Are the Azkals losing direction?

After Onyok Velasco won a silver medal in Atlanta ‘96, the first silver for the country since 1964, the sentiment was that 2000 was when we would end our gold medal drought in the Olympics.

After a 0-0-0 haul in Sydney, a contrite Philippine Olympic Committee would say that it was back to the drawing board, a refrain sung again in 2004 and 2008. In between, the phrase was repeated so often in the SEA Games — save for 2005 — that it sort of became a joke. In 2012, nobody used it because everyone saw the obvious — Philippine sports was going nowhere.

WHO’S NEXT. Josep Ferré Ybarz (right) was the latest one-tournament coach for the men’s football team, which will play two friendlies in March in Kuwait and Doha. Whether Ybarz is still in charge is a big question. (PHOTO FROM AZKALS FB PAGE)

Lately, I’ve been reminded of that every time the Philippine national football team, called the Azkals because they survived and fought on sans love and support, save for a diehard few, goes on a preparation phase.

We’ve had so many new head coaches in the past few years, I’ve lost count. Every time there’s an announcement for a new coach, the PFF won’t even mention long-term plans because they’re not sure the coach will be in for a long term.

Right now, the PFF is teasing yet another new head coach, thinking it’s cute. It isn’t. It’s like the POC of old after a 0-0-0 haul. That a woman saved the Philippine Olympic movement isn’t lost on me.

To be perfectly blunt, back in the time when the men’s team was significant, the football beat writers would be trying to outdo each trying to get the inside scoop on coaching changes. Now, the only time we hear we sacked a coach is when the PFF teases the announcement of a new guy in charge.

Fans can’t even shout “sack the coach” because they don’t know who’s the coach. From “Sack the coach!” to “Who’s the coach?”

This has been going on since before the pandemic and in 2020, we tried to be understanding, given the world was in a difficult place, but to be still in this situation three years later, you have to ask this simple question:

“Has the Azkals lost direction?”

Of course, they say they won’t, yet three or six months down the road, they’d present us with a new coach.

This reminds me of what an old-timer who once told me a few weeks back, “There are so many things going on at the PFF.”

What are those things? We don’t know. Some of the folks who used to write about those things are now with the PFF, while some haven’t written anything football-related.

One of the most difficult things to do is to criticize people you consider as friends and I know there are people in the PFF whom I consider as friends and they work their butts off. But when you see the Azkals and you see the Malditas, you have to ask yourself this: “Are the Azkals losing direction?”

If not, good. Perhaps it’s just a matter of communication.

But if they are, who will make the PFF wake up to such a reality?

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