NBA
Aly, Anton cheer for Azkals at home
Joaquin M. Henson (The Philippine Star) - November 23, 2012 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines - Two Azkals who played on the team that barged into the Suzuki Cup semifinals two years ago won’t be on the pitch when the Philippines battles Thailand in the ninth edition of the Asean Football Federation championships at the 65,000-seat Rajamangala Stadium in Bangkok tomorrow.

Long-time Azkals skipper Aly Borromeo, recovering from surgery to repair a meniscus tear in the right knee, and defender Anton del Rosario said yesterday they’ll watch the match on TV, cheering themselves hoarse. Del Rosario played his last game with the Azkals in a 3-1 loss to Spanish club Inter de Madrid in a charity benefit at the Rizal Memorial early this year.

Borromeo, 29, said he could’ve rushed his therapy and joined the squad but was advised against it by doctors. “I was out for six months after my ACL surgery in the right knee and came back to play three games for Kaya in the UFL then went to Chicago for the Azkals training camp last July,” said Borromeo. “I was 70 to 80 percent of my old self and felt something was wrong. When I got back, Dr. (George) Canlas opened up my knee and confirmed the meniscus tear. If the Suzuki Cup was scheduled two weeks later, I could’ve tried out for the team. But at this stage, I’m thinking longevity. The core of the team is out there and they’re pretty strong. As for me, there are more tournaments to look forward to and it’s best that I regain my full strength before getting back to practice.”

Del Rosario, 30, said he’ll never forget playing for the Azkals in the last Suzuki Cup. “We were only six guys left from the 2003 national team - Aly, Chieffy (Caligdong), Ian (Araneta), Chris (Greatwich), Roel (Gener) and myself,” he said. “The Younghusbands didn’t play with the senior team until 2006. In the qualifiers, we beat Timor Leste, 5-0, tied Laos, 2-2 and Cambodia, 0-0, to make it to the tournament proper in Vietnam. That tie with Laos started it all. We played a Thai club in Bangkok before going to Vietnam and got clobbered 8-0 with only 12 players. Then, our guys started to come in from overseas. We tied Singapore, 1-1, then beat defending champion Vietnam, 2-0, in the game that changed our lives. We tied Myanmar, 0-0, and qualified for the semifinals where we lost to Indonesia on a 2-0 aggregate. Nobody thought we could beat Vietnam and make it to the Suzuki Cup semifinals. But we did it.”

Borromeo said the Suzuki Cup is Southeast Asia’s version of the World Cup. “In every country in Southeast Asia except ours, football is the No. 1 sport,” he said. “The Suzuki Cup is the most prestigious football competition in our region. For us to become a power in Asia, we’ve got to prove ourselves first in the Suzuki Cup. We’ve made great strides with the Azkals but let’s face it, we’re still coming in as underdogs. We can’t expect our team to show up and destroy the competition. What we can expect is we’ll put up a good fight. Every year, we’ve gotten better, the players have gotten to know each other better. We’re playing more and more like a team. I’m optimistic that we’ll do well in the Suzuki Cup.”

Del Rosario said if given the chance to return to the Azkals, he’ll do it in a heartbeat. “I miss playing for the Azkals a lot,” he said. “I know in future teams, Aly and I can help. Right now, my focus is to play my best for Kaya in the UFL and hope the Azkals management and coaching staff give me another chance. There’s nothing like playing for your country and I would love the opportunity to do it again. What’s past is past and I’m looking forward to the future.”

Del Rosario said a strong performance in the Suzuki Cup will be an inspiration for more Filipinos and Fil-foreigners to play for the national team. “The popularity of football in our country depends a lot on the Azkals,” he said. “The key is to keep the interest going and not let it plateau. I don’t think the interest will ever go down but we don’t want it to plateau. We want to keep the interest growing.”

While out of the Azkals lineup, Borromeo and del Rosario rely on GNC and gym workouts to stay healthy, strong and fit. They’re endorsers of GNC which provides them with a regular supply of diet supplements, vita-packs, accelerade, Megamen pills, glucosamine for stronger joints, fish oil and whey-protein. They work out at Focus Athletics, a Pasong Tamo Extension sweat house managed by Paolo Cabalfin for the Lorenzo family.

 

AZKALS BORROMEO CUP DEL ROSARIO SOUTHEAST ASIA SUZUKI SUZUKI CUP TEAM
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