Sunday, October 14, 2012


Filipino-American teenager “OJ” Porteria is building a reputation as a potent striker in the Philippine national soccer team – delivering one of three goals on the way to capturing last month the country’s first football title in 99 years.

The Philippine Azkals beat Chinese-Taipei to emerge as champions of the Philippine Football Peace Cup (also known as the Long Teng Cup when it’s played in Taiwan). The last soccer title the Philippines held was the Far East Games in 1913.

Porteria – a son of Northern Virginia realtor and Manila Mail columnist Joceyln Porteria – is catching everyone’s eye not only because of considerable talent but more importantly, the skill he’s demonstrated at such a young age.

At 17, he played only for the first time as a senior starter in the Peace Cup. Sports scribe Rex Torreocampo described him as the “future of Philippine football”. Porteria grew up playing soccer in Falls Church, Va. and later joined the DC United training academy.

“Porteria, a mere 16-year old at the time, personified the football saying that if you are good enough, then you are old enough,” Torreocampo wrote.

Because of his stellar performance, Porteria has made to the line-up for the Middle East training tour this month.

Members of the 26-man lineup are Marwin Angeles, Misagh Bahadoran, Jeffrey Christiaens, Carli de Murga, Demitrius Omphroy, Patrick Reichelt, Matthew Uy and Denis Wolf of Global; brothers Phil and James Younghusband, Ref Cuaresma, Anto Gonzales of the Loyola Meralco Sparks; Eduard Sacapaño and Nestorio Margarse, Jr. of Philippine Army;

Fritz & Macziol; Ian Araneta and Chieffy Caligdong of Philippine Air Force Phoenix; OJ Porteria of Kaya and Jason de Jong of Penson Stallion Giligan’s.

The Azkals also tapped a number of foreign-based players, namely Fil-Spanish brothers Angel and Juani Guirado, Fil-English Rob Gier, Fil-Danish Denis Cagara, Fil-Icelandic Ray Jonsson, Fil-Danish Jerry Lucena, Fil-German Roland Muller and Fil-Dutch Paul Mulders.

The Filipinos will face Bahrain on October 12 in its capital Manama and Kuwait on October 16 at Kuwait City in their two-match training tour in the Middle East.

The Azkals are using the matches to prepare for the 2012 ASEAN Football Federation Suzuki Cup this November, where they look to duplicate their historic semifinal run in the same tournament two years ago.

The Philippines reached its highest standing in the global football ladder, according to the latest FIFA world rankings released late last month.

From 150th, the Azkals climbed to 147th to rank 21st among Asian countries and enjoy their highest all-time ranking since occupying the 148th spot last April, which came after finishing third place in the Asian Football Confederation Challenge Cup in Nepal.

The country suffered its lowest ranking at 195th in September 2006.

Of the Middle East-bound roster, Porteria proved to be the surprise. For him to make the line-up instead of his older SEA Games teammates signaled he was excelling in training sessions to earn the nod from the coaching staff.

“There was far too much quality and experience in the team for Porteria to become anything but a fringe player during the tour.  However, to be called up at such a young age spoke volumes about how highly-regarded the youngster must have been by team management,” Torreocampo observed.

For now the rising star of Philippine soccer is deployed as a wingman, said to be a strategic move to allow Porteria to mature further with the Azkals. He will obviously continue to be a face to watch in the country’s quest for soccer glory.

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