Give And Go

Change came upon the Philippine Azkals recently after their handlers made a decision to go in a different direction and tap a new coach moving forward.
After four years of being under the stewardship of American Thomas Dooley, the Philippine national men’s football team will now be steered by British Terry Butcher following his selection by the Philippine Football Federation to be the next Azkals coach.
His naming as coach was formally made in ceremonies held at the Solaire Hotel & Casino on June 14.
Reports have it that Butcher’s extensive international experience in handling teams and ability to turn struggling programs to a success played a major role in his selection as Philippine football team coach.
The change in coaches effectively ended Dooley’s term with the Azkals, which, while not a perfect run, was a successful one nonetheless in my opinion.
After four years at the helm, the American coach left the Azkals in better standing in the rankings at 115th now from 130th when he first got hold of the team.
He has led the Azkals in huge battle wins, including the most recent of booking a first-ever spot in the AFC Asian Cup.
Of course, Dooley’s term was not without shortcomings.
One standing out was the Azkals’ failure to notch a victory in the 2016 Suzuki Cup, which the country co-hosted with Myanmar, that led to them not being able to advance to the next round.
It was a complete turnaround from two years prior when Dooley led the Philippines to the semifinals.
It was also well documented how Dooley did not go along with some players of the Azkals and ruffled some feathers among local football stakeholders with his biting comments and opinions on certain issues.
Having had a chance to follow Dooley’s Azkals term, I have to say I am going to miss the guy for not hesitating to share his thoughts on football matters when you engage him.
It does not matter what the setting was, whether it was a formal press conference, or in the stands during a United Football League match then, or just a chance upon, he would accommodate questions and answer them as best and extensive as he could.
And as writer I surely valued that.
The last time I got to talk to him was during the postmatch press conference of their 2-1 victory over Tajikistan at the Rizal Memorial Football Stadium that earned for the Azkals the spot in the AFC Asian Cup happening in 2019.
I vividly remember telling him, “Thanks for all your efforts, coach, and for what you have done for Philippine football.”
To which he answered, “Thanks as well.” Then he smiled and we shook hands.
Little did I know then that I was, in a way, saying my farewell to him as coach.
Well Coach Dooley, thanks again for all your efforts. And to incoming Coach Butcher, may you continue building on the gains of the Azkals and wishing you all the best in your tenure.
Michael Angelo S. Murillo has been a columnist since 2003. He is a BusinessWorld reporter covering the Sports beat.