After a brief stay with Filipino champions Ceres-Negros FC, Philippine Azkals forward Mark Hartmann has completed another move, reportedly joining Malaysia Super League club Petaling Jaya City FC.
The development regarding his departure from Ceres has been confirmed yesterday by Hartmann himself via a social media post.
Although official confirmation has yet to be released, it is believed that his destination club is Petaling Jaya City FC, which in effect, completes its foreign quota in time for Malaysia Super League 2020 season.
Once the move is complete, 28-year old Hartmann is already no stranger to Malaysian club football as he already had previous stints with Sarawak FA and Penang FA respectively.
With the Filipino forward’s move away from Ceres, his short tenure as part of the busmen will be remembered for his contributions in the AFC Champions League 2020 qualification campaign where he featured as a substitute in the historic win over Thai club Port FC follow by the defeat against J1 League side FC Tokyo.
Before joining Ceres, Mark Hartmann played for Thai club Nakhon Ratchasima.
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A first half that lacked composure from the Philippine Azkals served to be their own undoing as Syria’s lone goal proved decisive in their joint World Cup 2022 and Asian Cup 2023 qualifying match held last November 19, 2019 at the Maktoum Bin Rashid Al Maktoum Stadium in Dubai, United Arab Emirates.
Azkals assistant coach Scott Cooper fielded a side with a few changes from the ones that started in the match against Maldives as Martin Steuble goes back in the defensive end while Angel Guirado and Curt Dizon also made the Starting XI.
The changes prompted Iain Ramsay to deputize as the left-back in place of Daisuke Sato, who is in the substitute’s bench after receiving a knock in the previous match in Male.
In the early moments of the match, Philippines’ defender Alvaro Silva was quickly cautioned with a yellow card after a challenge on Al-Soma as Syria showed signs of fluidity in their passing play.
A sixth minute speculative effort from a counterattack came for the Azkals with forward Angel Guirado firing from a tight angle forcing Syrian keeper Ibrahim Alma to a diving save and awarding the Southeast Asians a corner kick that was easily dealt with.
Just as the Filipinos were able to get their bearings into the match, Cardiff City FC keeper Neil Etheridge was forced to produce a reflex save to deny Osama Omari from a slightly angled position.
In the 20th minute Patrick Reichelt may have thought that he got to the ball in a very promising position to unleash a shot and break the ice for the Azkals, but the linesman promptly flagged for offside.
But Syria are keen to get a better grip of their lead in the qualifying group as they finally broke the deadlock off a cleverly executed set-piece that unleashed Osama Omari who then squared perfectly to an on-rushing Ward Alslamh to tap-in the goal in the 23rd minute.
In the 32nd minute, Kamel Hmeisheh almost produced something special from range for Syria only narrowly going over the bar as Syria continued with their ascendancy in terms of the proceedings as the first half progressed.
For the few moments that followed, the Philippines seemed to have been chasing shadows as the Qasioun Eagles further improved with their crisp passing plays.
The remaining minutes have been tense and nervy for the Azkals, defending for the most part, as Syria were able to maraud into the box almost at will.
In the 41st minute Omari once again proved to be one of the main thorns for the Philippines after unleashing a venomous strike from distance that Etheridge was able to parry away.
In the 43rd minute Syria’s towering striker Omar Al Somah almost made it two-nil, but his effort inside the box just sailed wide of the far post as the Filipinos’ problems continue to pile up near the half-time break.
A rare attacking breakthrough arrived in the second minute of added time as Guirado was fouled for a set-piece opportunity, then another corner-kick, but both plays have been snuffed out by the Syrians as halftime arrived, more to the relief of the Azkals, with the more superior middle-easterners ahead by only a goal.
After the restart, at the 49th minute, Neil Etheridge collided with Al-Soma in an offside play that put a momentary stoppage in the proceedings but the Filipino goalkeeper, who have been on the receiving end of that particular collision, turned out to be okay as play resumed.
In the 51st minute Stephan Schrock produced a powerful low drive from 30-yards out but Syria’s Alma was able to gather the attempt.
A well crafted play in the 54th minute for the Azkals had Curt Dizon laying off a well-weighted pass towards Guirado who had only Alma to beat but his effort rolled just agonizingly wide of the right post.
Two minutes later, Syria were awarded a freekick in a very dangerous position for the Azkals but Al-Soma’s attempt for the spectacular just narrowly missed the target.
Mark Hartmann’s introduction proved to be the first change for the Philippines as he replaced Angel Guirado in the 58th minute of the match in a bid to provide a different dimension in attack.
As the hour mark came, the Philippines had already produced a much improved showing compared to the whole of the first half.
In the 63rd minute, a last gasp intervention by the Filipino back-line denied Syria a chance for an attempt inside the box and avoid a sure dangerous situation.
Seven minutes into the hour mark, Mike Ott replaced Curt Dizon to provide fresher legs in attack, just as the Filipinos are finally getting some better spells in possession and attacking plays.
In the 70th minute, Syria injected their first change with highly rated Omar Kharbin replacing Omari.
A minute later, Azkals captain Stephan Schröck tried to pull off a curled effort but Alma was able to deal with the attempt easily as another heroic move from the Syrian keeper immediately followed, denying Mark Hartmann’s well-struck effort inside the box off a service from Mike Ott.
Moments before heading into the 80th minute, the Azkals were able to come up with some promising forays into the Syrians’ half as the search for an equalizer ensued.
Five minutes before the 90th minute mark, Neil Etheridge pulled off another set of heroics outside his box to deny Syria a chance to increase their lead.
Even though the Azkals kept pushing forth for a leveller, it was actually Syria who got the gilt-edged chance as Almawas’ curler just missed its intended target with Etheridge seemingly caught in a not so good position to defend.
Despite a tense four minutes of added time, the middle-easterners held on to their slim advantage with Alma producing another last minute denial this time of Mike Ott.
An end-to-end action ensued with Al-Soma missing a sitter to erase all doubts but the Syrians eventually got the win, just barely to maintain their place in the driver’s seat of Group A with a perfect 15 points out of five matches.
The Azkals meanwhile remain at third in the standings with 7 points behind China (who now have a game in hand) just on goal difference.
A lengthy break in qualifying fixtures immediately follows for the Philippines’ senior side as the next match is set late in the first quarter of next year, specifically in March 26, 2020 with Guam visiting for the return leg.
Right at the eve of the Philippine Azkals’ World Cup 2022 qualifier match against Syria, the country’s best goalscorer ever, Phil Younghusband, announced his retirement from the beautiful game which he posted via social media.
After a lengthy absence from football beginning on the end of the 2018 Copa Paulino Alcantara when his club Davao Aguilas lost in the final against Kaya FC Iloilo, which was further lengthened after being married and adjusting to the new lifestyle, it seems one of Philippines’ most recognizable sportsmen decided to hang up his boots for good.
The 32-year-old Filipino footballer was born in Surrey, England to a Filipino mother and an English father, and along with his older brother James Younghusband, began their young career within famous London-based club Chelsea FC’s youth ranks before embarking on and blazing a trail towards a fruitful and influential career in the Philippines beginning in 2009, playing with San Beda FC, Loyola Meralco Sparks (later known as Meralco Manila), and Davao Aguilas.
But Phil Younghusband’s biggest contribution to Philippine Football is his involvement with the Azkals which started in 2007 when he, along with brother James, decided to represent their mother’s roots, the Philippines, in international competition from the U21 side up until the senior squad.
A reliable and confident finisher in front of goal, Phil eventually racked up goals almost at will until amassing 52 conversions under his name which became the most scored for the Philippines in history.
His most important moment for the Philippines was scoring the second goal in the 79th minute against hosts Vietnam in the group stage of the 2010 AFF Suzuki Cup, a major upset that has been dubbed as “Miracle of Hanoi” which then further boosted the country’s already newfound renaissance in international football.
Such was the immensity of his contributions to the squad that he also became the most capped player ever for the Southeast Asian nation with 108 in total.
An unexpected surprise
After Phil’s post, an outpouring of reactions and plaudits immediately came in reply from fans and colleagues alike, most especially from the football community such as former teammates and coaches.
Philippine Azkals and former Ceres-Negros winger Patrick Reichelt played for Melaka United of the Malaysia Super League for the first time as a late second half substitute in a 3-0 preseason friendly win against Sarawak last January 21, 2019 in Hang Jebat Stadium in Malacca.
EDIT: According to Patrick Reichelt himself via chat, he was initially not set to step on the pitch in the particular friendly, but head coach Zainal Abidin Hassan opted to play him in the final five minutes of the match as an introduction to the Melaka United faithfuls and fans.
Before Reichelt’s physical move to Malaysia, the Filipino footballer has been one of the more effective players in the Philippines’ run to the semifinals in the AFF Suzuki Cup 2018 campaign by bagging two goals, making him the top-scorer for the Azkals in the tournament.
His relatively exemplary showing earned him regular starts for head coach Sven-Goran Eriksson in the national team’s three group stage fixtures in its historic AFC Asian Cup debut.
Patrick Reichelt’s transfer to the Malacca City-based club puts him under the tutelage of current club head coach Zainal Abidin Hassan – a legend for the Harimau Malaya and considered the country’s best player in the 80’s and 90’s.
Malaysia Super League [also known as Super Liga Malaysia] is set to commence its 2019 season on February 1, 2019.
Melaka United is scheduled to begin its campaign on February 2, 2019 in a home fixture against Petaling Jaya City FC [formerly MIFA] which will pit Patrick Reichelt against former Ceres-Negros teammate and fellow Azkal, Joshua Grommen.
Come the Philippine Azkals’ most daunting “To dream the impossible”campaign – the 2019 Asian Cup – one man could most probably light it up if ever the team struggle for chances. That player is none other than Stephan Schrock.
Currently, the Ceres-Negros star can be considered as one of the best and most talented footballers in the country. He developed and honed is football abilities in Germany, playing for clubs such as SpVgg Greuther Furth, TSG 1899 Hoffenheim, and Eintracht Frankfurt before playing for his present club from the time when they were still known as Ceres-LaSalle in the now defunct United Football League.
A player with immense dribbling ability, awareness, versatility, and a powerful strike, these attributes make Stephan Schrock a threat on the offensive end whether it’s through scoring goals or creating spaces and scoring chances for his team.
Playing usually as a midfielder at either flank lately for the Philippines, he also is effective in the central area or as a more advanced attacking midfielder.
In a match, he has a license in certain moments to act as a ‘free radical’ who can roam across the surface to probe for possible attacking spaces, especially when the team have their backs to the wall and are chasing the game.
Such a ‘special’ situational role makes Stephan Schrock score spectacular goals or assists for his squad – both club and [especially] the Azkals – as he is able to carve out chances or unleash a shot at goal in the most unexpected situations and unthinkable spaces on the pitch.
To emphasise more on this here are a few of his goals that highlight such qualities and contributions to the team.
Consolation goal vs Uzbekistan – 2018 World Cup Qualifiers [2nd Round]; September 8, 2015
With the Philippines already down and out with a five goal deficit, Stephan Schrock provided a spectacular consolation for the Filipino home fans to cheer for and deny Uzbekistan’s goalkeeper Aleksandr Lobanov a clean sheet.
The “SCHROCKet” vs Kuwait – 2014 World Cup Qualifiers [2nd Round]; July 28, 2011
The Philippines were chasing the tie after the previous leg in Kuwait ended in a 3-0 loss. Stephan Schrock produced a ray of hope in added time of the first half, but progression wasn’t meant to be for the Azkals the end as Kuwait scored two unanswered goals to get an aggregate win of 5-2.
Crunch time winner vs Kaya FC – PFL Semifinal 1st leg; December 3, 2017
With time expiring in the first leg of the inaugural season of the Philippines Football League, Stephan Schrock produced a solo effort in injury time to give Ceres-Negros a precious away goal in a campaign the Busmen eventually were able to finish triumphantly to become the first domestic league champions.
The ‘impossible’ goal vs Ilocos United – PFL; September 30, 2017
Running down the right wing, whether it was supposed to be a cross or an intentional audacious strike, Stephan Schrock produced a spectacular goal from an almost impossible angle as he was able to beat the keeper for something special to remember for fans of Philippine football.
Other amazing highlights: Goals and assists for Azkals and Greuther Furth
Here are a few additional highlights – including his ability to create for his teammates.
As the Philippine Azkals begin their continental campaign, keep a close eye on Stephan Schrock. He might just pull off another rabbit out of a hat when the national squad get in a tough predicament in the course of a match as they set out in dreaming the impossible.
In a post via Bohemain Sporting Club chairman and Azkal Jason De Jong’s Instagram account that the club’s U10 academy will send a squad to compete in the Rood-Wit U10 tournament to be held in the Netherlands from May 31 to June 3, 2019.
The club have been drawn in Group 4 where they will battle it out against storied clubs such as Ajax Amsterdam [Netherlands], FC Internazionale [Italy], KAA Gent [Belgium], West Ham United [England] and a still yet to be confirmed amateur club.
Bohemian SC is currently experiencing a revival as a club. Founded in 1910, its football team have become the first to establish dominance in the Philippines’ early footballing history, garnering ten championship seasons from the 1910’s until the late 1920’s before folding in the late 1930s, just right before the second world war.
During its heydays, Bohemian SC featured two of the best players the country has produced – FC Barcelona’s Iloilo-born legend Paulino Alcantara, who played for the club during his stay in the Philippines [1916-18], and Virgilio Lobregat, considered as the Philippines’ best player next to the blaugrana great.
Around 2017 a plan to revive the club started which came into fruition in 2018 when Bohemian returned once again in the Philippines’ footballing landscape as an academy and a football school.
In a statement by current Bohemian SC chairman Jason de Jong (who has 48 competitive appearances for the Azkals) in a conversation early in the second half of 2018, the club aim to form a senior squad to compete professionally by the year 2020.
Currently Bohemian SC’s academy squads ranging from kids as young as U9, to teens such as U14 have taken part in different competitions both locally and within the Southeast Asian region.
As of late some of their academy teams have won the recently concluded Aboitiz Cup and the Agila Cup last December 2018.
But in 2019, the biggest milestone and challenge of the club from a competitive viewpoint is about to unfold as they compete in one of the best U10 events in the world, the Rood-Wit.
The Rood-Wit U10 football tournament will be held on May 31 to June 3, 2019 in St. Willebrord, The Netherlands.
When the organisers released the team slogans for each participating country in the AFC Asian Cup, to be honest, the first impression for this writer when it came to the Philippine Azkals’ slogan was… cheesy.
Unless one has been living under a rock, one cannot miss out the most probable ‘inspiration’ from which the slogan was taken from – the Broadway musical Man of La Mancha song which was popularised (and immortalised) by Frank Sinatra and Matt Monro back in 1966/67.
To those who are very much into karaoke and belting out some standard oldies songs, this piece titled The Impossible Dream (The Quest), is a staple of such past-time which was probably the main reason that lends to the slogan’s cheesiness.
Anyway, back to the topic, after some time, it seemed that the slogan already grew for this writer with the cheesiness wearing off. And with the aid of listening and looking at the lyrics of the tune that most probably inspired “To dream the impossible”, the content really reflects the situation that the Azkals are in ahead of the most challenging campaign of their lives.
Without further delay, here is the Frank Sinatra version of the song in all its classic glory with lyrics to check out:
Here’s another version from English singer Matt Monro:
After listening to these renditions, it really is not hard to consider this as one of the unofficial theme songs of the Philippine national football team in their quest to get achieve the impossible.
Well, there’s also a more recent slogan from a famous sporting equipment manufacturer that impossible is nothing. That could further inspire the Azkals to pull off some surprising upsets.
Here’s to hoping that the impossible dream becomes a possibility. Also, maybe (just maybe), head coach Sven-Goran Eriksson is also singing this particular tune at the back of his head after seeing that slogan emblazoned on the team bus.
This is OUR quest…
Photo credit: The Philippine Football Federation, AC Asian Cup Twitter account, Wikipedia