OBSCURITY SUITS ERIKSSON IN ASIA
MANILA — When Sven-Goran Eriksson arrived to take up his new role as head coach of the Philippines at the weekend, there were no TV cameras to greet him, nor were there any fans clamouring for photos and autographs.
The Swede’s latest national team job is already a stark contrast to any of his others, transporting him to a country passionate about basketball but with little knowledge of soccer, despite the sport’s fervent following throughout East Asia.
But after spending five years as England manager, hounded by the media and seeing his private life splashed across front pages, the soft-spoken 70-year-old is enjoying the anonymity.
“Nobody recognised me, it’s very, very good,” Eriksson told Reuters before taking his third training session with the Philippines national team.
Eriksson takes charge of the “Azkals” (Street Dogs) just a week ahead of a hectic schedule of backto-back tournaments, starting with the month-long Suzuki Cup, the Southeast Asian championship, and the more prestigious Asian Cup in January.
He hopes to capitalise on a mood of quiet excitement in Filipino soccer, stirred by a maiden Asian Cup appearance and national goalkeeper Neil Etheridge becoming the first Southeast Asian to appear in the English Premier League with Cardiff City.
Eriksson recently turned down jobs with Cameroon, which he said involved too many people, and Iraq, which had “big ambitions” and expected an Asian Cup win.
After former England defender Terry Butcher quit as coach in August without overseeing a single match, Eriksson made the move to the Philippines, where he said the game’s relative obscurity was part of the appeal.
His new team includes players born in Europe, with some of them former juniors at clubs such as Chelsea, something he sees as a big positive.
Eriksson’s contract covers the Suzuki Cup, where the Philippines are grouped with Indonesia, Singapore, Thailand and East Timor, and the Asian Cup in the United Arab Emirates, where they face South Korea, China and Kyrgyzstan. — Reuters.