Asian Cup 2019: "This tournament is important for the Philippines," says Sven Goran Eriksson
Sven Goran Eriksson needs no special introduction in the football world. Be it the 2006 FIFA World Cup in Germany where he led a star-studded, but often criticised England side to a quarterfinal finish, or be it the league double over local rivals Manchester United in the 2007-08 season as the City boss, Eriksson has often been in news for both the good and the bad reasons.
But now away from all the spotlight and pressure, the 70-year-old Swede is busy trying to pave the way for the development of the game in the Philippines, currently in the UAE as their head coach of the Filipino side at the AFC Asian Cup 2019.
Sportskeeda caught up with the widely travelled high-profile coach on the sidelines of the competition.
You have been with the Philippines for a while now, what can you tell us about football and the country?
Many are interested in football. The television viewership is good is what I have been told. But that, unfortunately, doesn’t translate on to the stadiums. You know, the Philippines is like India where football is not the most popular sport. You have cricket and we have basketball. When the national team plays at home, we barely have seven to ten thousand fans turning up. So, this tournament is important for the Philippines. They can change the way people back home look at football with a good show here. We have a generation of good football players. We need to make the most of this, that’s one of the targets.
The players are good. Many of them have had their football education in Europe, like England, Germany, Spain and we have one chap from Japan too. So, they know football, they think football. I think that helps a little bit. On the way here, we had problems with accommodation, travel and so on. But once the boys are on the pitch, they forget everything and are focused on the game ahead.
You have enjoyed a storied career in Europe before you chose to move to China. What was the biggest hurdle you faced as a manager?
Filling the stadium. That has to be the biggest challenge we faced during my time. But we did very well in my second year and then people started coming in numbers. It’s got to do with results. If your team is playing well and getting the results, people will want to come and watch. Then in Shanghai (with Shanghai SIPG) we were fighting for the title every year and play the (AFC) Champions League, people came to watch us. As I said, if you have an opportunity to working in China, you can see how football is growing, that makes things easier.
Your time with the England national team is the most talked about. Do you regret not winning a title with the side you had?
Definitely. We should have won something. But in general, we did well. We played two World Cups, one Euro. It was a good time.
How would you compare the England side you worked with, to the present squad?
They have a bunch of very good players. You can see that every week in the Premier League. I am not surprised that they are doing well. But even we had good players back then. We should have done better in 2006. It was unlucky. But no, they have a young and hungry team. They have good football players who have a good pace.