Azkals Manager Palami on his bucket list and the legacy of 2010
Azkals manager Dan Palami
Azkals website
Azkals Manager Palami on his bucket list and the legacy of 2010
Rick Olivares (Philstar.com) - July 4, 2020 - 12:15pm

MANILA, Philippines — After more than 10 years and change, the fire and passion in Philippine Men’s Football National Team manager Dan Palami’s eyes and heart burns brighter than ever.

A decade has passed since the historic 2010 Suzuki Cup that elevated the long-time “minnows” of world football into a rising power in Asian football. 

There have been massive highs and some lows in this past decade, but the future is glittering. And the once seemingly impossible high point on Palami's "bucket list" could be checked. 

“All of us have the same dream,” Palami said in a measured tone in the Usapang Football webcast of this author. The experience of the past 10 years will do that to you. But then again, he makes no bones of what is atop of that list – “the World Cup.”

FIFA is expanding the 2026 World Cup, meaning more slots for Africa, the Americas, and Asia bringing the total number from the current 32 to 48 national teams in football's grandest stage. 

“There will be more slots (for the World Cup) that is why it is giving me more hope and if we have the players who are coming in and we can process them on time, we are quite in a strong position to make waves,” underscored the long-time national side manager. 

“I thought before, it was something I could never see in my lifetime or stint as manager. But more and more we (the national team) are in a position to make a strong run for qualification. Medyo naudlot lang (yung preparations) because of this pandemic. But we have a strong team now. At the very least, we should be a regular competitor in the Asian Cup not just the Suzuki Cup.”

Incredibly, those events in Vietnam and Indonesia could have not happened were it not for some very fortuitous events. 

Rob Gier, in a previous interview with this author, pointed out to Ian Araneta’s hat trick in the 2010 Suzuki Cup qualifiers that allowed the Azkals to make it to the group stages because of goal differential.

On Palami’s part, it was taking up the offer to manage the senior national team.

In 2009, he was given the reins of the Philippines Under-19 squad and it was pretty much run the old way – the PFF does the preparation and he just finances the whole operation. 

It didn’t end the way he wanted and he thought that was it — "I am going back to club football,".

However, when the PFF asked him to handle the seniors squad, Palami made it clear, he would very much like a hand in its organization and operations if he were to bankroll the squad.

Ten years later, initial check points on his bucket list have been achieved. 

After 2010, he listed the Philippines becoming a regular Suzuki Cup competitor without having to go through qualification (and winning it as well) and making it to the 120s in the FIFA world rankings.

The Azkals are now regular fixtures and are inching closer to that elusive Suzuki Cup title. 

As for the rankings, the team has hit #111 in May of 2018 although it currently sits at #124.

“If it was historical in 2010, we are ready to elevate that,” promised Palami. 

“We’ll be seeing a new chapter where we will be competing with the best of Asia and the World. We on the management side along with coach Scott Cooper are forming a team where we can really compete with the best of Asia.”

“The legacy of 2010 is it is a milestone in Philippine football not just because of the victory against Vietnam, but it showed me the potential of football in the Philippines,” summed up Palami. 

“It is unfortunate we have been unable to sustain in terms of support.  However, the significance of 2010 is making the Filipinos aware that the national team can excel and football is a sport they can support.

“Imagine the Philippines going to the World Cup automatically that support will come. I am already claiming it. I have visualized that time.”

Another thing on Palami's bucket list? Filipinos welcoming football with open arms.

“Yes. It is Filipino culture embracing football. There is no reason to be exclusive to one sport. You can enjoy playing football and basketball together and supporting both sports. For as long as football is on that list of the favorite sports of the Filipino then that is going to be a check on my Bucket List.” he said.

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