By Xy-Zha Cabanlong
Gerrit Holtmann has been under fire from Filipino football fans out of his statement in an interview regarding his possibility of suiting up for the Azkals. With the issue being a hot topic in Philippine football as of late, FOX Sports got the opinion of passionate football fans and was also privileged to get the thoughts of two football players on the matter.
Social media went abuzz when a statement coming from 23-year old Mainz midlfielder, Gerrit Holtmann, in an article from German newspaper outfit, Bild, surfaced online. Filipino football fans were alarmed on the statement that claimed Holtmann is not interested in playing for the Azkals, in spite the PFF’s interest on having him on board the team as part of the preparations for the Asian Cup in 2019.
.@1FSVMainz05-winger Gerrit #Holtmann won't play for #Azkals in the near future. „The flight takes 17 hours. This is very exhausting and would throw me out of the rhythm“, he explained to @BILD. #PHI #Philippi #LabanPilipinas @filipinofootbal
— Benedikt Duda (@benediktduda) August 14, 2018
“I honestly don’t know who Gerrit Holtmann is, I don’t know what is he thinking but he has to prioritise, and if the Azkals is not his priority at this stage in his career, it is fully understandable,” says Ceres-Negros FC skipper Martin Steuble
“I don’t know the player for detail. I only know that he plays for Mainz, but when you see his CV, he seems good. It’s sad that he doesn’t want to come and play for the Azkals because the Asian Cup is such a big thing, but we have to understand and respect his decision,” Roland Muller adds.
Both Muller and Steuble have read the article, written in German. Steuble even helped out to explain Holtmann’s side further since some points, he said, were taken out of context by the Filipino fans.
In a similar fashion, Kent Garcia and David Abella joined Ced Seredrica in an online discussion about their thoughts on the matter.
“The reason he provided was very absurd considering that we do have players based in Europe who endures long flights and just to be in Manila to play,” says Kent.
“If Neil can do it, playing in a more glamourous league, with more to lose, I can’t accept his excuse,” adds Ced.
Some would even think that Holtmann does not have that much “Filipino fire” igniting in his blood to refuse the Azkals ahead of a call-up.
“He lacks commitment and dedication to play for the flag,” says David Abella.
For Kent, however, Holtmann’s refusal to join the Azkals is a lesson for the PFF that they can’t have all the prospects that they are eyeing. This should have been a lesson long time ago when the country was not able to get Alphonse Areola and David Alaba’s commitment, losing these potential powerhouses to France and Austria, respectively. But Alaba, in all fairness did not fully closed his doors for the Philippines, it is remembered that it was through his efforts that we were able to get Stephan Palla to play for the Azkals.
Perhaps refusing does not entirely mean they are less Filipino, nor they do not have a single love for the country where half of their parents came from. Such point is what Steuble wanted to raise in order to better understand the decision made by Holtmann.
“He just said he doesn’t want to risk it, it’s not a no to the Philippines, it’s a yes and a commitment to his current club which pays for his bread and butter because in Germany, you have to fight for your spot in your club.”
It is a matter of priority, Holtmann chooses his club over the call of duty for the Philippine National Football Team not because he looks forward to be in the line up of Jogi Loew, but because he is at the prime of building his career in the Bundesliga – the young midfielder perhaps wanted to secure his place in his club first above anything else.
“This could be another Iain Ramsay-like case,” Ced opens up on which Kent agreed.
“Ramsay at the time, was non-committal for the Philippines. He was waiting for a call-up from the Socceroos that didn’t happen in spite him doing good in the A-League.”
Ramsay pledged commitment for the Azkals at the age of 28.
Kent then brought the idea up of strengthening the grassroots level, on which would mean a very long way to go. He believes that our youth clubs are vastly developing and that sooner or later, these youngsters can boost our Senior team without the need of convincing foreign-based Filipino athletes to pledge their allegiance to the Philippines.
“We should not shut the doors for Fil-Foreign players just because Holtmann refuses. We need their skills in the sport because our grassroots is not strong enough to be at par with at least our neighbours.” Says David “We should still welcome them if they are committed for the flag. But Filipinos in Europe should [also] realise that we’re actually progressing and developing in the football scene. Perhaps it is one of the reasons why we failed to convince Areola or Alaba to join us, because they didn’t see any motivation to represent us.”
For Steuble, he believes that respecting Holtmann’s decision is the best thing that the football loving Filipinos can do for now – allow him to shine in his club.
— Mainz 05 English (@Mainz05en) January 20, 2018
“There is no one else playing in the Bundesliga at the moment than Gerrit. Let the guy be better off staying with his club at the moment and give his best shot there, let’s allow him to focus on his task there so we can all be proud of him when he goes all the way through. It’s not fair on the young boy to have people that have never kicked a ball to judge him for his decision because at the end of the day, he is only responsible for whatever he puts on the table.”
Perhaps a change of heart is possible for Holtmann when he has etched his mark on his club, but regardless of how many times he refuses an invitation to join the team, a player of his caliber should always be in consideration in the training camp, at least.
Photo credit: 1.FSV Mainz 05 Facebook Page