Away from the bright lights of collegiate leagues such as the UAAP and NCAA, there’s a name that continues to blaze his trail in Philippine football.
After making his professional debut last year with Global Cebu, Lance Ocampo takes a huge leap forward in his young career, as the 18-year old stalwart has been chosen to become part of the Azkals development team, a collection of some of the best young prospects in the country.
In a rare appearance on the “Crossover” podcast, Ocampo recalled some of his experiences that led to his biggest achievement, starting with an unusual first practice session with his original club.
“I remember going to my first training session wearing basketball shoes and basketball jerseys,” he fondly remembered of the moment from 10 years ago as part of Army FC, where he spent his formative years in football.
Under the guidance of former national team players, he honed his skills and grew as a player.
“I’ve been very fortunate to be coached by former Azkals players. Coach (Nestorio) Margarse, national team. Coach Roel Gener, national team. Since my first year playing football, I’ve been very lucky with my coaches,” Ocampo said.
Players of his caliber are expected to be recruited by different colleges and universities, with large scholarship offers on hand.
Ocampo, though, had other things in mind. With the intention of making football his top priority, he took a slightly different route.
For some time now, he’s been getting his training at the GOM Center of Football Excellence, under the supervision of founder and former Azkals player Darren Hartmann.
So far, it’s turning out to be a productive decision for him. Just last year, he became GOM’s first product to start in a professional game.
Though his time with Global Cebu was limited, his experience taught him invaluable lessons that would help elevate his game. It also served as a way to gauge his abilities against top-level competition.
“First impressions of the game, it’s on a completely different level. It’s way up there. I know there’s higher levels, but compared to youth football, it’s way faster,” Ocampo said, describing his experience in the professional ranks.
His move to GOM was also instrumental in making his ADT stint possible. It was coach Hartmann who recommended him to Azkals team manager, Dan Palami.
“I don’t think Dan will mind me saying this, because he asked for fast and skillful. I said ‘well there aren’t many people faster than Lance,” Hartmann said in the interview. And the rest, as they say, is history.
What Ocampo thought was a week-long training with the team turned out to be a tryout in itself. And, to his surprise, he was rewarded with a spot on the roster.
“Probably on the last day when coach Scott [Cooper] came up to me and then asked me, ‘Have you gotten the details of your contract?’ After that training, I was thinking ‘Oh I need to say goodbye to coach Scott and say thank you for the opportunity’. I was about to leave. But then he came up to me and asked about the details of the contract,” he recalled.
After substantial exposure to pro-level footballers, Ocampo was quick to identify an area in his game that needs refining.
“I want to improve, first of all, my game understanding. The more you know about the game, the more you know what to do after you get the ball. Because in youth football, when you get the ball, you still have time to think of what you’re gonna do. But when you go to the next level, you don’t really have time to think. You just have to do what you’re supposed to do next,” he said.
At 18, he’s got plenty of football ahead of him, and while getting selected to be part of ADT is already a tremendous milestone the rising star is setting his sights on bigger goals.
“I want to be part of the starting eleven(of the national team),” he confidently said.
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