Former Azkals skipper Stephan Schrock, who has been handling and playing with the Azkals Developmental Team since September last year, is wondering why the draw for the 32nd Cambodia Southeast Asian Games still hasn't been done with the football tournament of the regional meet barely five weeks away.
"By the time this year the draw (for the Vietnam SEA Games) was already done and we knew who our opponents were. Is there something going on?" Schrock, who played for the PH Under-22 squad in Hanoi, asked.
By tradition, the SEA Games men's and football tournaments start ahead of the rest of the other sports and will kick off on April 29 in the Cambodian capital of Phnom Penh.
"We also have to find good opponents, possibly have a training camp abroad and get to play on grass," added the well-respected player while his charges were practicing at the artificial turf ofthe Rizal Memorial Football Stadium recently.
"We have been communicating with the other countries about the issue and they are not very happy with the development. Knowing we who we will play will allow to play the teams in the other group ahead. It is only fair," he said.
On the other hand, "Schrocky," as he is popularly known by his nickname, is happy with the way the ADT, which will form the core of the PH Under-22 squad, is getting along in the ongoing Philippines Football League.
The ADT squad were on a five-game roll until it suffered back-to-back losses, including a 1-3 loss to Stallion-Laguna Football Club last March 18 at the Rizal Stadium, and is currently in 4th place in the 7-team league with 21 points on 6 wins, 3 draws and 6 defeats.
"They (the players) are very responsive, very hardworking. There are very smart guys there, I have to say, and picking up quite quick," Shrock noted. "The talent is there and the preparation time is very good.
"If you follow our games in PFL they have done quite well. They are getting match fit, which is why we are in the tournament, and the composure is steadily improving."
Although no longer a spring chicken at 36, the former Azkals midfield maestro has played with his charges in the PFL and is now trying to wean them away from his field presence as they prepare for the Cambodia SEA Games.
"The challenge with these players is that they can make the proper decisions even when I am no longer on the pitch. That we are able to play with the style that we want to play and be productive without me out there," he explained.
The coach was pleased to note that "in the two games that I wasn't there they have done well."
Schrock said that the main goal is that the PH Under-22 squad is "to peak at the right time for the Cambodia SEA Games," and reach the semifinals for the first time since the 1991 Manila SEA Games.
Under coach Norman Fegidero, who played a pivotal role in that SEAG semifinal finish, the Nationals were off to a fine start in last year's Vietnam edition with a 4-0 rout of Timor Leste followed by a superb scoreless draw against the hosts.
But their semifinal bid got derailed after suffering successive defeats to Myanmar (2-3) and Indonesia (0-4), respectively, to wind up in fourth place in Group A and out of the running with four points.
Schrock said that they hope three to four more players from overseas to beef up the team, although it was unlikely that striker Jens Sebastian Rasmussen, 20, who made his debut for the Azkals in the last Mitsubishi Electric Cup, would be available.
"Rasmussen would be missing seven club matches so it impossible for him to play with us," said Schrock of the forward who plays with Danish Division 1 Club Hobro II.
He disclosed that the ADT would beg off from the PFL after April 15 and hopefully undergo a two-week training camp outside of the country and play on a grass pitch, which will be surface that will be used in the Cambodia SEAG football competition.
Known for his inspired leadership with the Azkals, Schrock's grand vision for the squad is simple.
"I hope that we don't peak too early and that we will explode on the big stage and perform as if it was just another day," he said, "and we are working towards that peak and help them grow as persons.
"Because it is one thing to be a good football player, which is not enough once you play on the international stage."