MANILA, Philippines - For the past two years, Thomas Roy has been a fixture in Pinoy football events. The tall, genial 46-year old Bavarian was sent to the Philippines by the German Olympic Sports Confederation to help nurture grassroots football in the Philippines.
The former goalkeeper, once the goalie coach of the German national women's team, had been assigned to development programs in places like Uganda, Mozambique, Honduras, and Uruguay. He was also involved in the selection of German youth teams previously.
Roy traveled all over the Philippines overseeing grassroots development. He also seems to have had plenty of fun in the Philippines, as evidenced by the mild sunburn he was sporting from a recent family trip to Puerto Galera at Monday's send-off press conference in the PFF.
The coach also helped out the Azkals as their goalkeeper trainer before the World Cup qualifiers, and he even played a little goalie for the Germany legends team, helping the visitors with a few saves in their 13-0 rout of the Philippine legends squad last October.
“Filipinos are the friendliest people I've met,” said Roy on Monday. “But sometimes too friendly to push for hard targets.”
(Roy's English, like the grassroots program he oversees, is a work in progress.)
The coach also calls for patience from Filipino football fans.
“The coaches are doing their best, but as long as you have few youth players, it's going to be very hard. Germany is so good because we have millions of kids playing football.”
“We need to get football in the public (sphere.) We need to get street kids playing it. It needs to be implemented in public schools, not just private schools.”
“The biggest challenge is to get Filipinos to know football. TV is very important in bringing football to the public.”
Roy also stressed the need to get kids playing football as early as six or seven years old. He says that if they start at age eleven, they may have already missed the boat in terms of development.
“The fundamentals have to be set from age six to eleven or twelve. The U17 and U19 age group is already at the top.”
“When you are building a house you don't start from the roof. You start from the bottom,” added Roy.
PFF president Nonong Araneta and General Secretary Ed Gastanes mentioned in the press conference that the federation was ramping up youth coaching efforts by holding National Coaching Certificate courses for those who mentor kids. The NCC is a five-day long course that is a prerequisite before a coach can take a “C” license course, the first serious level of coaching. There have been NCC seminars in Bohol and Davao recently, among other venues.
Roy was also frank when asked about the attitudes that hold Philippine football back.
“I have noticed that sometimes Filipinos are satisfied or contented easily. As long as everything is fun, it's all good. But once you have to suffer or sacrifice, a high percentage drop out,” says the German, referring to football players.
“We need to pick out the individual players who have the fighting spirit. Only some of them have it. And the coaches need to have that fighting spirit also. If the coach does not have it, how can the players have it?”
“Between two very close teams, often times the fighting spirit makes the difference.”
Thomas also observed that there is a marked difference in the effort between private school kids and those from underprivileged backgrounds.
“Many players from private schools have a very convenient (sic) life. They are not used to fighting until the end. The kids from Visayas and Mindanao, those sons of farmers and fishermen, they have the fighting will. I see it in all the age groups.”
Roy also bemoaned a paucity of government support in sports. The coach says that there is always ready access to government or school-run pitches and gyms in Germany, which he laments is not the case in the Philippines.
“When people engage in sports, they are satisfied (happy.) If government wants satisfied people, they should do (support) sports.”
“Sports gives you an opportunity to win. But even if you lose, you can have a good feeling if you gave your all.”
Also present at the press conference was Christof Wegner from the German Embassy. Mr. Wegner mentioned that German football's bedrock is pro bono work, from coaches to referees, to administrators. This was echoed by Roy.
“In Germany when we have youth (small-sided) games there is only one referee, and he is often times a volunteer coach of the home team.”
Roy says that the referee/coaches take great pride in the officiating, and more often than not will be harder on the calls against their own team, to show their integrity.
He also says that it is common for young kids to have two or three training sessions a week in Germany, then oftentimes a friendly over the weekend with a club from a neighboring town.
Thomas says he will return to Germany with a heavy heart, having made many friends here. He seems to be optimistic about football in our country, but he is definitely a realist.
“It will be a big challenge to develop football here.” - Rappler.com
Follow Bob on Twitter @PassionateFanPH.