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MANILA, Philippines – Aware of the fans’ high expectations, Filipino-German striker Gerrit Holtmann says he is “extremely honored” and feels “positively excited” ahead of his first international cap with the Philippines.
But the Bundesliga standout reminds that football is “not a one-man show” as the Azkals take on host Mongolia in the AFC Asian Cup 2023 qualifiers on Saturday, June 11.
The crucial Group B match kicks off at 12:30 pm at the MFF Stadium in Ulaanbaatar.
“I know what the two [remaining] matches mean for the fans, but it’s not a one-man show. I need my teammates and my teammates need me,” Holtmann said through interpreter David Webb, who’s also his agent and manager.
“I will try to do everything to win… but I ask the fans to be patient since I had just started training with the team.”
Minus the VfL Bochum left-footed winger, the Philippines settled for a scoreless draw against Yemen last Wednesday.
After the clash with Mongolia, the Azkals will battle Group B table-toppers and world No. 100 Palestine as they seek to secure a spot in the 18th edition of the Asian Cup next year by finishing first in the four-team group.
Holtmann said he only had two training sessions with the team and had a break from the club football season.
But to prepare for this crunch match against the Mongolians, Holtmann said he already had discussions with the team and will have more video sessions.
Overall, the 27-year-old said he’s just happy to finally represent the country after patiently waiting for this special moment.
Holtmann, whose Filipino mother Rosemarie is “very keen” for him to play for the national team, also shared he already planned to suit up for the Philippines six years ago, but he wanted to become a regular Bundesliga starter first before committing to the Azkals.
The COVID-19 situation also complicated matters for Holtmann to join the team.
But now that he’s with the Azkals, the former 1. FSV Mainz 05 player hopes to adjust quickly, noting that coach Thomas Dooley’s game plan looks similar to that of his German mentors.
“I want to just play and show my skills, I know what it means to the Philippines and I will try my best,” said Holtmann. – Rappler.com