|Both the Manila Jockey Club FC and the Azkalroos took a picture together after the match.|
By Dugout Philippines
MANILA—Two very different cultures were bonded by the "Beautiful Game" last Monday when Manila Jockey Club Football Academy met the Azkalroos.
The Azkalroos are a football program of Australian-born and raised players of Filipino descent. The match on Monday was the final one of a whirlwind tour of the Philippines.
The game was played at the natural grass center field within the Manila Jockey Club racetrack at the San Lazaro Leisure Park in Carmona, Cavite.
The touring team, organized and coached by licensed coach Andrew Fletcher, were in the country for a week and a half.
During this time they played several top youth squads in friendlies, like La Salle Greenhills, La Salle Zobel, FEU's juniors team, and Don Bosco FC before tackling Manila Jockey Club FC, whose players are nicknamed “The Colts.”
The Azkalroos have been in existence for about 10 years now.
Three alumni of the team have received call ups to either the national team or youth national teams, namely John Kanayama, Dominic Del Rosario, and Josh Grommen. All three also played professionally in the Philippines.
The word “Azkalroos” is a portmanteau of “Azkals” and “Socceroos,” the nickname of Australia's men's national team.
The tourists were all-male with the exception of Alexis Tan, their young goalkeeper.
Tan has already drawn the interest of the Philippines U16 girls national team coaching staff, as well as at least one Philippine collegiate team. Her brother Jacques was also in the team.
The Azkalroos won the friendly 6-2.
Because of injuries, they brought with them some Philippines-based players to complete the squad.
There were two players from Tarlac who are cousins of one of the players, and two from Payatas FC, including Ronalyn Lagata, who played for the Philippines in the Street Child World Cup.
Fletcher also roped in Alvin Enriquez from FEU's juniors team to play with the Filipino-Aussies. Enriquez is from Lebak, Sultan Kudarat, where Fletcher's wife Eden is from.
Fletcher also supports the football club in Lebak, were Enriquez learned the game. Enriquez shone with a hat trick for the team that adopted him.
Fletcher gave credit to 13-year old Patrick St. Baker, who stood toe-to-toe against players much older than him. Captain Josh Calleja also put in a solid performance as did fullbacks Justin Gilbang and Sky Ma Dorado.
The Manila Jockey Club FC has only been around for a few years but they are growing, drawing in children of employees as well as kids from the neighboring barangays who have fallen for football.
They have been regulars at the Copa San Lazaro football festivals that Manila Jockey Club hold twice a year.
“Although the Azkalroos had a comfortable win, there was much more to the game than just the result,” said Fletcher afterwards.
“I was particularly impressed with Manila Jockey Club Football Academy’s determination to continue to work on playing good football.
Their never-give-up attitude and daring play were very impressive considering the short time the boys have been playing football,” continued the coach.
“We, the Azkalroos, had a very enjoyable day and are most keen to develop our friendship with everyone at San Lazaro and Manila Jockey Club.”
Fletcher had one more note about the playing surface.
“We were pleasantly surprised at the quality of the grass pitch at San Lazaro Leisure Park and the wonderful hospitality of the players and staff of Manila Jockey Club Football Academy,” enthused Fletcher.
The pitch had been rested since it was used for the University Alumni Football League that concluded last month, and was in world-class shape.
“We are so glad to have the Azkalroos visit us and give us a great game,” said Eduardo Ramirez de Arellano, the VP for Marketing of Manila Jockey Club.
“Our boys really learned a lot from this match and we look forward to having more games in the future with the Azkalroos,” added Ramirez de Arellano.
The Azkalroos also donated several footballs to the Colts after the game.
Follow the site on Twitter: @DugoutPH