The Premier League is one of the biggest and most popular club football leagues around the world, and for sports fans in the Philippines who do not watch football, this 2018/19 season is the time to start.
Many Filipinos will ask: Why? Well it’s pretty simple, this is the first time that a Filipino footballer ,who’s playing for the Azkals, is going to play in the prestigious league as a goalkeeper for Cardiff City FC, and he’s none other than Neil Etheridge.
Come August 11, particularly at 10:00PM Manila time, a milestone is most probably going to be witnessed.
Neil Etheridge, to those who are still unfamiliar with his club football exploits has been the first choice sentry by Cardiff City FC for the most of last season’s campaign which has ended in an automatic promotion to the Premier League, in itself a massive achievement.
The journey hasn’t been easy though. Etheridge had been in the thick of things, being one of the crucial part of the squad on the defensive end in Cardiff City’s quest to get to the highest level of England’s club football competition.
Also the final phase of their season, after some crucial missteps, has met some serious challenges in terms of seizing automatic promotion.
But a strong finish in the end repelled a possible debacle and the looming uncertainty of a playoff as “The Bluebirds” (Cardiff City’s nickname) finished second in The Championship next to Wolverhampton Wanderers, finally ending all doubts in setting themselves into the top-flight.
And now with Neil Etheridge seemingly well thrust into the plans of manager Neil Warnock in terms of first team duties, we are most likely going to see a proud Azkal – for the FIRST TIME in history – play as a starter in the English Premier League.
Etheridge has been a longtime colossus for the Philippine National Football Team and has been immense in denying many a goal that could have gone in against The Azkals if not for his high level of shot-stopping ability.
Two of his main highlights playing for the flag are his performances against Vietnam in December of 2010 AFF Suzuki Cup match where the Philippines got a 2-0 win against the hosts in Hanoi which is now considered as one of the biggest achievements ever of the team, while the other is helping The Azkals achieve qualification in the 2019 AFC Asian Cup.
THESE ARE THE MOMENTS THAT WE LIVE FOR!!! THIS ONE’S FOR YOU PILIPINAS! 🇵🇭🇵🇭🇵🇭
—#OneBlood #OneCountry #WeMadeHistory #AsOne
We’re coming for you @afcasiancup! 😉😏🙌🏻 pic.twitter.com/6BB0d7ixPV
— The Philippine Azkals (@TheAzkalsPH) March 27, 2018
At club level, Etheridge started as a promising prospect, particularly as an understudy in Fulham that was then managed by Martin Jol, until experiencing some football-related challenges that hampered his rise to the top flight.
But Neil persevered in the midst of these trials until he has found his footing slowly but surely in the lower divisions until finally settling in the best way possible in the Welsh club, Cardiff City, lineup by being one of the main contributors to the club’s promotion.
“It probably didn’t sink in until about 10 days after.”
— Pro:Direct Keepers (@ProD_Keepers) July 27, 2018
Now that the new season is about to kick-off, Filipinos whether football fans or not, should start to begin giving the Premier League a look as they now have a player, who is flying the flag of their country high and proud, to root for.
As for the already passionate Pinoy football fans who ever since already have their strong allegiances to their respective Premier League clubs, maybe it’s time to root for Cardiff City as a second team because of the Filipino representation which is something to be really proud of.
Once Neil Etheridge’s name appears on the starters’ sheet and he steps onto the blades of grass of Dean Court (AFC Bournemouth’s stadium where Cardiff will begin their campaign in an away fixture on August 11), it’s going to be one of the biggest moments in Philippine sports that should not be missed (listen to TalkSport Radio’s broadcast live if there are no television or cable coverage in the Philippines, folks!) and would definitely be smething that will further boost the sport’s profile in the Southeast Asian nation.
This has been a long time coming – and a surprise for many.
— Neil Etheridge (@Neil38Etheridge) August 5, 2018
It actually still is hard to believe just a few years before, but it’s finally happening THIS WEEKEND.
A Filipino – a national athlete at that – is gonna play in one of the most exclusive of club football competitions in the WORLD – The PREMIER LEAGUE!