Source : GMA News
With the help of the FIFA Grassroots Program, clinics-slash-tryouts were held all over the Philippines to start a new training ground for future football stars.
If this program succeeds, the national football team may no longer have to pull out players from all over the world and realize in the end that they didn’t have enough time to practice together. That was the problem with the U-23 team that competed in the recent Southeast Asian Games.
“If trained properly, these kids are gonna be better than the current Azkals," said national team coach Aries Caslieb.
For the first time since 2004, there would be an organized program to prepare for the AFC Under-17 Championship and World Championship in 2017 and 2019 respectively.
The national coaching staff scoured Cebu, Davao, Bacolod, Iloilo and Metro Manila to scout eight-year-olds. These kids are of the perfect age for the two tournaments, turning 14 in 2017 and 16 in 2019.
Gift from Germany
But the Philippines would not be alone in putting up the program. The German Olympic Body sent veteran coach Eckhard Krautzun to evaluate the level of football in the Philippines and make recommendations to the Philippine Football Federation.
Krautzun, a former football player himself in Europe, has been coaching extensively around the world for the past 30 years. In fact, he coached the Philippines’ 1991 SEAG team that finished as a semi-finalist, the best outing of the country in history.
“I came here to evaluate everything – the facilities, coaching, administration and of course, the players," said Krautzun.
While he was pleased with the kids' enthusiasm, he said that we don’t have enough fields. He was also surprised to find out that not all the players have their own balls.
“These are the basic equipment in football," he explained.
That’s why after the clinic, he told the kids, “Christmas is coming. Tell your mommy, ‘I want a ball for Christmas.’"
He also added that the coaches’ skills are crucial to the development of the young players.
“The coaches have to be better. They have to be able to demonstrate what to do on the field. I’m already 70-years-old and I can still do all the exercises," he said.
After making recommendations to the PFF, Krautzun will report his evaluation to the German government.
“They will send a technical director here at their expense as a gift to the Philippines," he said.
Once in a lifetime opportunity, literally
Given a literally once in a lifetime opportunity in this new grassroots program, the competition was stiff. With 67 kids vying for a spot in the NCR alone, they were all set on shining in the two-hour session.
According to Caslieb, the coaching staff will release the list of accepted players by the end of the year. Training will start next year in separate local training centers.
One of the hopefuls is Kurt Tan, a second grader from Ateneo. He started playing as a striker in a summer clinic when he was in prep. But just last year, he decided to become a goalkeeper.
“I got mad at someone who scored a goal against us. After that, I decided to be a goalkeeper so I can stop them from making goals," he explained in his feisty young voice.
Asked if he’ll grow up to be better than the current Azkals, he answered without batting an eyelash, “Yeah, for sure."
You can never have enough confidence if you’re training to be the next Filipino football star after all.