Fil-French Areola undecided on football future
|Filipino-French goalkeeper Alphonse Areola. Photo courtesy of Edward Lao, ABS-CBN News Europe Bureau.|
LONDON – French-Filipino goalkeeper Alphonse Areola is currently preparing for the Finals of the upcoming Under-19 European Championship, which will be held in Estonia next month.
Areola, who plays for Ligue 1 side Paris-Saint Germain, is considered a hot prospect and enters the tournament as France’s first choice goalkeeper.
The 19-year-old has represented the French youth team since Under-16 level and is tipped to eventually become number one for the nation’s senior squad.
There is a possibility, however, that the 6-foot-4 stopper will choose to play for the Philippine Azkals instead of the Les Bleus.
Azkals or Les Bleus?
Areola's parents are both Filipino, but he was born and raised in Paris. He is the first player of Filipino descent to have made a mark in the top tier of French professional football.
Despite being a regular in the French youth set-up, Areola is yet to be capped by the senior squad, meaning he can play for the Philippines if he chooses to.
When asked about who he wants to represent, Areola admitted he is torn between the country of his birth and the country of his family's origin.
"I don't know yet. At the moment, I'm with the French squad. I’m not saying yes, I'm not saying no, because the Philippines remains in my heart, in my blood, in my origins," Areola said.
"But because I started my progress with, and I'm playing for the French team, I cannot say no to France," he added.
Areola will eventually have to make a decision, and reveals that when the time comes, it will be based on his situation with Les Bleus.
"There's a chance of going senior, but if I don't get a call, then I have to reconsider my options because of my age, and maybe play for the Philippines," he said.
Areola has caught the eye of the Azkals management, including team manager Dan Palami, who is looking at foreign-based players to strengthen the squad.
If Areola chooses to represent the Philippines, he will join the likes of goalkeepers Neil Etheridge of English Premier League (EPL) side Fulham FC, and Roland Muller of Bundesliga 2 outfit MSV Duisburg.
Areola is a graduate of the PSG youth academy and has featured four times for the senior squad. His talents previously caught the attention of some EPL clubs, including Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspur.
In response, PSG offered Areola an improved contract to keep their asset.
Despite being considered a hot prospect, Areola ignores the hype, choosing to focus on improving his game.
"For me, there is no pressure. Now there are a lot of people who talk on the Internet, in newspapers. I don't pay attention to that," he said.
"I do my work and that's the most important thing. And afterwards, I'll see where I end up," Areola added.
The teenager is under contract with PSG until 2015 and currently serves as back-up to Italian international Salvatore Sirigu.
Confident about Euro finals
France cruised into the finals of the Under-19 European Championships after recording a perfect record in the Elite round of qualification for the tournament.
In their last match, Les Bleus battered the Netherlands, 6-0.
Areola tips England, Portugal and holders Spain to all do well in the finals, but firmly believes the French team has what it takes to come out on top.
"I think we have a good Under-19 team. With all of the friendlies and the qualifiers, we have grown in confidence," he said.
"We have learned how to put our play together. We showed ourselves that we have a good enough team and players to win this competition," Areola added.
France, who were Under-19 champions in 2005 and 2010, are pooled in Group B of the finals along with Serbia, England and Croatia. Les Bleus’ first game will be against Serbia on July 3.