Fil-foreigners reflect on effect of Azkals' 2010 Suzuki Cup campaign
MANILA, Philippines – The success of the Philippine men’s football team in the 2010 Suzuki Cup elevated the sport in so many ways in the country and abroad.
One effect was attracting the attention of Filipinos born overseas. Some, like Fil-German Patrick Reichelt, Fil-Spaniard Angel Guirado and Fil-American Nate Burkey, lent their services to the national team and wound up playing for local clubs.
“I didn’t watch the Suzuki Cup,” confessed Reichelt, who at that time was playing for Energie Cottbus II. “I did see a video on the internet (shot by this writer) of the team praying inside the dressing room after beating Vietnam. My very close friend, Oliver Potschke, pushed me to apply for my citizenship and he helped me get in touch with the Philippine Football Federation.”
And the Fil-German became an impact player for the Philippines as he has played in 61 matches while scoring 10 goals. He has starred for Global FC and Ceres-Negros in both the United Football League and the Philippines Football League, where he has scored 60 goals.
Like Reichelt, Guirado did not watch the 2010 Suzuki Cup “because I was not aware of it,” as he said. “I was playing in Spain and it was after the Suzuki Cup when my mother told me that I could try out for the Azkals. (Then head coach) Michael Weiss invited me to come over and I was selected to make the team roster in 2011 and from there, it was continuing to make history with the Azkals.”
Guirado has played for the Azkals 39 times and has scored 10 goals. Locally, he played for Global and the Davao Aguilas. From 2011, he has also played in Thailand, Malaysia, Gibraltar, Iceland and Italy.
Burkey, for his part, was aware of the Azkals. “It was in 2004 when I graduated from high school when I learned of the Greatwich brothers, Chris and Philip. Back then it was difficult to get in touch with the PFF. I must have reached out to about a dozen people about coming over.”
“I was in Bulgaria in December of 2010 trying out for a First Division team called Minyor Pernik but it didn’t work out. When I returned to the States, my mom told me they were having these trials for the World Cup Qualifiers. My mom, who is from Leyte in the Philippines, found out that Boss Dan Palami was also from the same place and she managed to connect with him for a tryout.”
“My mom really pushed me to do it. Before my tryout in Bulgaria, I had to leave my coaching and teaching job and after it didn’t work out, I was nervous to leave for the Philippines. But somehow, I knew that in my heart and mind this could be it. My mom put me on a one-way flight to the Philippines and I made the team under Weiss just in time for the World Cup Qualifier.”
All three agree that playing in the Azkals and in local club football changed their lives.
“That changed my life,” admitted Burkey, who has suited up for Kaya, Pachanga Diliman, Ceres, and Davao, scoring a total of 53 goals. “I have lived in the Philippines since 2011 and I am grateful to have played here.”
“It has been an unforgettable and very beautiful experience,” described Guirado. “I am enjoying my great adventure while learning a lot.”
Reichelt bared that he did not expect to find his niche in the Philippines and Southeast Asia. “The whole idea was to fly to Manila and have a good time. It turned out to be an opportunity I never saw coming. I not only got my national team call up but everything just went uphill for me since then.”
“Ten years ago, somebody said I would look back on where I am now – playing in three top leagues in Southeast Asia (Malaysia and Thailand included) and in the Asian Cup. I said I would have a good laugh and call him a clown…. But well, reality is just so much better.”