Historic Azkals-Lions friendly introduces sons of Cebu to local football fans
Cebu’s hosting of the friendly match between the Philippine Azkals and the Singapore Lions served as the coming out party for the two national players who trace their roots to the province – Ray Anthony Pepito Jonsson and Patrick Reichelt.
Jonsson, who plays for the Grindavik club in the Icelandic Premier League, was born in Liloan town in north Cebu and moved to his father’s country when he was nine years old. He belongs to the Pepito clan.
Reichelt, a half-German, qualified to play for the Philippine side as his mother is from the Alcala clan of Argao town in south Cebu.
Jonsson once played for Iceland’s under-21 team, but has since switched allegiance to enable him to play for his mother’s country. He said it was his cousins in Iceland who influenced him to play the sport. He has an elder sister and two younger brothers who also play football. Jonsson took up a sports-related course in college, but did not finish it.
He joined the Azkals in 2010 after he was scouted while playing in the Icelandic league. At 33, Jonsson is one of the older members of the Philippine men’s national football team. Though more at ease at right full back, Jonsson sometimes gets fielded as a winger when he suits up for the Azkals.
He said his memorable game so far with the Azkals was in 2010 when they won against Timor Leste, 5-0, in the Long Teng Cup.
Reichelt, on the other hand, was born in Berlin, Germany and started playing when he was four years old.
His father, a football fan, showered him with football kits, balls and accessories which influenced him to also love the sport.
The 24-year-old has a degree in mechanical engineering.
Reichelt was discovered by Hans Michael Weiss, the German head coach of the Philippine national football team, when he played in Sri Lanka.
In Germany, he had played with various clubs, his last with TSG Neustrelitz.
He joined the Azkals in June 2011 when the team held a training camp in Cologne, Germany. He got injured during the camp and was advised by doctors to rest and not to play for 10 months.
Despite his injury, he was kept in the roster of the Azkals and managed to justify the team management’s decision when he scored the country’s lone goal against Guam in the recently held Paulino Alcantara Peace Cup at the Rizal Memorial Stadium in Manila.
Reichelt is currently being trained to play as a striker for the Azkals.
Aside from being a member of the national team, Reichelt was also signed up by United Football League club Global FC until 2013.
The Berlin-born footballer decided to relocate to the Philippines to foster close ties with his mother’s family aside from becoming a part of the national team.
During breaks, he often visits Argao. He said he loves seafood especially shrimps and sinigang. Another thing he loves about being in the Philippines is that he gets to pray a lot.
Both Jonsson and Reichelt said it was a dream come true for them to have played in the first international football match in Cebu last Nov.14.
They are also proud of the lush green football field that Cebu was able to produce in less than a month.
“I hope this will not be the last match. I can’t describe my feelings. I am very proud of the pitch. I did not even know there were football pitches here,” Jonsson said.
“This is so much more than we hoped for,” said Reichelt, “ especially the development.”
Both athletes said they are were proud to be part of the Azkals and hope to stay with the national team for a long period.
The two also share the vision of someday doing something valuable for their hometowns such as holding football clinics for local players.
Jonsson’s advice to young footballers: “Train hard even if it feels very tough, even if there is pain. Keep on going until you reach your goal. When I was young, training was so hard, but I kept going so I achieved two of my goals: I became a member of the national junior team of Iceland and now a member of the Azkals.”
Reichelt, meanwhile, said he wanted to see more youths in the game.
“I hope the game will inspire them to do something. Start to play at a young age,” he said.
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