Borromeo: I did not want to leave the game limping
One of the toughest parts of building something special is when you hardly get to experience it yourself for things beyond your control.
Each time former Azkals captain Aly Borromeo looks back at his career with the national team, a part of him still feels he could have done more than just play a part in the team’s resurgence almost a decade ago.
Retired striker Phil Younghusband will always be the face of the Azkals’ rise with his 108 appearances and 52 goals, but Borromeo, the rock-solid central defender, was actually the undisputed leader for five years even before the national team pulled off the Miracle in Hanoi in 2010 that made the sport relevant again in the country.
Robbed of pitch time by knee injuries during his prime, Borromeo hardly played for the national team after 2011 when three surgeries in a span of two years left him contemplating retirement from the sport before he even reached 30.
“It was really tough and I almost hung up my boots,” Borromeo recalled of his experience in 2012 until 2014 on the Crossover podcast last Friday night.
“I tore my ACL twice and also had a meniscus injury. I played but it was never the same. On my own during my recovery, I was depressed. I was crying and I couldn’t really talk about football then.”
Around the time, Borromeo was hurt, the Azkals were chalking up one milestone after another with several players in the time enjoying celebrity status. Borromeo, who had been part of the team since 2004, worked his way back to shape. He returned briefly to play for club team, Kaya, in 2016, before moving up to work as team manager of the LBC-backed side.
“I really felt bad for Aly because he was there during the dark days and helped build what we had that time,” said former national team player Rob Gier who was also on the podcast.
“We forged a really good partnership and I’m thankful we were able to play in some massive games. Those were special moments—the Sri Lanka game and Kuwait game in Rizal. Being able to come back later speaks a lot of the leader he is,” Gier said.
“We have to go through these holes in our careers,” Borromeo said. “I think having that will help get you through it. I think that is something that I could always take pride and share with other players. I did not want to leave the game limping.”
As much as he rues those missed chances to represent the country, Borromeo now takes comfort at the fact that what the Azkals built 10 years ago has paved the way for opportunities for players and coaches now.
“We made such an impact that time and you don’t realize these things until after you retire,” Borromeo said.