MANILA, Philippines -- Marck Espejo believes he is now more prepared for the international stage after signing with FC Tokyo of Japan's V.League.
This is Espejo's second stint in Japan, having played for Oita Miyoshi Weisse Adler in 2018 after his sensational collegiate career with Ateneo de Manila University.
"For me, sobrang excited ulit. Kasi ito talaga 'yung dream ko, na makabalik ulit sa Japan," Espejo said in an appearance on "The Game" on Monday night.
Espejo, a five-time UAAP Most Valuable Player, admits that he was not satisfied with his initial stint in Japan as he was hampered by a shoulder injury and was ultimately unable to finish the season.
"Sobrang na-down ako noon," he said. "Sobrang frustrated talaga ako."
Moreover, at the time he had considerably less experience. While Espejo played in club teams in the Philippines, Japan's V.League was at a different level.
"Noong first time ko kasi, wala pa akong experience," Espejo explained. "So kung ano 'yung nilalaro ko ng collegiate, parang dinala ko lang din doon. Tapos during nung season na 'yun, kung ano 'yung nakikita ko, ina-apply ko na lang din."
Since then, however, Espejo has become more well-traveled. He played in Thailand for Visakha in 2020, as well as Bani Jamra in Bahrain also last year. In 2019, Espejo played a crucial role in the Philippines' historic silver -medal finish in the Southeast Asian Games.
Espejo believes that those experiences, as well as the maturity that comes with age, will be crucial for him as he seeks a better campaign in Japan.
"Siyempre, andoon 'yung pressure pero gagawin ko 'yung best ko," he said. "Sa first Japan (stint) ko, may kulang pa since hindi ko natapos 'yung season. Parang sa three rounds, one and a half rounds lang ako nakapaglaro dahil nga sa shoulder injury."
"So ito, siguro panibagong journey na ulit, pero siguro mas matured na player na 'yung makikita nila. Gagawin ko 'yung best ko," he added.
Espejo expects to leave for Japan by August and his contract with FC Tokyo runs until May 2021. But he assured that he remains committed to playing for the Philippines in the SEA Games later this year in Hanoi, Vietnam.
"Nasa contract ko once na, before SEA Games, uuwi talaga ako para maglaro sa Philippines," he said. "Ready naman ako lagi kapag ipatawag ako ng national team."
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