COUNTDOWN IN SRI LANKA: the Final Countdown
An Interview with Stephan Schrock and the Azkals Before the Big Game
Just coming back from the Azkals’ training session… in Dan Palami’s car! The Azkals manager was so kind enough to let us use the car to get back to the hotel… his personally assigned car as he went in the bus. The amount of things Dan has done which deserve praise and are reasons to be proud and yet he remains so incredibly humble… I guess that’s one of the reasons for the rising success of the Azkals.
Another reason is the scouting of players in other leagues, as the Philippines has a rich tradition of mixing with and understanding other cultures. Following the Filipino diaspora, the children of the Filipinos living abroad, steeped in the football culture of Europe, bring to the Philippines a great strength and diversity that have seen the team’s potential rise. One such player is Stephan Schrock, a Fil-German who plays for the second division German team (2nd Bundesliga) SpVgg Greuther Fürth. He kindly gave me some time to discuss how he has settled into the team and how he sees the team progressing:
Roy: How have you been settling into the team in the recent weeks, in Germany and now Sri Lanka?
Schrock: ”Everything’s working well. It is more serious than I thought but I’m happy with training, this is a big step forward. Tthe guys have welcomed me like a family.”
Roy: How do you see the Philippines’ chances, firstly against Sri Lanka, then against Kuwait and looking ahead to future tournaments?
Schrock: “It’s difficult to say because I’m so new to the team, I haven’t played against Sri Lanka or Kuwait so I’m not sure what to expect. I hope we’ll win tomorrow, the goal is to make it to the group stage of the World Cup qualifiers (by beating Kuwait).”
Roy: As you were born and raised in Germany why did you choose to play for the Philippines?
Schrock: Well my Mum is Filipino and it is a great honour to play for the country of my mother. It makes me really proud. I owe everything to her and all I have is because of my mother. Playing for the Philippines is my way of saying thank you to my Mum.”
Schrock is clearly a very talented player and even Manager Dan Palami notes that as he plays in the highest competitive league of any of the Azkals “He is our highest rated player… and he’s one of the most humble. He’s not only good on the pitch but has a great attitude off it as well and that’s endeared him to the team.”
While so many things are going well for the team some players were showing signs of fatigue. Angel Aldeguer particularly seemed to lack his usual sharpness, struggling with his leg, though he is still likely to start tomorrow. The Spanish-based Azkal is still struggling with the language barrier but he is a fantastic player and deserves good success with the team. Coach Brax joined the injury list but in a worse way, Angel and the coach going for the same ball but one with his head and one with his foot and Coach Brax’s head came off the worst. Sporting interesting bruises he is in good spirits and the event was fortunately more comical than serious. Phil Younghusband too felt the strain at the end, icing behind his knee but again nothing serious enough to keep him out the starting lineup.
So here it is, the predicted lineup for the game tomorrow:
Del Rosario Gier Borromeo Mulders
J. Younghusband Schrock Ott Caligdong
Aldeguer P. Younghusband
Predicting that Mulders will start at left-back in place of Jonsson, this may seem like an odd move but Mulders is a very strong player who will likely play well despite it not being his normal role. Hoping to win comfortably, manager Dan Palami and Coach Weiss will then likely experiment with some players in the second leg, working towards the 4-3-3 formation and giving valuable experience to other up and coming players.
One last comical moment was leaving the stadium and seeing Anton Del Rosario run after the bus as it waited for him. Check out this photo of him just in case the football doesn’t quite excite you enough.
Next on the Countdown to Sri Lanka: THE GAME: PHILIPPINES V SRI LANKA
Co-director of the Fairplay for All Foundation which runs Payatas FC, Kasiglahan FC and Kasiglahan Girls FC. Check out the charity and donate to support grassroots football providing education and homes for street kids: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Fairplay-For-All-Foundation/163370857062294