IF I were to tell you that one of the greatest Philippine Azkals was guest in last Thursday’s 6th “Usapang Sports on Air” by the Tabloids Organization in Philippine Sports (TOPS) via Zoom, but that you missed it, would you expect to hear the name of:
A. Phil Younghusband.
B. James Younghusband.
C. Neil Etheridge
D. Chieffy Caligdong.
Well, the answer is none of the above.
But the answer is just as good and talented as all of the above: Anton del Rosario
Del Rosario, now 38, is still very much active in football as a spokesman of past national team members, also lovingly called the Azkals, and organizer of the Philam Life 7S football tournament.
And the San Francisco, California-born Filipino-American football star, who also played for Kaya (1999-2014), Loyola (2014-2017), Ilocos United (2017) and Global Cebu (2018), had a mouthful to say about football in the times of the pandemic during virtual interviews with sports editors, reporters and photographers of TOPS.
On the much-awaited reunion game of past and present Philippine Azkals that was postponed due to the current health crisis that forced most sports to grind to a halt since mid-March:
“This will be the 10th year anniversary of the Philippine Azkals since the Miracle in Hanoi in 2010. We really wanted to have that reunion game for the Azkals, which I am preparing with the PFF (Philippine Football Federation). We’re going to have the current Azkals play against the old Azkals in a competition to help promore the Suzuki Cup. But then COVID happens.”
On the financial difficulties being encountered by several professional football teams now:
“Times are really hard right now, not only in football but in other sports. We should all take a step back, come up with a proper plan and establish a platform to ensure sustainability in the pro league. Teams should be responsible enough and can’t just be looking at winning the championships. Focus should not only be on winning, but ensuring the livelihood of their players.”
On making the Philippine Football League more sustainable:
“We should now implement a salary cap. I think this is the problem of the PFL over the last few years. People who have money come in and dump big salary to top players which the other teams cannot match. So now some teams cannot fulfil their financial obligations.”
On the need to focus on youth football development:
“We need to keep the kids active even thru online football. We just have to make them do it in a competitive format where they can actually meet other players older or younger and still be able to socialiaze. It’s much better than just going online and play the game themselves.”
On the importance of having private sponsors, like Philam Life, to help promote the sports:
“It’s really great to have people coming in to support football, like Philam Life.They are a great group to work with. They provide the communites with the opportunities that were never there.”
On his plans to bring football closer to the people in the provinces and conduct trainings and seminars for both players and coaches:
“Instead of focusing only in Metro in Manila, we plan to send coaches over to the provinces to hold training camps there. This is supposed to be happening this month. But as I’ve said COVID comes. Everything will move over 2021.”
On his pet project 7s football, which he is organizing for the last five years:
“It’s a lot more exciting. We have more than 50 teams with hundreds of players, boys and girls. We are also very actiive in six cities: Taguig, Iloilo, Bacolod, Davao, Laguna and Batangas. And right after this pandemic, we will have another team in Cebu.”
On basketball’s popularity in the country compared to football:
“I admit football is not as popular as basketball in the country. That’s the reality. But if you talk about the world, football is a lot more popular. It is played everywhere.”
On the perception that football is a rich man’s sport:
“I disagree. Football is played even in make-shift fields everywhere, especially n the provinces. We have a lot of young football players in Tondo and Payatas in Quezon City where they play a lot. They even join football tournaments as a team.”
On Premier League and other major developments in football:
"Honestly, I haven’t been paying attention to all of them. Being a football player, I hate to admit it. But I am so focused on trying to get things running for Maharlika FC and the 7s. I’m sure there’s a lot that happens in sports.”
NOTES -- Get well soon to my sister Mary Grace Andaya-Ypil of NAPOLCOM...
Happy 18th anniversary to Jovert and Kaye Mendoza of HoopsNation Manila, who celebrate on Aug. 10...
Happy birthday to Analyn Ayab of Letran Knights (Aug. 9) and former PBA player Harmon Codinera (Aug. 9).
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