After several weeks of speculation, Spanish coach Josep Maria Ferre Ybarz is the new coach of the Philippine Azkals that will compete in the AFF Mitsubishi Electric Cup 2022.
Azkals’ team manager Dan Palami made the confirmation with The Designated Kit Man that the young mentor will lead the team in the tune-up game against Vietnam next week before the squad travels to Cambodia for its first game in the tournament.
Ferre or Coach Coco is from Catalonia, Spain. The 39-year-old is the former head coach of FC Barcelona’s Barca Foundation Genuine from 2021-2022. He was also the former assistant coach of Quess East Bengal team in India’s I-League in 2019-2020
Coach Coco was also the head coach of FC Bayamon in Puerto Rico’s Liga de PR and Bangkok Glass FC in Thai League 1, Thailand’s top division, in 2018.
He also called the shots for Ratchaburi FC in the Thai top division in 2015. Prior to this, Ferre was in Japan as head coach of Nike Japan and as academy director of Buriram United and coach of its team in the Thai Division 2. Ferre also worked with Volkswagen Junior Masters in Spain, Kitchee SC in the Hong Kong Premier League and FCBEscola in Egypt. He was also connected with Futbol Club Asco, which plays in the Tercera Division RFEF – Group 5 in Catalonia. Ferro speaks English, Spanish, Catalan, French, Arabic and Thai.
Ferro, however, will coach a national team for the first time in his career.
“He is a young coach for the young team. But even if he is young, he has extensive experience with professional teams like in Thailand and in Barcelona, Spain. He will bring his high level of experience, which I feel is suitable for the squad of young and new players,” Palami explained.
Palami says Ferre initially started with the basics during his first few days with the squad to gauge the players in the camp.
“The local coaches and the team captain have been very helpful in ensuring a quick learning curve for him in terms of style and getting to know the players,” he added.
Talks with Ferro called for a short spell with the team, but Palami says they will assess his impact in the next few months.
“Right now, it is a short-term contract. But if we feel that it is a good thing, if the mix is good, then we might renegotiate for a longer term,” Palami.
Palami says the team will leave next week for the friendly against Vietnam on December 14. Ever the optimist, Palami says he is hoping for a good result in the Mitsubishi Electric Cup. But then again, the Philippines will be fielding a rebooted Azkals’ squad helmed by a new coach. Facts that are evident especially to those who have written off the squad as early as now.
“We always go to a tournament or a competition with the intention to get to the championships. But at the same time, we are realistic. We also want this tournament actually for young players to get experience in international competitions. As of now, we want to prepare for the next international tournaments. We want the next generation of players to be ready. So the Mitsubishi Electric Cup is a good tournament to start with the process,” Palami said.
Palami said they have already made several cuts from the initial list of players invited to the national training pool. He made it clear, however, that the final composition of the squad is not yet final.
“There is a final list, but the thing is, for every game in the tournament, teams can still change their roster. So the list is a bit longer than the 23-man list for every game,” Palami added.
Palami also said that they expect five foreign-based players to arrive soon and reinforce the squad. They include Amani Aguinaldo, the Tabinas brothers, Christian Rontini and Jens Rasmussen.
“We are in the transition phase of the team. We want our fans to welcome the new and young Azkals in the same manner they welcomed the senior players. Most of them are based here and are very eager to show what they are capable of. We will stick to our core and if there is a case of an emergency, then the other players could easily come because they are already with the team,” he said.
The team is mulling the possibility of going to Cambodia earlier than expected. Palami said the team might go straight to Cambodia after the friendly in Vietnam. “Diretso na kami siguro sa Cambodia, but we will finalize soon,” he added.
As always, Palami is asking for support and prayers from all Azkals’ fans, supporters and stakeholders as the squad aims to make good in the AFF tournament and rekindle its glory days once more with new faces and young players.
“Samahan pa rin sana nila ang team, especially during our home games because we need the fans in the stadium. We need them to inspire our players and rally behind the Azkals in this challenging phase of the team’s history,” he said.
For more updates on the Azkals’ preparations for the Mitsubishi Electric Cup 2022, please tune in to 3PTS–Pambansang Tambayan ng Sports this coming Sunday, December 11, 2022, from 2 to 3 p.m. at DZME 1530. The Designated Kit Man and partner Rommel Miranda will have another exclusive interview with Dan Palami.
On a personal note. My nephew Jacob Marcus Puno Navarro, Jose Cristiano Bernal and the rest of the Aspire Football Club’s under-9 squad wound up in 14th place out of 28th teams in the recently concluded Winter Edition of the Bangkok Super Cup 2022 in Thailand. The young lads notched four wins out of nine games. Not bad for a team, which was not expected to win a single game. Good job Jacob!
Stay safe. Stay happy peeps!
For comments or questions, you can reach The Designated Kit Man at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow his account at Twitter: @erelcabatbat