By: David Tristan Yumol
Five years back, Autre Porte Global Inc. Chief Executive Officer Dan Stephen Palami went out the box and accepted a challenging job. He took the role of team manager of then-unknown and fledgling Philippine Azkals, and through his genuine leadership and drive for success, drove the team to unprecedented success and a spot on the map of Asian football.
Now, Palami faces some sort of déjà vu. He is tasked to manage the UP Men’s Basketball Team, the perennial whipping boys of the UAAP. The only question asked by many upon hearing this news is, can Palami resurrect the snoozing Fighting Maroons, just like what he did to the football team?
Aside from being the CEO of a railway engineering company, the credentials of this 44-year-old native of Tacloban in doing sports management is remarkable. Before handling the Azkals, Palami used to guide the U-19 national football team for a short time. Currently, he serves as chairman of Global FC, which plays in the Division One of the United Football League. But his real success as a team manager was truly evident in his stint with the Azkals.
He was in charge of the recruitment of Fil-foreign players Phil and James Younghusband, goalie Neil Etheridge, and midfielder Stephan Schrock, among others. He also brought to the team several home-grown talents like winger Chieffy Caligdong, striker Ian Araneta, and defender Aly Borromeo.
Because of the man’s desire to raise the Azkals from the grave, the fruits of his hard work bore in just a matter of time. A year under the coach rule, the Azkals reached the semi-finals of the AFF Suzuki Cup for the first time, highlighted by their 2-0 upset win against powerhouse Vietnam in the preliminaries. Following that feat, the football team also participated in several high-profile tournaments like the Long Teng Cup, Peace Cup, and the recent AFC Challenge Cup where they bowed with a bridesmaid finish.
All these achievements in his five-year tenure as the manager of the Azkals are enough for the state university to hire him as the coordinator of its men’s basketball team. Adding to that is the fact that Palami is a product of the premier state university. He finished his accountancy degree at UP Mindanao and attended law school in Diliman but stopped on his fourth year to focus on his railway firm.
In an interview with UP College of Human Kinetics Dean Ronualdo Dizer, he said that Palami was approached by a group of alumni who volunteered to help the sports program of UP. This group named themselves “UP Alumni Boosters” which seek to supplement the finances of the sports teams especially the Men’s Basketball Team. They chose Palami since they felt the need to be organized, thus naming him as the UP Alumni Boosters team coordinator. Dizer also mentioned that Palami is unofficially holding that position since the chancellor is yet to sign his appointment papers, although he already agreed on this matter.
When asked about Palami’s specific plans for the Maroons, Dizer said that the timeframe the new manager gave for the growth of the team will take two to three years to prosper. At this early, Palami already did a lot for the players according to the CHK dean.
The food allowances of the players were increased as well as having brand new shoes and practice jerseys for them. Also, Palami donated a brand new 22-seater coaster bus that will be used by all players to go to their playing venues. He is also raising funds to build an artificial football pitch in the campus that can also serve as a playing venue for the Azkals.
Regarding the financing of varsity-related initiatives, Dizer said that the Alumni Boosters, guided by Palami, will be in-charge of that.
“As what they want, everyone can give their own fair share to the teams voluntarily because they want to unify the alumni. They aim to change the environment here in UP wherein the sponsors will not be limited to a few and big-time ones but it is a collective effort in helping our sports program,” Dizer said.
If the success of Azkals under his instruction will be followed, Palami certainly can be a worth gamble for to revive the men’s basketball program of the country’s premier state university. With his passion for sports and sincerity to restore the glory of his beloved alma mater in basketball, Palami can be the saviour that we are long waiting for in order to be at par or beyond with the other teams. Of course, it will take a lot of effort before Palami could transform the Fighting Maroons into a title contender.
We do have a common dream for our beloved dribblers. That is to win majority of their outings, and eventually advance to the Final Four. The pressure is understandable since this is the most sought-after sport in the UAAP. What we have to do now is to observe whether the magic of Palami can work with the Maroons. Hopefully, the people behind the team made a right decision to pick him and not lose their gamble to him. Padayon, Palami!