As France celebrates its second football World Cup triumph after 20 years, a Filipino is quietly waving the Philippine flag alongside it.
Alphonse Areola, one of the three goalkeepers for “Les Bleus,” was born to full-blooded Filipinos who migrated to France, where he grew up and eventually became part of the team’s road to golden success in the World Cup hosted by Russia.
The soccer media has noted that the 25-year-old Areola is one of 18 players on the 23-man France team with immigrant or non-French backgrounds.
French Ambassador to the Philippines Nicolas Galey noted as much in a statement, saying: “This triumph… symbolizes the spirit, unity and also the diversity of the French nation, exemplified by athletes such as Alphonse Areola, a young French-Filipino football player who is currently a goalkeeper for Paris Saint-Germain FC.”
Driven by his love for football, Areola started his career at seven years old, joining PSG’s “Little Angels” club that played at the foot of the famed Eiffel Tower in Paris.
The 6-foot-5 Areola became Paris Saint-Germain Chambly’s youngest goalkeeper at the age of 16 and has represented France in different world competitions, including the FIFA Under-20 World Cup in 2013. That same year, he played for French club RC Lens. A year later, he was voted as Best League Goalkeeper in Ligue 2 or the second division.
In 2016, Areola played in the Champions League on loan to Spain’s Villarreal club, where he set the team record of not letting a single goal pass for 620 consecutive minutes of playing time – equal to almost seven full matches.
Before joining Les Bleus for the World Cup in Moscow, the Philippines’ Azkals football team asked him to join them, but he opted for the other.
“I’m happy and proud of the Azkals because they have made rapid progression,” Areola told ABS-CBN News back in 2012.
“I used to tell my mother it was my dream to have a football team for the Philippines, and now it’s happening,” he added.
With France’s 4-2 victory over Croatia in the final in Moscow on Sunday, Areola became the first Filipino to become a World Cup champion.
Other players with Filipino roots who have played in the quadrennial football festival are Jonathan de Guzman, who played for the Netherlands, and Nick Rimando of the US national team, both in 2014.
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