By Alex P. Vidal/ PNS
ILOILO CITY – The Philippine football team used to be the favorite whipping boy of football in Southeast Asia. Not anymore today.
With the presence of several Filipino-Americans or “Fil-Ams” and Filipino-British or “Fil-Brits” in the team, football superpowers even in Asia and Europe have started to take a second look at the previously arid RP team which is under the tutelage of the Philippine Football Federation (PFF).
“The hiring of these Fil-Ams and Fil-Brits was a product of non-stop scouting,” said PFF general secretary Pablito Araneta. “They were taken from different professional football clubs in Europe and we immediately wooed them to join the national team.”
He was referring to Anton del Rosario, Arman del Rosario, Alexander Borromeo, Neil Etheridge, James Joseph Placer Younghusband and his brother Philip James Placer Younghusband.
Anton, 27, a defender, was born in San Francisco, California and was taken from the Harmony FC of the Notre Dame De Namur University in Belmont, California. He stands five feet and 11 inches and played with the national team in the Tiger Cup 2004, Asean Championship Qualifiers 2006, and Asian Championships 2007.
His brother Arman, 30, a midfielder, was also born in San Francisco, California and was a player of Kaya FC. A former captain of De La Salle University Football Team, Arman, 5’10″, played for the RP team in the Asean Football Championships 2006.
The Younghusband brothers are among the most popular foreign-based booters tapped to reinforce the locals.
James Joseph Placer, 22, a midfielder, stands six feet and one inch and was born in Ashford, Middlesex, England. He studied at Our Lady of the Rosary, Staines and Salesian School and was credited for scoring one goal in three international Under-23 appearances. He played for nine years in Chelsea FC.
Philip James Placer, 23, a striker, was born in London, England and has played for England Victory Shield (England U-16) and Chelsea Football Club. He played for RP team in the SEA Games 2005, ASEAN Qualifiers 2006, Under-21′s Brunei 2007. He served for 11 years at Chelsea FC (three year professional) and Alandia Cup 1996, where he was adjudged player of the tournament.
Etheridge, 18, a goalkeeper, stands six feet and three inches and was born in Enfield, London, England. He came from Fulham FC and was a member of English Victory Shield (England U-16).
Borromeo, 25, a defender and utility player, was born in San Francisco, California and came from Skyline College in San Francisco. He played for RP team in the Tiger Cup 2004, Southeast Asian Games 2005, Asian Qualifiers 2006, Asean Championships 2007, AFC Challenge Cup 2006.
Araneta admitted the presence of these mestizo players has boosted the morale of their pure Filipino teammates. “And it also strengthened the team as a whole,” averred Araneta, a former member of the provincial board in Iloilo province.
Araneta said he and other PFF officials are very positive with the present composition of the team “as they have sacrificed their comfort in their effort to improve their physical shape.” “They are now very fit and they have lots of optimism and fighting spirit,” Araneta stressed.
PFF technical director Juan Cutillas said in terms of tactical mastery, he could vouch for the team.
Although they failed to qualify to the AFC Challenge Up in Hyderabad, India this July 30-August 10 by finishing only second to Tajikistan in the recently held AFC Challenge Cup 2008 Group B qualifying competition here, the nationals have proven their durability and improvement by holding the defending titlist to a scoreless draw in the second day match at the Iloilo Sports Complex.
In their first opening day match last May 12, RP XI clobbered Brunei, 1-0, and blanked Bhutan, 3-0, in their farewell match last May 17 at the Barotac Nuevo Football Field in Barotac Nuevo, 29 kilometers away from here.