You’ve seen the stories of the players who made it possible for the Philippines to make it to the AFC Asian Cup on the glorious night of March 28, 2018 but how did it happen?
In an exclusive interview, we were able to get it straight from the one who orchestrated it. None other than The Azkals former head coach Thomas Dooley.
As of the moment, he’s working as the sporting director for FC Viettel in Vietnam. “I learn how the structure of the club is, how the academy structure, how the league works and how the national team is working,” said Dooley.
Success is like a drug for Dooley as his continuous chase for it became his addiction, hence, the decision to move to Vietnam and continue his managerial career there.
Talking about the happenings two years ago, Dooley recalled it like it was just yesterday.
“That victory was not the most beautiful game we played but the most important victory for the country and the biggest of all the wins we achieved. We had the best camp ever. Everything we talked about that week went through in the game exactly the way it went.”
Dooley also predicted almost the entire outcome of the match knowing that his team will make a mistake but will definitely come back later into the match.
“Even before the game, I pointed out that somebody will make a mistake but if we play with the energy, enthusiasm and team spirit we had that week in training, there is no way that we will lose the game. We can’t and we won’t.”
He believed in the entire squad. Dooley knew that the 24 players he selected will definitely play a part in their victory. He made sure as well that once a player is called upon to help the team, they will do so according to his tactics.
“I always said subs are some of the most important players in a game. James was a part of Kevin’s goal and James and Patrick (Reichelt) created Phil’s 50th goal for the country and us a victory.”
He also knew that all the players he selected through for the entire qualifiers were not just mere numbers. They actually made their own part in the country’s success in qualifying for the very first time for the Asian Cup.
“We had not just 24 great players. We had 24 great human beings who understand what is necessary to succeed.”
Fast forward to today, Dooley believes that the squad who made it to the Asian Cup was a product of continuous hard work and should the country want to make it to China in 2023, a lot of work is needed in order for this to happen again.
“The team who qualified for the Asian Cup is a team we built over the years. You can’t build a team overnight more so a national team where you get together only every two months for 10 days. I was proud of them for what they did in the camp and in the games.”
Dooley gave us a few of his thoughts on what the federation needs to do in order to build another team as he did back when he was the gaffer of the Azkals.
“There are many things you need to do and to have inside of you to be successful. The worst thing you can do is when your team is at their best, you start changing everything. You don’t do that because the risk is too big. Most of the time, it goes the other way around.”
Looking forward to the next decade of Philippine Football, Dooley gives us his insight on what are the things the country’s program needs to improve on in order to succeed in growing the sport here.
“Football in the Philippines will grow no matter what. Football is like a drug and once you play it, it will stick on you. We need a league, a real league where the owners make money and not just spending money because they like it. More success in teams, more players and more jobs. As long as we don’t have the right mindset, it will grow slow.”
Now that he’s seeing how Vietnam’s doing their football program out there, he wants us to look into it as well and emulate what they’re doing as the country has been enjoying a lot of success in the sport.
Hopefully, we see him back in the country be it at club level or even back with the national team. Thanks for helping the Azkals make history.