FROM where Anto Gonzales sits, the future of Philippine football looks bright, indeed.
Although his youth team has only a solitary win in the 2013 Fam-Frenz Asean Championship, the new national under-15 coach believes some of his players have what it takes to make it to the seniors’ squad someday.
“In terms of future, I could definitely see four boys from the team who have really very good potential to make it to the Azkals,” Gonzales told Spin.ph after the Little Azkals suffered their fourth straight loss, a 3-1 decision to Indonesia on home soil at the Rizal Memorial Stadium last week.
The former national team mainstay then rattled off the names of striker Jeremiah Chabon 'JB' Borlongan, Mark Winhoffer, skipper Darius Diamante, and defender Josh Miller.
Of the four, the 14-year-old Borlangan appears to have the biggest potential.
The lone goal scorer against Indonesia, the 5-foot-3 Borlongan is a third-year high school student at Abbas Orchard School in his native Cagayan de Oro City. He first wore his boots when he was seven and began representing the country as part of the U-13 squad.
"He just has to work on a few more skills," Gonzales said of Borlongan, an English-speaking teenager who wants to study at University of the Philippines in college and whose dad is in the trucking and fastfood business.
The Little Azkals make up the future of Philippine football, which enjoyed a phenomenal resurgence following the success of an Azkals team made up mostly of players born and honed overseas.
With the Fil-foreign players taking the national team program to new heights, the next step is to develop homegrown players good enough to don the Azkals jersey in the near future.
Gonzales, however, said the Little Azkals remain a work in progress, gauging from their performance in the double-round club competition featuring mostly national youth teams from several countries.
“Yung scorelines ngayon hindi maganda because you can attribute that to the lack of preparation, team composition, and transition from change in coach,” admitted Gonzales, who recently took over the reins from Cebuano Bingbing Colina.
“It’s my first time to be in charge (and) under difficult circumstances,” added Gonzales, whose team confirmed its participation only five days before the start of the competition last month.
The Little Azkals, though, showed flashes of brilliance against Indonesia, especially early on when Borlongan struck just two minutes in after pressuring the ball to beat the goalkeeper.
The Indonesians equalized four minutes before first-half stoppage time when Ichtio Nimatul fired off a cross. After Amin Ohorella scored on a header eight minutes into the second half to give his squad the lead, Muhammad Fajri completed the romp with a 90th-minute strike off the rebound.
“Nagpapakita sila ng moments of really good possession and movement, pero hindi nila ma-sustain, like after thirty minutes, babagsak talaga. I think yung fitness din plays a crucial role. And then yung physicality ng game medyo dehado tayo,” said Gonzales.
On Saturday, the Little Azkals finally barged into the win column with a 3-0 away win against Brunei and, you guessed it, Borlongan among the goals again.