BANGKOK—The road back to the national team was a long and arduous one for Anto Gonzales.
So it was understandable when he felt disappointed after failing to make it to the final 22-man lineup for the Azkals in the AFF Suzuki Cup here.
“It’s normal to feel a bit down but I cannot complain at the way coach (Michael) Weiss chose the team because everyone deserves a slot,” said Gonzales, who is also the coach of the University of the Philippines Maroons.
Known for his workrate and brilliant reading of the game at midfield, Gonzales was on a four-year hiatus from high-level football when he got the call up to join the national side last May.
“Football back then didn’t give you anything financially,” said Gonzales in explaining his move to leave football and seek greener pastures in the corporate world.
His work at UP took a backseat this year as he was fueled by the desire to represent the country anew in the prestigious regional championship, where he once donned the national colors in 2007.
“Just to be included in the pool of players is already an achievement in itself considering that I have stopped competing internationally for four to five years,” he said.
Considering retirement from the national team after the tournament, Ian Araneta was also unable to crack the solid 22-man roster and Gonzales feels some sympathy for his teammate.
“He has worked really hard despite not getting too many opportunities,” Gonzales said of Araneta, who was instrumental in the Azkals’ campaigns in the 2010 Suzuki Cup as well as the AFC Challenge Cup.
Nonetheless, Araneta and the rest of those cut from the side like Boogie Margarse are supportive of the Azkals’ campaign here.
“Ian is a little down, but he’s still supportive of the team. The other seniors are upbeat. We’re very confident about our team,” Gonzales added.
Gonzales said he’s learned a lot from the experience of being with the retooled national side and exposure overseas.
“It’s going to help me in my coaching career,” he said.
The footballing education will continue for Gonzales here as he has now been tapped by Weiss to scout Vietnam and Myanmar, the next two opponents of the Azkals here.
“I’m going to scout Vietnam,” he said. “On the 27th, Im going to scout Myanmar, that’s the assignment coach Weiss gave me. I’d take the initiative to do that for the team.”