MANILA (AFP) - Former US skipper Thomas Dooley was named head coach of the Philippines' national team Friday, vowing to boost the profile of football in a nation that much prefers basketball.
His predecessor, the German Michael Weiss, was sacked last month after a three-year stint in which he took Asia's former whipping boys up 25 places to an all-time high of 127th in the Fifa rankings.
"The potential that this country has in developing (soccer) players is huge," Dooley told reporters at a Philippine Football Federation press conference.
The 52-year-old has secured a one-year contract as head coach of the men's team - known as "Azkals", local slang for "feral dogs".
Dooley's immediate task is winning the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Challenge Cup in the Maldives in May.
"We hope to win the tournament. That's why we took the necessary step to bring in a new coach to the team," Philippine Football Federation president Mariano Araneta said.
Dooley admitted he had only seen his new team play twice."Technically they are pretty good... Tactically I think that we have to work a little bit," he said.
About half the team play their club football in Europe, the result of an extensive global scouting programme for players with part-Filipino parentage.
He likened the rising popularity of football in the Philippines, a former US colony, to the game's own take-off in the United States ahead of the 1994 World Cup that the Americans hosted.
"I know that basketball is the No.1 in this country. Not everybody can play overseas basketball in the professional league, but in soccer you can," Dooley said.
"This could be something for the future, for the young kids to get involved in soccer."
Dooley has both German and American heritage and was born in Germany. He played in the German Bundesliga before moving to the US.
He captained the US national side during the 1998 World Cup in France.
He coached German lower-division side Saarbrucken in 2002 and also assisted US national team coach Jurgen Klinsmann in 2011, but the Philippines role is his first stint as national team head coach.