen to assist the PFF. In my early days at the PFF, it was Coach Weiss who educated me on what needed to be done to sustain a long-term development program. He was the one who initiated and arranged for four of our coaches to be sent to Germany and found sponsors for 2 of them allowing the PFF to send another 2. He has been very candid about our and his own shortcomings. I understand that most only see and really care about the performance of the teams that Mr. Weiss coaches. The PFF is not blind and continually assesses the performance of Coach Weiss relative to the performance measures that he is being asked to achieve. It is easy to be critical in the absence of the big picture. For now, whatever people’s impressions are of match day tactical decisions – the PFF will weigh this against other considerations (e.g. relative player skills, team cohesion, resources provided, level of competition, etc.) that when taken together determine whether a team wins or loses. Then the PFF judges the coaches based on how he did relative to the factors that he has control over. Ultimately, the PFF’s job is to try to put our teams in the best possible position to be successful. Studies and evidence would show that a significant determinant of a team’s success comes from the number of games played. Relative to other nations, we are nowhere near the level where we can consistently be successful in international competition. We try to compensate, in the short-term, by bringing in our foreign-domiciled players. Longer-term, however, the grassroots program will be the key. This will allow us to develop a larger pool of players, identify them early, have them play together from the youth level all the way to the senior level and by doing so develop the team cohesion which as you notice has been our primary bane. So while we would like our teams to have been even more successful, the reality is that any shortfall in perceived expectations cannot be put solely on the shoulders of our coaches.

  4. cjeagle says:

    Let me apologize if I did not mention that Coach Weiss did have contributions besides coaching. In the forums, I have said that to be fair we have to acknowledged that Coach Weiss, connections to the German and Japanese football federations helped pave the way for our team’s training in those 2 countries and that just like he did in Rwanda, he helped facilitate the training of our coaches in Germany. I have read about his contributions in Rwanda at the youth level, with the establishment of a women’s league and in grassroots development, as well as helping coaches get additional training in Germany, all of which are commendable, but when it came to choosing a head coach for the men’s team, Rwanda decided to go beyond their arrangement with Germany. They were disappointed with the results they were getting from the coaches sent to them from Germany, in particular Coach Nees and decided to strike out on their own, recently hiring a Serbian with extensive international and club experience, to coach their men’s national team.

    I also have no problems with Coach Weiss as a person, as he has shown an ability to adapt to different cultures including ours which is in itself is very commendable. His advice when it comes to developing our programs and the shortcomings that we have to overcome should be heeded as his vast experience in helping the Rwandan football federation with this issues cannot be denied.

    It is his performances as a coach at the men’s level which I and others have found wanting, as well as his relative inexperience coaching at the club(none as a head coach in Europe) as well as at the senior national team level(only at youth level). The approach you take coaching a youth team at the U-17 level where he has gained most of his experience coaching, is very different from that of coaching a senior national team. At the U-17 World Cup you will see a lot of teams, playing the all out attacking style that he advocates, but at the men’s level, with the tactical maturity gained by players in their clubs, this will just leave you open to counterattacks, which has proven to be a consistent weakness of this team throughout his tenure. He has also been unable to make the proper tactical adjustments during the game, which are properly learned through long experience coaching at the club level particularly in advanced countries in Europe, which he unfortunately did not have the benefit of. That is why you see other teams playing the Azkals making tactical adjustments during half time which help change the complexion of the game in their favor which we were not able to anticipate.

    I understand why our current arrangement with the DFB will not allow us to make any changes at this time but I hope that when the time comes for the PFF to look in a different direction, that they should consider experience at either the club or men’s level, as a necessary criteria for the men’s head coaching position, something for instance that Coach Krautzun has plenty of.

  5. cjeagle says:

    BTW, I agree that grassroots development and the identification and training of our players at a very young age, is the long term solution to developing a strong national team. It will take awhile before we see the benefits of such a long term development program, but I find it encouraging that the PFF has started making plans for this. In the meantime, we need to sustain the interest and momentum of the sport in the Philippines, by continuing to recruit from our extensive diaspora, whose experience we can hopefully tap not only as players but as coaches in our national league.


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