THE Philippine Azkals won't be the same without Stephan Schrock and top defender Dennis Cagara, starting in the Suzuki Cup set from November 22 to December 20 in Vietnam and Singapore.
Azkals star striker Chieffy Caligdong expressed sadness after Schrock and Cagara announced on their social media accounts that they will no longer play for the Azkals so long as Thomas Dooley is the head coach.
“Nakakalungkot nga po eh. Malaking bagay rin po kasi sila sa team namin,” said Caligdong.
The Globe football ambassador was particularly regretful that the incident came at a time when the Philippines just recorded a landmark first runner-up finish in the last AFC Challenge Cup qualifier in Maldives.
“Sayang nga po eh. Kasi maganda pa naman ang ipinakita ng team sa Maldives, tapos inaasahan ng lahat magtutuloy-tuloy na tayo pati sa Suzuki cup,” he said.
“Sana talaga maayos ito. 'Yun ang dapat nating ipag-pray,” added the Barotac Nuevo, Iloilo native.
Asked about the chances of the Philippines to place in the top three of the coming Suzuki Cup, Caligdong remains positive although a bit concerned about the absence of Schrock and Caraga.
“Kaya po nating mag top three dun. Pero gaya nga ng sinabi ko, medyo mahihirapan tayo 'pag wala yung dalawa,” he said.
“Pero depende na rin yan sa mga ipapalit, kung talagang mawawala nga yung dalawa,” added the Green Archers United superstar.
Even longtime Sports Radio football anchorperson Cecille Quimlat believes the impending exit of Schrock and Cagara will create a big vacuum for the Azkals.
“Isa kasi sila sa mga beterano na ng team natin. Tapos it came at a time when we are preparing for two important tournaments, Suzuki Cup and the Peace Cup. It’s really a sad day for Philippine football,” said Quimlat, host of Sports Radio’s two-decade old program, Football Connection.
“Kung hindi maayos ito, no matter how the management and the coaching staff try to fill the hole, mahihirapan sila. Highly-rated booters kasi yung dalawa na yun,” she added.
With the situation getting out of hand, Quimlat is hopeful management of both Azkals and the Philippine Football Federation will find ways to mend the fences.
“Hindi ako nawawalan ng pag-asa na masusulusyunan iyan ng management. Dapat lang. Otherwise, mahihirapan talaga tayo. It’s an internal problem that has become a crisis sa football ng bansa,” added Quimlat.
“Nakakabigla kasi ito dahil parehong intense to play 'yan sa bansa natin.”
Quimlat also bared that Dooley has been very strict with regards to the commitment of the players to the national team.
Schrock and Cagara are both released to the Azkals by different teams in Europe, where they are based.
“The last time I interviewed Dooley, he told me rin kasi na he wants to change the system. Nalungkot daw siya kasi available lang daw ang mga players a week before every tournament,” she said.
“Yung demand siguro ni Dooley na hingan ng full commitment ang bawat players ang isa pa sa mga hindi nagustuhan nung mga players,” Quimlat added.