Every Azkal has Filipino blood running through his veins, the very reason why he can represent the country in international competitions. However, some people do not seem to be happy that our national team is composed mostly of Fil-foreigners: Fil-Brits James and Phil Younghusband, Neil Etheridge, Rob Gier, and Greatwich brothers Phil, Chris, and Simon; Fil-Germans Manny Ott, Stephan Schrock, and Patrick Hinrichsen; Fil-Americans Jason Sabio, OJ Porteria, and Nate Burkey; Fil-Spanish Angel Guirado Aldeguer; Fil-Dutch Paul Mulders and Jason de Jong; Fil-Iranian Misagh Bahadoran; Fil-Danish Jerry Lucena; and Fil-Icelandic Ray Jonnson. (I am sure I am missing some Azkals here as the lineup keeps changing due to availability or inavailability of some players at different stages of the competitions.) Even team captain Aly Borromeo and Anton del Rosario, although now both locally based, were born and raised in the US. Being a new follower of the sport, I can only surmise the reason for some people’s unhappiness or discontent. Perhaps they feel that foreign-based players are taking the positions that should have gone to local players. Perhaps they think that had the powers that be did their jobs, the Philippines has a deep enough bench and does not have to call on its foreign-based players.
I think we have very talented pureblood players (Sorry, can’t resist making a Harry Potter reference hehe), or the local Azkals. Chieffy Caligdong, Ian Araneta, Roel Gener, and Yanti Bersales, who has recently retired from the national team, have been with the team for many years. Chieffy, Ian, and Roel are a joy to watch. They are all heart when they play. Chieffy in particular has been consistently good in all of the games I have seen him play. I was privileged to see Yanti play with the Azkals for the last time at the Azkals-UFL Allstars match. Then there are the younger Azkals such as Paolo Pascual and Christopher Camcam.
At this point, we can’t deny that the foreign-based players have the experience and exposure to the level of football needed to win international matches. I am positive that with the resurgence of Filipinos’ interest in football, the time will come when we will be more competitive with more local Azkals.
But local or foreign-based, I love the Azkals because they are proud of their Pinoy roots. Well some of the Azkals still fumble on the words of Lupang Hinirang, but this does not make them any less Pinoy. Whenever they win, it is the Philippine flag they wave, which is what Nate Burkey did after the Manila leg of the match against Sri Lanka.