Philippine Azkals goalkeeper Neil Etheridge committed to play for the men’s national football team despite his blossoming professional football career as the Azkals preparing on the FIFA World Cup Qualifiers this September.
“Of course, I want to be part of the Azkals going into the World Cup Qualifiers,” said Etheridge via ABS-CBN Sports on a press conference held last May 23rd upon his return after his Premier League season campaign with Cardiff City. “I decided to play for the Philippines at 18 years old. I’m 29 now, so [since] eleven years ago, I’ve been with that team.”
This ends the speculation, the Fil-British goalkeeper will abandon his national team duty to focus full-time on his professional football career.
“Yes, people have said, ‘Is he just gonna play Premier League Football and just drop the Azkals?’ No, because I’ve been a part of that team for eleven years, and you don’t just drop something after eleven years,” the 11-year national team veteran added.
Etheridge pointed out, he wants to be part of the Azkals progression especially he was part of the line-up secured the Philippines maiden appearance in the 2019 AFC Asian Cup, although he did not play for the tournament itself staged last January due to his commitment with Cardiff City in the Premier League.
“I want to be a part of it, I want to move it forward, I’d love to have the responsibility, not just from the Premier League or wherever I’m playing in England or Europe, I want to have a responsibility here. Moving forward, I want to continue being part of the Azkals, I feel like I’ve got a lot more to give, I just hope and pray that the Federation and everyone involved gets along the same lines and moves in the same direction.”
Despite missing national team duty, Etheridge did well on his maiden Premier League campaign for the Bluebirds as he managed to list 10 clean sheets, saved three penalty kicks and no errors. He also named as the player of the year for Cardiff City.
Unfortunately, Cardiff City is relegated from the Premier League to second-tier The Championship after the Bluebirds finished as one of the bottom teams of the recently-concluded Premier League together with Fulham and Huddersfield.
Several Premier League teams are now interested in acquiring the services of the first Southeast Asian to play in the English top-tier league due to his impressive performance at Cardiff City but he still no answer on what is next on his professional football career.
“Of course, there’s going to be speculation. I think the club, myself, everyone in the football world expected that. But at the end of the day, I got two years left on my contract with Cardiff and the future is out of my hands,” Etheridge said via Tiebreaker Times.
“So whether they’re a Cardiff fan or just a football fan or a Neil Etheridge fan, it doesn’t bother me. It’s more of the fact we’re getting more Filipino men, women and children, watching football and being involved in football. That is obviously the main objective of mine and it’s also a responsibility of mine now playing at the highest level.” Etheridge added on the same Tiebreaker Times article.