For such an innocuous sounding name, Peace Cups in recent years certainly have been anything but peaceful.
It will be remembered that the Younghusband brothers, Phil and James, were famously dropped from the Azkals roster to great controversy prior to the 2012 Peace Cup.
In the present build-up to the 2014 edition, Stephan Schrock and Dennis Cagara have stated publicly that they will not play for the Azkals again as long as Coach Thomas Dooley remains in charge.
Such drama – all before a tournament promoting peace is to begin.
To go into their reasons will be going through a never-ending cesspool of finger-pointing, sympathy-begging and accusation-throwing, something that would best be dealt with internally.
So instead, let’s analyze the repercussions of this split.
The short term effects are obvious. Both players will be missed, especially Stephan Schrock.
The emergence of Daisuke Sato and Simone Rota, coupled with the recovery of Carli de Murga and Jeffrey Christiaens, certainly softens the blow of losing Cagara.
But it is much different case for Schrock. When on form, he is simply the best player for the Azkals, bar none. He is a game-changer, a talent who strikes fear into defenders’ hearts. The Azkals will be hard-pressed to find a direct replacement for Schroecky.
Off-field, this mutiny by two of the more senior players raises a lot of questions. Will there be other disgruntled players to come out publicly? Will they ever suit up for the Azkals again? How will Azkals management deal with it?
For the PFF, it is pretty straightforward. No player is greater than the team, not even if your name is Stephan Markus Cabizares Schrock and you have played in the German Bundesliga. To kowtow to your star player by sacking the coach will undermine not just the Azkals but the PFF as a whole.
Make no mistake, the PFF will undoubtedly stand by Dooley on this issue.
That said, it always takes two to tango. There must be similar questions to ask of Dooley and the Azkals brass. What does it say about their leadership if they’ve failed to get their best player on board with what they were trying to achieve?
As a football coach in the modern era, it’s not enough to be well-versed in the intricacies of the 4-2-3-1 formation or the high defensive line. Coaches should be excellent communicators and able managers as well. They need to have the ability to sell their ideas to their players and get them to believe not just in the direction of the team but in their coach himself.
If Schrock, Cagara and maybe some others as well cannot get in live with the coach’s vision, it’s a different story.
Inevitably, the long term goal was always about bringing in fresh faces and local based players to form a home based squad who can train regularly together. The target will be training them and giving them experience to be ultimately be at par with the Fil-foreigners in terms of quality.
The benefits are obvious – better cohesion, better understanding on the field, and lesser costs without the need to fly them in.
That has to be the sustainable target. Wasn’t that what we all asked Coach Hans Michael Weiss to do – blood in the youngsters and give them a chance?
Well, Dooley is doing that now. He’s made the hard decision not to give playing time to the older guys and instead give the young guns their chance. And for that, he gets blamed.
Schrock, Cagara and even Neil Etheridge have found out the hard way that no one is indispensable; no one is untouchable.
Resigning from the squad because one is against the team’s direction to build a team without the players from Europe will not win them any sympathy from the fans. Quite the opposite, it’s more likely to lose them some supporters.
Throwing tantrums because your coach ‘lied’ to you by not calling you up for the Peace Cup will not garner commiseration, it will garner scorn.
In any case, one snub doesn’t make for the end of an international career. Sometimes it merely means new players need to be tested or it could mean that a snubbed player needs to concentrate on getting a club team.
Through it all, the mark of a great coach and a great manager is a communication line with the players that is always open.
Players, in turn, should be mature enough to take coach’s decisions, especially when things does not go their way.
Unquestionably, the absence of Schrock and Cagara will render the Philippine National Team poorer – for now.
But if it is for the benefit of a brighter Philippine national men’s football team tomorrow, then we’ll certainly take it.