Alphonse Areola: Azkals or Les Bleus?

Posted at 07/10/11 1:30 AM

France and Paris Saint-Germain goalkeeper Alphonse Areola, who has Filipino roots. PSG photos


MANILA, Philippines - The French national under-18 football team faced Switzerland last May for 2 friendly matches. At the heart of the junior Les Bleus' defense was a Filipino goalkeeper.

Alphonse Areola, who plays for Ligue 1 side Paris Saint-Germain (PSG), has been tipped to become both PSG's and France's No. 1 in the next few years, according to French media.

Standing 6'2" and armed with cat-like reflexes, Areola has impressed scouts with his safe aerial game and focused mind inside the box despite his youth.

Under FIFA rules, Areola has the choice to play for the Philippine Azkals, as long as he is not yet capped for the French senior team.


Areola joined PSG through its youth academy.  He won national titles with the academy team and attracted the attention of French youth national XI coaches.

He was named best goalkeeper of the tournament in the Val de Marne and the Aegean Cup.

He signed a professional contract at the age of 16, the youngest to turn pro in French football history.

In the last Euro U-17 tournament, Areola was given France's No. 1 jersey.

To boost his development, PSG sent him to INF Clairefontaine on loan. 

Clairefontaine is one of 12 elite academies located in and around France that are supervised by the French Football Federation (FFF).

Only the best youth players from the Ile-de-France region train at the academy, which has produced many Les Bleus stars such as Thierry Henry, William Gallas, and Nicolas Anelka.

Areola joined PSG's first team goalkeepers after returning from Clairefontaine.

Last season, the 18-year-old played third-choice PSG goalkeeper behind veteran shotstopper Gregory Coupet. It was Coupet's last season before he retired.

For the 2011-2012 season, Areola has been moved to second-choice goalkeeper. The teen will most likely make his first-team debut for PSG this season if the 31-year-old Nicolas Douchez, whom the club bought in the summer, is sidelined.

PSG coach Antoine Kombouare has named Areola for the French capital club's first preseason friendly against Swiss outfit FC Sion on Saturday, July 9. 

France and Paris Saint-Germain goalkeeper Alphonse Areola, who has Filipino roots. PSG photos


Philippines or France?

While the Philippine Azkals are safe in the goalkeeper gloves of Fulham's Neil Etheridge, speculation is rife on football discussion boards if the Philippine Football Federation will call up Areola and convince him to play for the Philippine national XI.

In the past, the Azkals missed out on talented international football players with Filipino blood such as Bayern Munich midfielder David Alaba and the brothers Jonathan and Julian de Guzman, who have seen action for Mallorca, Deportivo La Coruña, Hannover 96, and Feyenoord.

The 19-year-old Alaba, another wonderkid, is the youngest ever to play for Bayern's first team. He made his competitive debut for the Bavarian giants at 17 years, 7 months, and 8 days old. A month later, he made his UEFA Champions League debut against ACF Fiorentina.

Alaba, however, can no longer be called up to play for the Philippines.

Alaba, who was born in Vienna to a Filipino mother and a Nigerian father, has already been capped 8 times for Austria. He made his international debut for Austria in its match against France in 2009, the youngest player to do so in the history of the Austrian team.

The de Guzman brothers, who were born in Canada to a Filipino father, are similar to Alaba's case.

Julian, the older of the siblings, has played 47 times for the Canadian national team. His younger brother Jonathan, meanwhile, gained Dutch citizenship in 2008 and has played for the Oranje U-21 and U-23 teams.

Areola can take such a route and help former World Cup champion France regain its former glory.

He can also emulate current Azkals such as Neil Etheridge (England) and Stephan Schroeck (Germany), who have have played for foreign national youth teams but decided to represent the Philippines in senior international football.

The decision lies in his hands.