ADELAIDE-born Enrique Monserrat has become a Philippines international after the nation’s soccer scouts discovered the budding gloveman had Filipino heritage.Montserrat earned Filipino citizenship through his father Ricky who was born in the Philippines before moving to Australia in the 1970s.
The 182cm, 16-year-old Eastern United Saints keeper is now the youngest member of the Philippines U-22 national team which is currently in camp in Osaka, Japan.
The side is aiming to qualify for the Rio Olympic Games in 2016 first via the AFC U-22 Championship qualification rounds in March.
Monserrat says he is prepared to relinquish his chance to represent Australia after 1974 Socceroos FIFA World Cup qualification goalkeeper Jim Fraser hand-picked the custodian.
Fraser is credited with the development of Socceroos No. 1 keeper Mat Ryan at Westfields Sports High School in Sydney and is the current U-22 coach of the Philippines.
“The Philippines have given me the first chance to become an international and for me not to take it wouldn’t have been the smartest of ideas,” Monserrat said from Osaka.
“There was three other goalkeepers at the trials and they were specifically for the Australian Filipino players.
Monserrat weighs up his options.
“It was good competition.”
Monserrat says he is fitting in nicely but needs to learn the Tagalog language fast.
“I can’t speak it at all,’’ he said.
“Luckily most speak English, Jim the coach is helping by talking English all the time.”
The young goalkeeper this week returned to the Philippines for the second time in his life to meet his new national squad teammates before flying to Japan for an intense 15 day camp at Osaka’s J-Green Sakai training facility.
He is destined to make his Philippines debut in a friendly against Hannan Uni, face Cerezo Osaka’s under 21s and Biwako Seikei Uni before the international squad watches the Socceroos face Japan at Yanmar Stadium, Osaka on November 18.
The Year 10 Norwood/Morialta high school student says he has put his studies on temporary hold to pursue a dream after he was inspired when Parma’s UEFA Cup winner Diego Pellegrini took Monserrat under his wing when the Italian took charge of the Saints in 2013.
“I honestly think I wouldn’t have done it without Diego,’’ Monserrat said.
“He has really pushed me along, he makes me believe I can do things in this game and tells me that I can do whatever I want and he’ll help me to reach those goals.”
Monserrat captained SA at the 2012 under 14 national championships and was later invited to train with Manchester United’s goalkeeper coach Eric Steele.
Now the young gloveman has already fielded offers from the Philippines United Football League clubs including the 2013 UFL cup winners Loyola Meralco Sparks.
“This is like a dream,’’ Monserrat said.
“I want to play club football in Asia, the Philippines, Japan, South Korea.
“I want to keep on working with this team and I want to keep on working as hard as I can because my goal is to play for the Philippines national first team.
“I’m 16 and I’m playing with the under 22s and that’s really special.”
Monserrat learned he was eligible to become an international from relatives in the Philippines.
He then sent a CV to the Philippines Football Federation before Filipino scouts in Sydney watched him during his stint at AC Milan’s Sydney Academy.
He was later asked to trial for the Philippines national team at Blacktown where Fraser was impressed and selected the teenager after Italian scouts initially spotted his talent at Saints’ headquarters at Athelstone.