Five months after retirement, Michael Weiss prompts Stephan Schrock to make Azkals return

With the Azkals dealing with injuries, Stephan Schrock had to unretire five months after he first called it an international career. PFF
By Ivan Saldajeno

MANILA—An era in Philippine football presumably came to an end on Jan. 2 when Stephan Schrock played what should have been his final match as a Philippine Azkal during their last assignment in the AFF Mitsubishi Electric Cup at the Rizal Memorial Stadium.

The day before, the 36-year-old midfielder announced that he is calling it a career as a national team member after over 11 years as a Philippines international.

However, some fans inside Rizal Memorial and even on national television and online platforms were surprised on Thursday night when the name "Stephan Schrock" appeared in the Azkals' active roster against Nepal in their FIFA friendly, which was revealed an hour before tip-off.

This sparked speculations about whether he will stay retired or he will actually play.

At halftime, Schrock was seen warming up along with the other substitutes, further hinting that he could be unretiring.

Indeed, a five-month "retirement" came to an end in the 72nd minute of the match when Schrock along with Jesper Nyholm came on for Kenshiro Daniels and Carlie De Murga.

Schrock's return had little effect on the Azkals' performance offensively against Nepal in the end, although defensively, Patrick Deyto put on an encore of his showcase that denied Dynamic Herb Cebu the PFL championship to preserve the Azkals' 1-0 win over Nepal.

But asked about Schrock's unretiring, Azkals coach Michael Weiss bared that he had to call him up at the last minute just to fill up their lineup due to injuries to Manny Ott, Amani Aguinaldo, and Santi Rublico.

"When we take five players in, we have to take five players out. Something is missing. This is why we had to activate Schrocky because I saw it coming," Weiss said, adding that some non-injury concerns like Daniels' jet lag after a long travel from the United States via Indonesia were taken into consideration.

Weiss then bared that through Schrock, he was able to find out about the Azkals' current situation, which has mainly been up and down after Thomas Dooley's first run as head coach.

Weiss also said Schrock played a part in bringing him back to the Azkals' fold.

"He helped a lot to bring me here and build up this squad to train, and he gives me advice," Weiss further said.

Although Weiss is aware that Schrock didn't have much action in the five months that he was out as an Azkal, mainly as a playing coach for the now-defunct Azkals Development Team in the PFL, Weiss gave Schrock the green light to play against Nepal.

"He said, 'Coach, I can play for 20 minutes,' and I had to listen," Weiss said.

Counting the stoppage time, Schrock's Azkals' return lasted for a shade below 24 minutes, but Weiss said that Schrock still made some contributions in the match.

"I thought he helped us," Weiss said.

He then hinted that Schrock could still see action on Monday night when the Azkals play Chinese Taipei at the tail end of their two-match home stand.

"I hope that he doesn't have an injury, but with more fitness, he can be a game-changer in crucial games and situations. I don't consider him too much as a starter anymore, but he can help us for 30-45 minutes maybe in big games also with his vision, speed, and surprising moves. You need unique players like this because now, we're going to the [FIFA World Cup] Qualifiers and we need people who have the substance to go through these games, and he's one of them," Weiss said.

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