February 28, 2024

Man in the stadium: Football sage Alen Stajcic in the words of Filipinas

Man in the stadium: Football sage Alen Stajcic in the words of Filipinas
Art by Royce Nicdao

The Man in the Arena is an accurate depiction of Alen Stajcic’s coaching career with the Filipinas. Since taking over the program two years ago, the veteran tactician has bucked all the challenges that his team encountered. One that stands out is the lack of support from a country that is undeniably fixated on a different sport. Through it all, he persevered, and successfully guided his wards to a historic appearance in the FIFA Women’s World Cup.

To be clear, the phrase is a passage from the powerful speech delivered by former US president Theodore Roosevelt in 1910 at the Sorbonne University in Paris, France. It’s an ode to those who are actually putting in the work, and doing the heavy lifting, as opposed to the clueless detractors watching from afar.

That’s Coach Alen for you. In a recent feature on Optus Sport, the Filipinas explained succinctly why their mentor is indeed the Man in the Arena of Philippine football.

“His leadership, his coaching has obviously changed us so much in every way possible. He’s the best coach that I’ve ever had,” Filipinas midfielder Quinley Quezada declared.

Just a few days away from locking horns in the game’s grandest stage, Stajcic’s thorough knowledge of his personnel will come in handy against the world’s best.

“He knows what we’re good at. He’s able to bring out the best out of us. And in just connecting all the puzzle pieces together, I think he’s done a great job,” said national team midfielder Katrina Gillou.

When it comes to motivating his players, Stajcic seems to be a master at pushing the right buttons. According to Filipino defender Malea Cesar, a lot of it stems from the 49-year-old strategist’s unwavering belief in his charges’ immense potential.

“He brings a lot of high expectations from all of us. Everyday, he’s demanding more from us, which I think we’ve all internalized. It just helps the team to be more what international football teams should be like.”

Stajcic has truly trained the Filipinas into becoming a bona fide world-class outfit. But his connection with his players goes beyond the pitch. They’ve got a special bond that could very well inspire the team to deliver its best performance yet during FIFA’s flagship event.

“It’s not just about soccer. It’s not just about he’s our coach. You can go to him with whatever you need. I’ve been going to him for anything. Whether it’s like semi-personal life or if I need advice on anything, he’s just always there for us,” Quezada revealed.

While his impressive body of work may still be unfamiliar to the casual Filipino sports fan, those who have directly seen Stajcic in action and benefited from his mentorship didn’t hold back in giving the man the props that he deserves.

For Coach Alen, that probably matters way more than the approval of the general public.

In the meantime, the Filipinas’ entire focus is definitely on their first World Cup match, which will be on July 21 versus higher ranked Switzerland.