Holtmann introduces self to Asean fans

This is my Fair Play column for SunStar Cebu’s Aug. 28 edition

WHILE most of the country was focused on Manny Pacquiao in Las Vegas, another Filipino was quietly making history in the Bundesliga, Germany’s top tier and one of Europe’s toughest domestic leagues.

Gerrit Holtmann, one of the products of the Filipino diaspora who is being eyed to join the national team, helped Bochum nail its first home win in the Bundesliga with a goal that has been described as Messi-like.

WHAT JUST HAPPENED. The defense looks on helplessly as Gerrit Holtmann celebrates his wonderful solo effort.

Getting the ball just after the half-court line at the left flank, Holtmann split two defenders, feinted one as he went to the right side of the box, split two defenders again before poking the ball past another sliding defender and the keeper.

A lot of fans wondered how good Holtmann was when his name was first mentioned during the World Cup qualifiers a few months ago and that solo effort should answer it. The first thing that came to my mind was if he can do that in the Bundesliga, what can he do against Southeast Asian sides?

In his first two years with the national team, Stephan Schrock, who was also with the Bundesliga at the time, sometimes made the opposition look like kids.

It seems, too, Asean football fans are paying attention as his goal was celebrated for being the first scored by a player from the region. Unfortunately, in this basketball-manic country, his feat went unnoticed by the mainstream media.

That reminds of a curious media interaction back in 2005, when the Younghusband brothers first played for the country. The international media were more focused on the brothers and their Chelsea connection than the Manila-media were. You see, they appreciated what we had in the Younghusbands in 2005, something the rest of our national media would five years later in Hanoi.

I guess it’s the same story with Holtmann, whose breakthrough in the Bundesliga didn’t get the same space as Jalen Green’s NBA draft story.

It’s disappointing for sure but that’s the reality, a reality that guys like Holtmann will change should they find success with the national team. Our football landscape has changed in the last 10 years, we now have a domestic scene and our U23 team, not just the senior team, now joins regular competitions. Pre-2010, our U23 team was one of those not sent to events like the Southeast Asian Games because it had no realistic medal chances.

But we still have room to grow, judging by how Holtmann’s historic feat went largely unnoticed.

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