THE arrival of coach Sven Goran Eriksson has spiked interest in the Philippine men’s football team, with a handful of foreign players with Filipino lineage signifying their intention of suiting up, according to Azkals team manager Dan Palami.
“With his entry, I’ve had messages from more players who are interested playing for the team,” Palami said.
“There were other Filipino players playing in higher divisions in Spain as well as South America. We will be looking at their documents and make a decision.”
The team is preparing for the Asean Football Federation Championship starting next month and the Asian Cup in January.
Palami said Eriksson had bigger offers from former Confederations Cup runner-up Cameroon and former Asian Cup Champion Iraq but the Philippines managed to lure the former England manager with a compensation package that he refused to reveal.
“He was being offered to coach by Cameroon and Iraq, they were offering him a lot more than what we want, we had to come up with a package to entice him,” said Palami during the on the Philippine Sportswriters Association forum on Tuesday at Tapa King in Cubao.
Palami joined forces with Melchor Miras of M-Sports, the marketing arm of the Azkals, in convincing Eriksson to head the Philippines in what could be the biggest coaching signing in any sport in the country.
Eriksson spent five years as a head coach of the Three Lions, leading the squad to two quarterfinals finishes in the 2002 and 2006 World Cup. They also had a quarterfinal exit in the 2004 European Championships.
In that squad were big names such as David Beckham, Steven Gerrard and Wayne Rooney – with the squad improving from 17th place in 2001 in the World rankings to fifth when he left in 2006.
“I think he was amused by my audacity and the guts to get somebody like him. I’m just glad that we were able to sell him our dream for Philippine Football and the chance to leave a legacy behind,” Palami added.
Palami bared that Eriksson met with the management and the team when the Azkals were going through training camp in Qatar.
“In his words, he didn’t expect us to be having that level as a team,” said Palami.
“He’s had it in Europe. Now he’ll have a chance in Asia. The potential of handling the Philippine national team will be another feather in his cap, I think that was the biggest motivation for him,” he added.
It also helped that Eriksson is familiar with Senior team adviser Scott Cooper as the two worked together during their time back with Leicester City.
Erikkson was the first manager hired by Leicester Thai owner Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha who was recently killed in a helicopter crash just a few days ago.
“Of course it helped that he knew Scott. In fact, during the discussions before, Scott and I were saying ‘why not try Sven?’” Palami shared.
“Sven is the perfect fit as they have worked together before so me, it was worth taking the risk of being turned down.”