It is said that you can’t keep a good man down. Cast out of the national men’s football team after a dispute with its former coach, long-time Azkals mainstay Anton Del Rosario is grinning from ear to ear today. Why not? He has been called up once more for national team duty, ending an exile that lasted three long years.
Anton Del Rosario
“My last game was against the Spanish team (International de Madrid for the Dili Kamo Nag-iisa charity game for the victims of Typhoon Sendong) in 2011,” recalled Del Rosario. “It was a friendly game at Rizal. Can't say I played the best but I was playing out of position.”
Little did he know it would be his last for a long time. Despite being cut, Del Rosario continued to watch all of the Philippine men’s football national team’s games from the stands.
“I'll admit it was very tough watching,” divulged the defender. “Being excluded from the lineup without reason or explanation made it difficult to take in. However, I'm glad to say my teammates didn't need help. They have been playing great the last couple years! I'm proud of them all.”
Del Rosario was first called up in 2001 for the 2002 Tiger Cup (now called the Suzuki Cup today). But instead of suiting up, he ended up going back to the United States for college. He finally answered the call of duty for the 2004 Tiger Cup with batch mates Ian Araneta, Aly Borromeo, Chieffy Caligdong, Roel Gener, Chris Greatwich and Peter Jaugan.
“Those were my first international caps,” glowed Del Rosario.
Alongside Borromeo, Rob Gier and Ray Jonsson, Del Rosario helped form the Azkals’ bedrock back four.
In the midst of his exile, Del Rosario focused his energies on his long-time football club, Kaya. “All my focus, football wise, has been with Kaya,” he said. “I did go through a year of struggle while being off the national team and I thank and love my fiancée for being there through a tough time. Last year I was able to turn it all around and focus. I was able to start playing proper football and go back to enjoying one thing I love most.”
When Del Rosario received the email from the national team confirming his return to the line-up, the defender was ecstatic.
“Once I read I was on board, I was smiles,” he revealed.
“There's always a sense of nervousness (about coming back). Not a lot, just a little. That nervousness helps focus. Without it you get too comfortable. I like to play a bit edgy. I just know that I played every game like it's my last.”