Just when it looked like he was calling it a day, Stephan Schrock represented the Philippine Azkals in their 1-0 win over Nepal last Thursday at the Rizal Memorial Stadium in Manila.
The former Ceres-Negros star came on in the 72nd minute to replace Kenshiro Daniels and strengthen the midfield as the home side defended a one-goal lead granted by Jarvey Gayoso’s 71st-minute tap-in.
The match ended as a winning return not only for coach Michael Weiss but also for Schrock, in front of 3,250 supporters.
“It was quite a surprise for me, a little bit. But in football, whenever there’s a call, whenever there’s an opportunity to help and give something back to the team and contribute to the football scene, I try to help. I try to be hands-on. That was it,” said the Filipino-German midfielder during the launch of the Azkals’ new kit in BGC.
For Weiss, the insertion of Schrock became a matter of necessity and urgency as midfielders Manuel Ott and defenders Santiago Rublico and Amani Aguinaldo were forced to withdraw from the squad.
Securing the win, even if it was just an international friendly, was seen as pivotal by the squad before the match due to the need to build up newfound momentum. The former Laos mentor relied on his veteran midfielder to manage the team on the pitch and close out the contest.
“So Schrocky is very, very important. Schrocky has big targets for his own future… We still see him as a player because we feel that he didn’t train for six months and he played. He said, ‘Coach, I can play 20 minutes.’ I had to use him to calm down the game, to make some surprises,” said Weiss during the post-game presser against Nepal.
“I thought he helped us, and I hope he doesn’t have an injury. With more fitness, he can be a game-changer in crucial games, crucial situations. I don’t consider him a starter anymore, but he can help us in 30 or 45 minutes, maybe in big games, with his vision, speed, and surprising moves.”
All of a sudden, Schrock has a new lease on life as an Azkal. He may have called it a day last January 2 in a 2-1 loss to Indonesia in the group stage of the 2022 Mitsubishi Electric Cup, but Weiss’ return to the fold may have just extended his career on the international stage.
Weiss, who has a one-year contract to manage the program, won’t hesitate to play Schrock again if he sees the need to do so. The joint qualification campaign for the 2026 FIFA World Cup and 2027 AFC Asian Cup starts later this year, and the team needs everyone it can use to pull through.
“You need players like these because now we’re going to the qualifiers, and we need people who have the substance to go through these games, and he’s one of them. Another one might also be coming, but I don’t have much time for experiments,” said Weiss.
“I have to take the players that we have and form a well-oiled machine. I only have the Chinese Taipei match and two more windows, and then the qualifiers start in November. We thought it was good for the meantime to have him still there as a player but also in coaching and supporting roles, so it was an insurance position.”
For his part, Schrock understands that playing for the national team is a privilege, not a right. He may be one of the most venerated names in Philippine football due to his past exploits, but he knows he needs to earn every second on the pitch.
With younger players entering the program, he will need to work doubly hard to demonstrate that he still possesses what it takes to compete internationally.
“That’s wishful thinking. It would be ideal to always be included, but I don’t take this for granted. First and foremost, I have to perform, deliver, and stay in shape,” said Schrock.
“It’s up to the management and coaches to decide whether to bring me in. I’m making an effort to be available. It’s not guaranteed. I’ll take it camp by camp, I suppose.”