As Azkals look to recharge program, Filipinas reap benefits of World Cup qualification
The contrast between the men’s and women’s national football programs could not be more stark than on Thursday: As the men’s team welcomed a returning coach looking for a strong result in a pair of friendlies lined up in preparation for a major tournament, the women’s team continued reaping the benefits of its historic qualification to the sport’s World Cup.
“We have to get the best possible start with two wins,” Michael Weiss said after a Thursday press conference at the office of the Philippine Football Federation (PFF) in Pasig City unveiled his return as coach of the Azkals, the men’s national team.
And as Weiss and the men were preparing to get that strong start, the women’s squad got great news as they reach the windup of preparations for their trailblazing appearance in football’s grandest stage.
Each player at the Women’s World Cup will be guaranteed at least $30,000 after a ground-breaking move by Fifa (International Federation of Association Football) to disburse some of the prize money to individuals rather than national federations.
All 23 members of the winning team will take home $270,000, part of a $110 million total prize pool that is roughly 300 percent higher than what Fifa offered for the 2019 tournament.
The PFF welcomed the decision of Fifa, calling it a “good” development for participants of next month’s Women’s World Cup in Australia and New Zealand.
“It’s actually good for the players,” PFF president Nonong Araneta told the Inquirer.
“At least all of the players will be receiving $30,000 each, whether you qualify for the next round or not,” Araneta added.
Fifa president Gianni Infantino promised last March that a portion of the guaranteed money for the competition slated July 20 to Aug. 20 should be given to the players.
The incentives should be a huge motivation for members of the Filipinas, as the women’s national team is known, vying for slots in the country’s maiden World Cup appearance.
While the windfall is a big help for players currently not attached to any club, it is also seen as a major financial help for women professionals. The directed prize money is more than twice the average salary of $14,000 for paid players surveyed in Fifa’s 2022 benchmarking report.
The PFF, meanwhile, stands to receive a minimum of $1.56 million (P87 million), the smallest figure that can be given to teams that made the group stage.
Each member of the team that ends up winning the Women’s World Cup is going to receive $270,000 (P15.2 million).
The German-born mentor Weiss was brought back to call the shots for the Azkals in a bid to turn things around after absorbing mostly defeats in the past 12 months under three different coaches.
And it appears that Weiss will be in for the long-term as the two international friendlies against Nepal and Chinese-Taipei on June 15 and June 19 at Rizal Memorial Stadium are aimed at laying the initial seeds to make the Azkals a competitive side for the World Cup/Asian Cup Qualifiers in November.
Twenty-five players were invited to take part in the June window, notably longtime mainstays Neil Etheridge, Amani Aguinaldo, Carlie de Murga, Martin Steuble, Daisuke Sato, Mike Ott, Patrick Reichelt, OJ Porteria and Kenshiro Daniels.
Santiago Rublico, Sandro Reyes and Andres Aldeguer are among the youngsters who will get a chance to impress the latest Azkals mentor.
“I would ask for everyone’s patience,” said Weiss when asked of some names being absent like German Bundesliga mainstay Gerrit Holtmann.
“We want to have the best squad that we can get for the September window, and particularly the November window. We are hands on, 100 percent, we are in contact with everyone and nobody will be unnoticed. And we will do everything to make a strong, very competitive team.”