Dubai: New Philippines football coach Thomas Dooley said his experience playing for the USA in the 1994 Fifa World Cup will help him in his latest assignment.
Like many of his current Philippines players, Dooley is of mixed heritage.
Born in Germany to a German mother and an American father, the 52-year-old former defender was selected for the US national team while playing his club football in Germany with Kaiserslautern.
Given football’s infancy in the US in the early 1990s, the national team borrowed heavily from Europe-based players with a claim to US citizenship to play in the first World Cup held in America in 1994.
Dooley was one of seven players in the USA ’94 22-man squad born outside of the country.
The Philippines national team, known as Azkals (Street Dogs) — are in a similar situation now, trying to build a footballing structure from scratch using players of Filipino heritage based abroad.
At least 16 of the 22-man squad set to play Azerbaijan in a friendly at Dubai’s Al Shabab Stadium from 7pm on Wednesday, were born overseas.
For the USA, the initiative paid off. They helped raise the profile of the game by advancing to the second round of the World Cup in 1994, where they lost to eventual champions Brazil 1-0.
Today the USA are 13th in the world rankings and boast an advanced domestic league from which they can develop homegrown talent, something Dooley now hopes to recreate with the Azkals.
“I see similarities with the USA,” said Dooley. “In the 1994 World Cup we had to be successful to be accepted by the fans. We needed to make the second round and we did that and we really saw how the nation got behind us.
“We built a strong team with experienced players. And with my experiences as a player in that situation I believe I can bring that to the Philippines and help reform the team.”
Dooley replaced Michael Weiss as Philippines coach last month and is now tasked with qualifying for the 2015 AFC Asian Cup through outright victory in the AFC Challenge Cup in May.
“The Philippines are actually a little bit more advanced than the US were at the time in that they have a league. But one negative is that in the US we had 15 million kids playing soccer, which is something we don’t have in the Philippines. This is something we have to grow and we can only grow that with success.
“The Philippines doesn’t have a strong league with great competition or a great number of players to draw from, but they are good enough to achieve the next goal. It’s a nice challenge for us to build something in the Philippines and, if we can be successful, football there will take off.
“The nation is behind the Philippines national team, there is no question about that. We just need a wider base from which to fill the squad.”