THERE is a lot of excitement about Fil-German football star Gerrit Holtmann, who made the decision to join the Philippine Azkals national men’s football team six years ago.
The 27-year-old Holtmann was encouraged by his mother, Rosemarie Barba, and the idea to join the Azkals came when he was about to play in the German professional league Bundesliga, and through the club team, Eintracht Braunschweig.
But that decision to suit up with Azkals was set aside because of his lack of exposure in the Bundesliga and the travel restrictions that took place during the COVID-19 pandemic.
On Sunday, Holtmann made sure it was worth the wait as he delivered the winning goal in his debut with the Azkals. He struck in the second minute of added time to push the Philippine national men’s football team to a 1-0 triumph over host Mongolia Saturday in the third round of the 2023 Asian Football Confederation Asian Cup qualification in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia.
Holtmann, who has made 29 goals in the sixteams and the 174 appearances he had in the Bundesliga, did not disappoint.
The 6’1 winger’s late heroics improved the Azkals’ chances of gaining qualification in th tournament proper next year.
“I’m extremely honored to play for the Philippines. I made the decision to play six years ago.
The problem is, I was not yet a regular starter in my team in Bundesliga,” said Holtmann in a Zoom huddle with Filipino scribes, and through
his agent and interpreter David Webb. Holtmann arrived late in Ulaanbaatar and was not around when the Azkals played Yemen to a scoreless draw.
He had to get married first and say goodbye to his wife and his mother before he went on to pack up to leave for Mongolia.
Now that he has the experience and Holt mann is now with his sixth ball club, VFL Bochum, he was able to have a long talk with his mom and finally made up his mind to suit up for the Azkals.
Last March, Holtmann went through the process of doing the necessary paper works
needed to compete for the Philippines. And it was finally done after the Bundesliga’s 2021-2022 season finally ended last May.
“Now that he is a regular player in the Bundesliga, he had a lot of talk with his mom about playing football with the Philippines.And his mom is very excited about this,” said Webb.
SAVING THE DAY
Against Mongolia, the 27-year-old Bunde sliga star found an opening in the 92nd minute and went for it, giving the Philippines the rousing win.
Coach Thomas Dooley’s squad was staring at a huge setback as a loss could quash their hopes of making it to the big show next year.
Holtmann did not disappoint though as he struck in the 90+3 minute to keep the Philippines’ hopes alive of making it to the Asian Cup.
The Azkals earlier got their first opportunity to break the deadlock when Patrick Reichect was awarded a penalty kick. But it Mongolian goalkeeper saved the ball to preserve the stalemate.
Then Holtmann pulled through to put the Azkals at the top spot in Group B with 4 points even as Palestine and Yemen were still battling it out as of this writing. The loss, Mongolia’s second in the qualifying phase, caused the team’s elimination. The Philippines take on Mongolia again on Tuesday before taking on Palestine.