The Philippine Azkals’ road back to redemption will begin next week with a pair of friendlies against Nepal and Chinese Taipei. And somehow, the same gaffer that led them to several successes almost 10 years ago will be the same coach who will, hopefully, lead them again to relevance after being in the shadow of late and in the afterthoughts of long suffering football fans and supporters now pinning their attention and time to the FIFA World Cup-bound Philippine Women’s National Football Team.
Yesterday, the Philippine Football Federation, led by President Nonong Araneta, Secretary General Atty. Ed Gastanes and Philippine Azkals’ Team Manager Dan Stephen Palami formally introduced the comeback kid, Hans Michael Weiss, as the “new” coach of the Azkals. This will be the second time that Weiss will handle the team after parting ways with the squad in 2014.
Weiss coached the Azkals for 44 games from 2011 up to 2014. Compiling a record of 21 wins, 11 draws and 12 losses.
“We won 50% of our games,” Weiss immediately reminded everyone while he was being introduced during the presser in Pasig.
He also made it clear that despite being away from the squad for almost a decade, Weiss maintains he has never forgotten his beloved Azkals. Even if he had spells in Romania, Mongolia and Laos, Weiss says he remained in contact with several Azkals throughout the years. He made it clear that accepting the opportunity to coach the Azkals once more was a no brainer. He said he is very happy to be with the team again.
Weiss assures, too, that he feels no pressure from the challenges of bringing back the team once more to its glory days. To win the games, however, against Nepal and Chinese Taipei will be a good start for his second tour of duty with the team.
Weiss is also looking ahead past the friendlies.
“If we can get four or six points (in the November qualifiers), we are in a good place. This is what I will be working for,” he said.
To do this, Weiss said he needs to bring in the best available players for the qualifiers, which is short saying that he will do everything he can to make a very competitive team. He is also open to the possibility of tapping new players or the next generation of Azkals in November.
“I think in some ways that it is better to build up on what we have and to build on the match window. There are exciting prospects for the future. We might have to change a few players who are over there (overseas). We will see who will be ready in November.”
Weiss said the national training camp will start this coming Monday, June 12, which is a very significant date in our history and perhaps for the team as well.
“At the end of the day, we are here to push the whole program, asking the media and the fans, in particular, to come back, to attend the games and support us even if it is not the most exciting time as it has been in the last couple of months. We want to start again,” Weiss said.
At the minimum, Weiss said the Azkals should be at every Asian Cup.
Araneta, for his part, made it clear that the Azkals, not the under-22 or any other youth teams, will be Weiss’s utmost priority. Weiss is also expected to bring good results as the squad opens its campaign in the 2026 World Cup and the 2027 Asian Cup Qualifiers in November this year will be his main task.
“The June friendlies are part of the preparation. I think we have quality players, who will suit up against Nepal and Chinese Taipei. And I hope the fans will support the team, ‘yun ang kailangan natin. Hindi lang ‘yung expectations nila para at least mabuhay ulit ang suporta sa Azkals natin,” he said.
Palami, on the other hand, said it is already clear with Weiss what his targets are.
“He needs to get the players that will help the team qualify to the World Cup or at the very least, get the wins needed. I think that’s the first order for him as the coach. He has to impose his system to get the points,” Palami said.
The long-time Azkals manager also made it clear that giving Weiss a one-year contract, which is a major improvement compared to the goldfish like memory of a tenure given to the last three coaches of the team, will give him at least enough time to form a better team. Moreover, the German mentor will no longer go through the get-to-know-you stage with his players.
“One thing going for him is that he is already familiar with his players, unlike other new coaches, who will need a lot of time to assimilate in the culture and assimilate into the team,” Palami added.
As early as now, Araneta said the PFF is arranging friendlies against several national teams for the FIFA windows in September and October before the Azkals compete in the qualifiers in November. From what I have heard these friendlies will involve at least Middle East-based teams.
While the Azkals stumbled, to say the least, in their past campaigns due to various reasons, the arrival of Weiss offers some sort of hope, of optimism that somehow the team is at least on the right track to reclaim respect and the love, not only of its long-suffering fans but also the present generation which has not seen good results from the team of late.
Hopefully, the move to tap Weiss will be the much needed kick and direction the team needs.
And for the nth time, I would like to hope, too, that the next few months will bring joy and more reasons to once more rally behind the team.
On a personal note, The Designated Kit Man would like to greet Dan Palami a very Happy Birthday! We may not agree on several things when it comes to our beloved Azkals, but then again, let’s talk about these things some other time. For the meantime, enjoy your day!
Stay safe. Stay happy peeps!
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