Local teams campaigning in the AFC Champions League got off on the wrong foot, literally, at home.
Both Kaya FC Iloilo and Stallion Laguna FC suffered heavy defeats against visiting opponents. Kaya FC Iloilo dropped a 3-1 result against Shandong Taishan FC at Rizal Memorial Stadium before a big Chinese crowd that made the fixture appear like a “home” game for the visitors last Tuesday. One consolation though from the game is that Philippine Azkals’ mainstay Jarvey Gayoso became the first local player to score a goal at home in the tournament.
Stallion Laguna FC, on the other hand, lost to Bali United, 5-2 in their debut in the biggest club football event in the continent at the Biñan Football Stadium last Wednesday. Stallion stood toe to toe against Bali in the first half, trailing by just a goal, 2-1, before the Indonesians scored three more goals in the 53rd, 69th and 72nd minutes to complete the rout. Abraham Placito took one back in the 88th minute for the final score. Sam Stephen Ngong scored the other goal for the home team in the 29th minute.
Dynamic Herb Cebu FC is the third Pinoy team in the tournament and was playing Phnom Penh Crown of Cambodia as of press time last night at the Rizal Memorial Stadium.
Speaking of playing, Azkals’ forward Jens Sebastian Rasmussen is back in Denmark to play for Hobro Idræts Klub in the First Division, the second tier of the Danish football league system. Rasmussen has scored four goals in five appearances so far for flag and country and is hoping to net more strikes in the coming friendlies and tournaments for the Azkals.
He said nothing beats scoring for the Philippines especially in front of his family, loved ones and fans in Manila. Sebastian’s mother, Jackielyn Beraque comes from Manila, while his father, Nieis, is from Denmark. He has a younger brother, Noah, who is just 5 years old and also plays football. According to Jackielyn, she is hoping that one day her “bunso” will also play for the Philippine Azkals just like his “kuya”.
“It’s always nice to score goals, but it’s another feeling when you score for your country. It’s more special,” Rasmussen told The Designated Kit Man.
As early as now, Rasmussen assures he will be back with the Azkals next month for a pair of friendlies, on October 12 versus Bahrain and another one against a still unidentified African country a few days later. He said he will always be ready to play for the Philippines.
“The fans are very good. It’s always nice to play for them and also because of my family. I want to make my family proud in Denmark, but to my family in the Philippines as well. I want to make them proud of me.”
He is also very grateful to Coach Hans Weiss for the kind words he said about him after the Afghanistan friendly. He was also thankful that unlike in the game against Chinese Taipei, he got a longer playing time against Afghanistan.
“It’s very special for me that he said that and I just want to prove more and score more goals. Be better in every game and even in every single training. It is another motivation for me,” he added.
Weiss earlier said that Rasmussen, Christian Rontini, Santiago Rublico and the other Azkals younglings have a bright future for the national team. As long as the next generation of Philippine Azkals remain committed to the team, stay healthy and further improve their game, Weiss said the Philippines can have a very strong squad in the coming years. Fans also share Weiss’ optimism but despite these huge expectations, Rasmussen remains calm and undaunted.
“Of course, there’s a little bit of pressure on me, but I take it as it comes. I just like it so that I can prove that they are right,” Rasmussen explained.
Rasmussen added that he never thought of playing football for the Philippines. Growing up in Denmark, he said he played football like every kid in Aarhus. At five, he started playing for Havndal Udbyneder IF. In October 2021, he made his debut in the national team suiting up for the under-23 squad in the 2022 AFC U-23 Asian Cup Qualifiers. In December 2022, Rasmussen made his debut with the Philippine Azkals scoring a brace and notching an assist in 5-1 win against Vietnam.
Since then, Rasmussen has earned the love and respect of Azkals fans with his play.
“I wasn’t thinking about that (playing for the national team) because in the beginning I was just in a normal team. I just want to build myself and hopefully play at the highest level. I was given the opportunity to do that now,” he said. “I promise to give my 100% in each match that I play and I will try to do my best. I will always be thankful, learn from what our coaches tell us and from the experiences, while playing with the Azkals in front of the fans.”
Rasmussen, however, has one wish in suiting up with the Azkals next month. And that is he will be given a longer playing time. He is hoping that he will be considered as a starter for the team in the Azkals’ upcoming games.
But in the meantime, Rasmussen would like to help his team rack some wins and improve their chances of finishing the season on high. His team currently sits in 5th place with five wins and four losses. Hobro is just six points behind current leader Aab Fodbold and just three points behind second-running Sønderjyske Fodbold. He says competition in the league is quite high, but he is hoping that he can help his team as the season goes on.
“We lost our last game, 1-nil in the last minute. We are number five now out of 12 teams but the top six are closely separated by just a few points. We still have a chance for a better result,” he added.
Incidentally, Ramussen’s Azkals’ teammate Daisuke Sato also played in Denmark. The defender suited up for AC Horsens, which is also seeing action in the Danish First Division, a few years back.
Stay safe. Stay happy peeps!
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