September 25, 2017

Paolo Pascual: Being a part of the Azkals is a very, very big achievement

MANILA, Philippines — Yannick Tuason and Paolo Pascual leave everything behind for the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to play with the Azkals.

Paolo Pascual, goalkeeper: The other ‘Papa P’

He may not be Piolo, but Paolo Pascual now has his fair share of crazy, adoring fans since joining the Azkals as one of its newest homegrown recruits.

Paolo and the rest of the U-23 (Under 23) players are currently preparing for the Southeast Asian Games in November in Indonesia where he will be the first goalkeeper.

He is also getting back to fighting form after he dislocated his shoulder almost two months ago.
 
Photo grabbed with permission from Paolo's Facebook.

Paolo was just a regular Business and Entrepreneurship college junior at the University of San Carlos in Cebu when he got a call from the Philippine Football Federation asking him to try out for the Azkals.

While it’s already an achievement to try out with other experienced and talented players who come from the other parts of the globe, what sets Paolo apart is the fact that he made it to the national team at only 20 years old. The 5’11” Cebuano native has been training with the Azkals since January.

Paolo started playing football when he was seven years old at Paref Springdale School. He was a striker until Grade VII when his coach Mario Ceniza realized Paolo had the potential to be a good goalkeeper given his height. He has since played in Global Smartmatic FC and in the Philippine U-19 team that competed in China.

Paolo is supposed to be in fourth year college now, but because most of the trainings are conducted in Manila, he is now looking for a school in the capital city where he can continue his studies while he attends the national team trainings at the same time.

Even if he is away from home, Paolo relates that he is always reminded by his father to “always be an intelligent athlete” by balancing academics and sports.

How did you get into football? I started when I was seven years old, for school. Since then, I’ve been playing football in elementary, high school and college. It has always been my childhood dream to play football.

Who are your football idols? Being a goalkeeper, I look up to Iker Casillas. Locally, I look up to my partner, Eduard Sacapano. He has a good work ethic and he has been with the team for so long so I think he deserves to get noticed, he deserves credit.

How would you describe yourself as a player? A goalkeeper should have discipline and a good work ethic. You shouldn’t give up. Even up to the last minute, you should give it your all. Neil Etheridge gives us a lot of tips. When he’s here, he trains us. He’s got a lot of really, really good and useful tips.

What type of a student are you? I’m silent, kinda studious and friendly.

Was it a tough decision choosing between school and being part of the national football team? It is football for now. But I know you can’t get a living by just doing football. You have to earn after football also. So you need a college degree and all that to go through with life. I talked to my mom and dad about it first and I told them that this is just a once-in-alifetime experience. My parents have been very supportive. They’re the ones who have been encouraging me to join the Azkals.

Who inspires you during a game? Number one is God. Next is ‘yung mga na-achieve nung veteran teammates namin, all the Pinoys who have been with the Azkals ever since, like Roel Gener. Their dedication to the team and to the country is amazing.

Do you have any rituals before a game? I just pray.

How has football changed your life? Now that we’re part of the team, you should be more conscious about your health. That’s something to focus on.

What do you consider is your biggest achievement so far? I think being a part of the Azkals is a very, very big achievement already.

What was your craziest experience with a fan? In Barotac (Iloilo) it is pretty wild. The crowd there is rowdy compared to Manila. Here kasi, they keep things to themselves. There they would, they release. They do anything.

Are you single or in a relationship? I’m single.

What do you look for in a girlfriend? I like someone who is God-fearing and family-oriented.

The biggest sacrifice that you have to make as an Azkal? Being away from the family. I’m from Cebu and to move here to Manila is a big sacrifice for me.

What was the biggest adjustment for you coming from Cebu? The life and the family. Homesickness. In Cebu, I have everything there, you have a home, you’re family is there for you. But here, you have to be independent. You have to learn how to live on your own. You have to find ways to get by here in Manila. It was hard adjusting. But after probably a month, I got used to it already.

If you were not a football player, what would you be doing now? I will be studying. Get my business degree then maybe I’ll go become a pilot. It’s been my dream as well.

Do you think the Azkals will survive without the Fil-foreigners? I think we also need the Fil-foreigners. They bring a lot of experience to the team. But skills-wise, I think the pureblooded Filipinos have it.

What was your initial reaction when you saw your team captain, Aly Borromeo’s billboard? Good for him. I’m happy for him. If you have that kind of body, why not flaunt it. Aly has been with the team for so long already, he really deserves all the attention and fame that he has been getting now. Same with Ian (Araneta), Chieffy (Caligdong) and Role (Gener). I’m closest to them and Yannick (Tuason).

Is there a player in the team that you get intimidated by? In football, if you get intimidated, nothing will happen to you. You have to be strong.
 
Published in the Manila Bulletin on July 20, 2011.