IT’S a dream come true for former University of San Carlos goalleeper Paolo Pascual as he made the 23-man squad of the Philippine team that will face Kuwait in the second round of the Fifa World Cup qualifiers this month.
At 20, Pascual, is now part of the national team that keeps hoping to continue its recent string of successes as it takes on Asian powerhouse Kuwait.
“Dreams do come true. I never expected this to happen,” Pascual said.
Fifa rules require teams to have three goalkeepers in the lineup and Pascual will be the No. 3, next to Neil Etheridge and Edward Sacapaño.
Head coach Michael Wiess had noticed the improvement of the keeper, who played for USC in last year’s Cebu Schools Athletic Foundation Inc. football finals, during the team’s trainings since becoming part of the Azkals early this year.
Pascual, who is also part of the 23-Under team that will play in the Southeast Asian Games, had been stepping up from the training sessions and with the injury of Chirstopher Camcam, he got the no. 3 slot.
“Sa akong tibuok career, playing for the country in the World Cup is the highest tournament I’ve been part of,” said Pascual, who was the starting keeper for the 19-Under team that saw action in the Asian Football Confederation U19 qualifiers.
With his achievement, the young keeper hopes he can inspire more Cebuanos to aim for more and to never give up on their dream.
“I am proud to represent Cebu and hopefully more Cebuanos will join the Azkals,” he said.
To prepare for Kuwait and acclimatize with the Middle East weather, the team will train in Bahrain and play two tuneup matches with the host’s Olympic team.
Kuwait is ranked 102nd in the world and No. 11 in Asia, while the Philippines is 159th in the world and No. 29 in Asia.
Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on July 15, 2011.