By Rafael Bandayrel
Former Philippine Azkals right back Anton Del Rosario said his former team fulfilled his dreams by qualifying for the AFC Asian Cup.
The Azkals claimed their first-ever appearance in the prestigious tournament after defeating Tajikistan, 2-1, in the final match of the Group F qualifiers.
“My initial reaction was how do I get back on the team? It gave me chills. It was something that we have been working towards,” Del Rosario quipped.
“I dreamt about it for almost 15 years. For them being able to actually make it happen, it’s a dream come true even though I’m not part of the team.”
The Philippines, however, will go through a baptismal by fire after drawing South Korea as the first match-up in the tourney. And according to Del Rosario, Filipino fans should not expect too much from the Azkals.
“South Korea ended up beating Germany so you can’t put your expectations too high,” he said.
The 36-year-old, however, believes that the country’s historic qualification for the Asian Cup should already be seen as an achievement.
“For them to be able to reach one of the main stages. It’s a big accomplishment, for the sport and for the country.”
When Del Rosario contemplated retirement, he thought of a way to get involved with the sport beyond his career inside the field. Hence the birth of 7’s Football League (7’s FL).
“When I [thought of retirement], I missed the game, I wanted to do something competitive,” he told Manila Bulletin Sports.
Del Rosario spearheaded the founding of country’s first 7-a-side football league, and now, he’s looking to spread the movement nationwide and across Asia.
The former Kaya Football Club captain is on the road to fulfilling another dream of his, which is to breathe excitement back to the local scene.
“The main reasons why to do it was because – I guess football is kinda a depressing scene where the PFL is going,” said Del Rosario. “I wanted to bring that whole spirit of fun back to the game.”