ONE of the biggest sports story these past years is the ascension of Philippine football driven by the success on the field and popularity off it by the football national team the Azkals.
Composed mainly of Fil-foreign players led by the Younghusband brothers of Phil and James the Azkals Philippine national team has skyrocketed in the standings in world football. The Azkals have also exploded into public consciousness partly because of their success, partly because of an excellent public relations campaign and partly because of the ruggedly handsome good looking players.
Following in the footsteps of the Azkals and ready to make sure that the next generation of football players are ready to step in and take the sport into greater heights are the teenagers of Teen Azkals led by team manager Alvin Carranza.
Carranza brought the team to Canberra, Australia recently, under the banner of Carranz FC and won the Under-18 Male Kanga Cup. The Carranz FC boys continued their winning streak in international competitions by nipping the Capital Football Senior NTC 1-0 after a lone goal by Valentino Calvo.
Carranz FC’s triumph in the final was a repeat of the opening day match where the heavily favored Capital Football team was shocked by the surprise victory of the Carranz FC players, 1-0.
Carranza praised his players for the victory. He said that travel and competition in other countries was very important if the team is to make the next step and improve even further.
“I am very proud of the way the boys played not only today but for the whole tournament. I am very much impressed with their performance. Training abroad especially, with teams in their own age category, will give them the necessary confidence against any competition. It will also gauge the level of the team whether they are at par with teams in other countries,” said Carranza.
The squad includes Enzo Cheng, Raphael de Guzman, Valentin Calvo, Arnel Amita, Daniel Gadia, Yoshiharu Koizumi, Jan Clarino, Mark Besana, Nikko Benedicto, David Diamante, Nicholas Bollier, Doug Caranza, Rey Diaz, Amani Aguinaldo, Kevin Hartmann, Raphael Resuma, Junell Bautista and Harold Alcores.
Team officials are head coach Marlon Maro, team manager Caranza, goalkeeper coach Noel Marcaida, assistant coach Tomasito Hilig and assistant manager Ramon Manuel.
The team manager pointed to Amita, Calvo, Aguinaldo and Gadia as the players who have shown the most potential to succeed in the sport.
“The boys have learned a lot from the experience which equipped them with the necessary skill and confidence to compete at the highest levels of the sport. We hope they can apply what they learned in future games,” said Carranz.
The Kanga Cup is the biggest youth football competition in the Southern Hemisphere with 250 teams and 4,000 players participating.
Carranza said most of the members of the winning Carranz FC team will most likely represent the Philippines in the Asean Football Federation championship in Indonesia this coming September.
Carranza also noted the need for more football fields, especially good fields which are of international standards which should be used for the grassroots youth development program.
The scintillating championship match in Australia pitted the speed and hustle of the Filipinos against the height and muscle of the other participating teams of the 2013 Kanga Cup crown in Canberra.
Despite the home side’s superior size Filipino winger Calvo out-jumped a pair of defenders to slam a header over Capital’s goalkeeper and into the net to tally the winning goal halfway into the first half of the championship game.
Jan Clarino lofted the ball from left field with a brilliant cross to set up Calvo’s heroic header.
Amita, a pocket-sized dynamo of tireless energy, terrorized opposing players who dared cross his path taking control of the ball numerous times in the game. Amita manacled opposing forwards in the Philippine back field and midfield. His dominance opened numerous scoring opportunities. But his brilliance also made him a marked man for the Capitals who took Amita down with crushing tackles twice to intimidate him.
Capital intensified their physical tactics in the second half. But even when they gained ball possession their attackers were thwarted by the steady hands of Carranz FC’s goalkeeper Raphael de Guzman.
De Guzman bore the brunt of goalkeeping for the full game because Carranz alternate goalkeeper Enzo Cheng was sidelined after suffering a hip injury in the team’s semifinal 6-0 victory over John Paul College the day before.
The victory was witnessed by an enthusiastic throng of Australian resident Filipinos and Filipino-Australians in the stands.
“We have won our very first U18 championship and that makes the team and our country very proud,” said coach Maro.
Caranza expressed his confidence that the team will prevail in future international competitions. “Our opponents were superior in height and strength. But our team had more speed. Filipinos are faster in this game and speed proved superior to power.”
Carranz FC completed the 2013 Kanga Cup with a sweep of all their games starting with a 1-0 victory in the opening game over the self-same Capitals team which however advanced to the finals.
Carranz defeated Gosford City, 5-2; Taylor Lakes, 20-0; Woden Valley, 2-0; and John Paul College, 6-0, in the semifinal game.